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News & Events
Relief work gathers steam
By Sudhish Kamath - The Hindu, Chennai, Dec. 29
A swarm of people run around cartons of food supplies and blankets, hanging on to their mobile phones. "Yes, the truck is leaving to Cuddalore this evening."

Another goes: "Cholera medicines have been arranged, all packed and set."A sense of urgency seems to respond to the cry of a nation in need.

Seven trucks carrying supplies of medicines for cholera and blankets are all set to leave in a couple of hours from the office of Association for India's Development (AID) here.

Balaji of AID, a few streets away, is making a point at the meeting called to co-ordinate relief work. "To ensure that even the poorest get the supplies, we are putting together a co-ordination team which will work with the locals and reach families by targeting women," says Balaji. "Because we need to know them on a face-to-face basis to continue our work into the next two stages after relief - shelter-provision and livelihood."

Raju Rajagopal of Indians for Collective Action, USA, chairing the meeting called by Bhoomika Trust and AID, agrees that the relief mode should soon shift to rehabilitation mode. "The sooner they can get to normalcy, the better," says Raju, who was also involved with the Gujarat Quake relief work. "We should soon be talking about how to get them fishing nets, catamarans and torch-lights."

With the first phase of relief work in full steam, Jayendra Panchapakesan of Real Image says, volunteer help is still needed for packing a thousand ration kits every day. "We need student help for that."

Volunteers wanted
Priya, 21, flew out of Mumbai last night. This morning, she was accompanying volunteers from SMILE for relief work in Kovalam. Priya is just one of the 200 that SMILE has gathered for relief work.

Students can either volunteer with AID or Bhoomika Trust to be a part of the Collection Team (which will be involved in raising funds and sourcing supplies), Allocation Team (which will figure out needs and despatch supplies) or the Field Team (which will work closely with families in the affected villages).

With 2000 villages and 10 lakh people affected, Balaji says that it would take at least six months of relief and rehabilitation work before normalcy could be restored.

The response from the public is good but the NGOs want more. "Our phone has been ringing all day," says Jayanth of World Vision India, referring to the response to its advertisement seeking help. "We have offers of truckloads of flour and rice and people offering to give us bedsheets and even jewellery. We hope to raise Rs. nine crore to reach out to 35,000 families in Nagapattinam and Cuddalore."

Corporate support
"We've had some timely corporate support," says Vandana G of The Banyan. "Mahadevan of Hot Breads is giving us 1000 packets of food everyday. There was a request for water and he volunteered to give us 40,000 bottles of water for the people in Nagapattinam. Raghu Pillai, CEO of Food World, gave us Rs. one lakh worth of provisions."

Lanson Toyota and TTK have made offers for hiring out earth-moving equipment that can be rushed to clear debris in the affected areas.

"Software companies could help. Also, the government could ask for one days' box office collections, the film industry could help with organising a charity show," says N.D.J.Ranganathan, who runs the Prarthana drive-in theatre. "It is odd that five-star hotels are holding New Year parties when a tragedy has just occurred. By donating a part of the proceeds, they could encourage people to spend for the cause of the affected people. That will rid them of their guilt and help us too."

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