Friday, January 21, 2005

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Tsunami Relief Update from Rabbi Kantor in Thailand

Having donated to Chabad of Thailand to assist in their Tsunami relief efforts, I received this update:

By the Grace of G-d

3 Shevat, 5765 * January 13, 2005

Dear Friend,

To witness the loving care of one human being to another is a humbling experience.

I am moved beyond words by the love you expressed toward the victims of the tsunami disaster but would still like to share a brief report with you:

My colleagues and I witnessed the unspeakable horror of little bodies mangled beyond recognition, felt the indescribable joy when someone presumed missing was discovered alive elsewhere, and experienced the tenuous irony of families' relief when a brother or sister or child turned up "only" badly injured. Days later, incongruously, we were part of the "excitement" every time a body was positively identified…

Throughout all this the light of a world united in its effort to alleviate the plight of the victims shone brightly. We cannot possibly calculate how many calls and emails have come our way. Some offered their manpower services, others asked how to care for the children, and you, and other angels like you, sent money to be put to immediate use.

During this trying period Chabad of Thailand focused its efforts in large part on the search and recovery effort -- compiling and updating lists of the missing, flying down Zaka to identify bodies, preparing bodies for burial, securing authorities' compliance for Jewish bodies to be handled in a manner prescribed by Jewish law, and much more.

Our dedicated staff also worked tirelessly to deliver food, lodging and emotional support to the survivors of this horrendous event. We visited the hospitalized, created and sent off food packages for survivors and aid workers on the ravaged islands, and alerted and facilitated thousands of travelers to get in touch with their families via our free internet cafes and complimentary long distance calling facilities.

In addition to our Thailand efforts, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg of Chabad in Bombay traveled to the Andaman Islands where he helped the young Jews vacationing there to get in touch with their families after miraculously escaping death and even injury by the deadly Tsunami.

As I write, our three Chabad Houses are still flooded with thousands of young travelers, some still recovering from the shock, keeping our rabbis and rebbetzins busy from early morning till early morning. (These travelers have benefited from our regular activities, which includes hosting some 1,000 persons every Shabbat and creating thousands of Kosher meals weekly.)

We are now focusing our efforts on delivering aid directly to the hardest-hit victims.

Two of us flew down to Krabi and met with aid workers, helped update the rolls of the missing, and met with groups of locals -- and heard and saw their heart-rending stories of devastation.

We met with the country's Minister of Agriculture and gave the mayor of Kao Lak (considered to be the hardest hit city in the country) funds for rebuilding.

We just completed the purchase of a refrigerated truck which will assist us greatly in our efforts to gather and deliver food.

We are working with home improvement stores to create a voucher system to pass on to villagers in order to improve on whatever basic housing they receive -- to help transform whatever will be built for them into a home truly their own.

Two of our rabbinical students are setting up a center for long-term relief on Phuket.

For me personally, one of the most heartrending things to see during my visit were the thousands of battered toys strewn throughout the devastation.

When I then saw groups of kids walking around dazed with nothing to do I made a steadfast resolution:

With G-d's help, we are starting a toy drive for the children.

*

And the list goes on and on.

You've entrusted us with your precious funds in order to apply it to our life-saving work. We hope that we've made you proud.

On behalf of the six families and 12 rabbinical students serving in Chabad of Thailand: Thank you immensely for entrusting us with this sacred mission of representing you in this relief work!

You cannot imagine how crucial your help has been.

Thank you again for your friendship to Chabad of Thailand and may we always bear only good tidings.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor
Chabad-Lubavitch of Thailand
www.jewishthailand.com

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