Thursday, March 24, 2005

EASTER MESSAGE

On behalf of the Officers, member churches and colleagues of the UELCI we greet and wish you all a very happy Easter. Once again we have this opportunity to reflect on the message of Easter. The death and resurrection of our Lord constantly reaffirms the fact that God is and continues to be the source of all life. Therefore life affirming spirituality and faith is reinforced through the Easter message. The risen Lord wants to meet us in the Garden, the Upper room and at the Beach to reaffirm life.

The past three months, we as churches have been deeply and intensively engaged in issues of life working with the Tsunami affected communities. These communities who have survived the disaster also carry with them a sense of hopelessness, rejection and loneliness. The recent book Meeting God in the Ruins by the ELCA speaks of meeting God in the loss, grief, despair and hopelessness. There is no Easter without Good Friday. Where there is a Good Friday, there is a promise of Easter. Where there was the destruction and devastation, death and agony: there is this promise of life and hope.

When we think of Easter may be we can transform this statement and affirm that we are meeting God in hope. We hope that the victims of this disaster will be met by the Risen God, giving them hope so that their lives may be reconstructed, their livelihoods restored and their homes rebuilt. In this context Easter brings a very special message. The risen presence of our Lord always transforms.

We also hope that our lives, our churches and our Communion will be transformed and that we will continue to be the physical sign of Gods love, grace and hope for the people who need it.

May the risen Lord continue to accompany us in this long faith journey in which we constantly seek new meanings and relevance!


WE WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY AND A MEANINGFUL EASTER.


Rt. Rev. L. G. Rao
President, UELCI

Rev. Chandran Paul Martin
Executive Secretary, UELCI

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

UELCI - ELCA

Joy Comes to Students in India

Bikes, books and bus passes brought joy to 110 students recently at a Lutheran college in southern India.

This joy came recently through gifts made possible from ELCA Lutherans as part of its tsunami response. The students are survivors, although they and their families lost homes, jobs or personal belongings.

The gifts will ease their financial burdens in attending college where they are studying to realize their dreams of becoming perhaps a teacher, engineer or an accountant.

The Lutheran college belongs to the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is in an area hit hard by the tsunami. Three thousand students attend this college known as TBML(Tranquebar Bishop Manickam Lutheran) College.

Text books went to 110 students. One student receiving her books said “I got 70% in the last exams and now I will try to get 90% with all these new books I got.”

Forty-five students received bicycles. One student, who lives in a temporary shelter after her family’s house was destroyed by the tsunami, exclaimed “I am glad and happy for this bicycle. The red color is my favorite!”

Bus passes were given to 44 students. The passes are valid for four months to a year. In addition, 21 students received help to pay their hostel fees.

The college principal, in response to the support from the ELCA through the UELCI (United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India), expressed appreciation that the youth, who are also affected by the tsunami, would get adequate attention. “This support really encourages the students to develop their abilities,” he said.

The Rev Dr Chandran Paul Martin, Executive secretary, UELCI thanked the students for accepting the UELCI as their partner in this process. The executive committee members of the UELCI including its president Rt Rev L.G. Rao, members of the faculty and students participated in the program.

PHOTOS

Thanks from a College in India In their own words....

Yashoda a 3rd year Chemistry student responded saying “tsunami has taken away everything except our courage to live.”

She feels the love of God through ELCA/UELCI who are accompanying and building confidence while encouraging courageous efforts for overcome.


Dr. J. P. Jeyakumar, the principal, explained that the name of the town “Tranquebar” means “singing waves,” but on December 26 they turned into “wailing waves” immersing thousands of people into eternal grief.

Now he sees a tsunami of love as the waves of love cross many boundaries to reach those whose lives the tsunami wrecked earlier.

He expressed his grateful thanks to God for bringing the sea of humanity together into a wave of blessing.


Vidhya Rani from UELCI praised God for blessing her with this opportunity enabling her to help in a small way.

“These small helps go a long way as change makers bringing light into many darkened lives” she said


Sathiyaseelan a first year student is a unique tsunami survivor. He and three of his friends were caught up in the violent waves.

All three of his friends perished.Though he had his head hit hard against the wall he survived. And he gives his grateful response to the gifts from ELCA/UELCI.


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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Update -7

Children are Recovering from Trauma

TSUNAMI RELIEF OPERATIONS-UELCI/LWS (I) UPDATE-7
Introduction

The United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India and its member church bodies are fully engaged in assessing and meeting the early needs of the Tsunami survivors. This update describes in summary fashion the action taking place in each of the six large areas where the UELCI is walking with those impacted by the havoc of December 26.

Cuddalore

People dependent on selling and cleaning fish have approached the UELCI office at Cuddalore for relief assistance, according to the Rev. Dr. A. G. Augustine Jayakumar. The Tsunami rendered them jobless, and they now have no other way for living. Our team identified nearly 125 affected women who belong to fishing and Dalit community, and provided relief to these people in consultation with the District Collector and other authorities. The distribution took place February 17 in the presence of Bishop Gideon Devanesan, church leaders and Ms. Anu George, Asst. Collector for Cuddalore.

Guntur

At the request of the AELC and local government officer of Nizampatnam, our team made an extensive survey and identified 351 additional families--including fisherfolk, minorities, Muslims, Christians, and Dalits--who need relief assistance while addressing the food security issue. Women in this village are involved in preparing feed for the poultry farms from the waste material which comes out of fishing. Hence, these families also depended on the fishing community and are identified as affected by the Tsunami. Assorted food will be distributed to these families in a few days.

Kancheepuram

Communities in Kancheepuram are coming forward to build their future with the help of the UELCI. Communities are accepting support from the UELCI in all aspects. Collective planning and decision-making is taking placed concerning ownership of boats, nets and motors. Communities are now analyzing the government policy on housing and are closely observing the developments in those policies. Our team is actively involved in community development programmes and coordinates between communities and the government. The UELCI attended a meeting with the District Collector and discussed such matters as permanent housing and insurance for the boats.

Kanya Kumari/Trivandrum

We have undertaken the relief distribution at 8 different places in Trivandrum which are under the IELC Trivandrum Synod, with request from local communities and church leaders. The church leaders and the youth from the IELC Trivandrum Synod participated as volunteers in our survey programmes, and helped distribute family cards and material goods. This relief distribution in Trivandrum went to 227 families.

Nagapttinam

A special focus at Nagapattinam is on the youth and students. This emphasis is in response to request from a number of organizations and youth groups. During this critical stage of facing many decisions in their young lives, help is desired to guide, support and encourage them to see new options for their future lives and careers. Sadly, the Tsunami has disturbed many of them both economically and emotionally. Our team is on the spot, working to identify the affected youth and provide for appropriate support.

Tranquebar

The Dalit families at the Chandrapadi have moved in to their new temporary shelters which were built by the UELCI. These temporary homes have given many families the sense of being cared for and sheltered beyond the physical sense. Still, flooring in these shelters is required and the work has already begun. The Dalit community has been highly appreciative of the efforts of the UELCI. Play kits, given to the children by the UELCI in Chandrapadi village, are put to the maximum use.

Children are Recovering from Trauma

So far the UELCI has been successful in the getting children back to the school. Children are among the most affected Tsunami victims, both emotionally as well as physically. Still our teams, with the support of the National Lutheran Health and Medical Board teams, are working to get the children back to normality. Children lost their joy. It is rare to see a cheerful face. They are often found sitting at the seashore, gazing blankly at each other, not knowing what to do. They cannot easily put the disaster out of their every thought. As someone observed, “They forgot to smile, they forgot to play.” Our team reported that when schools in the Nagapattinam area resumed after the Christmas holidays and the disaster, the children were so silent, deep in shock, listless, and easily broke into tears.

Our medical team from NLHMB is hard at work in the villages near Cuddalore to bring some sense of normalcy back in the communities. NLHMB trained more than 500 volunteers as community counselors to provide counseling to the people who suffering post-traumatic stress. Our volunteers visit the villages daily, interacting with the children to help them work through some emotional issues. They have also organized several children’s camps to help provide a safe place to talk about their feelings.

In Cuddalore and Tranquebar the UELCI is very much focused on relief work in the Dalit villages. There, the UELCI again identified the children as a major group of survivors facing unique challenges after the Tsunami. In part, play therapy is effective. So the UELCI has established two children parks along with the games equipment for pre-school children and for the school-aged children. The parks strategically located near their school. The children first come to the play in the parks, find their friends and make new ones, and then sharing experiences with each and other. Happily, the children have been quick to make friends and become playmates. This approach has proven to be a good beginning for the UELCI in its efforts to bring children together in that village. Further, the UELCI has also provided play kits to the children. They started playing games and slowly the life is coming back in the village not seen since the Tsunami struck. The local coordinator reports that percentage of attendance in the school has remarkably increased. It is another favorable indicator.

Medical Aid

National Lutheran Health and Medical Board reported that 8,500 patients were attended to and 119 patients were admitted at the base camp. In the School Children Nutrition Programme five schools have been covered. Health screening of all children was done, and nutritional supplements in the form of enriched vitamins, minerals and protein mix were provided to 1,061 children. A total of 86 cans of nutritional supplements were utilized. About 50 patients were identified by government agencies in the Nagapattinam region. They required surgical treatment to correct disabilities caused or aggravated by the Tsunami. Surgical facilities were established at the base camp in cooperation with Krishna Hospital, a private hospital in Cuddalore. Thirty orthopedic patients were treated, some of which were complicated surgeries.

Psychological Response Handbook Following Disasters
A “Handbook for Community Counselor Trainers on Disaster Psycho-Social Response” was published by the Academy for Disaster Management Education Planning and Training. The National Lutheran Medical Health Board participated with other NGOs, community counselors and other medical teams to develop this Handbook. This handbook, along with adequate training, will go a long way toward addressing some of the important aspects of emotional recovery. A copy of the handbook can be downloaded from
Self-Help Groups (SHG)

The women of Palaya Nadukuppam, Kancheepuram; Chandrapadi, Tranquebar and Chitra Pattei, Cuddalore have organized themselves with the assistance of the staff team of Slum Women’s Advancement Programme, UELCI, Chennai for the formation of Self-Help Groups (SHG).

The team is currently conducting a five-day entrepreneur development training programme. This will be extended to other UELCI operational villages.

Lutheran World Service India Update

LWS (I) has completed distribution of 17 boats to date: 13 in Annappanpettai (Cuddalore), 3 in Anichankuppam (Villupuram) and 1 in Nallavadu (Pondicherry). Of these, 9 were distributed last week. (see the photos related to update of February 21). Based on the performance of the boat manufacturers and the advice of the fishermen in our villages, we are placing orders for additional boats. With the purchase orders issued on February 28, 90 boats have been purchased. We expect a more or less constant stream of boat deliveries during the next few weeks.
Our revised appeal anticipates 350 sets of boats, engines and nets. However, full funding of our appeal is not yet in hand.
Thirty sets of Greaves engines were also distributed: 16 in Annappanpettai, 9 in Anichankuppam and 5 in Nallavadu. The beneficiaries tested the engines in our presence and were satisfied. They were happy about the model, brand and capacity of 10 HP. Purchase orders for 100 engines have been issued and delivery is underway.
Purchase orders for two sets of nets per boat, for a total of 200 nets, have also been issued. Delivery is underway according to the schedule of the various suppliers.
We hope that the ACT delegation which is beginning its visit to this region today will be able to take a short ride on some of the boats as they are launched.
In Nallavadu village of Pondicherry, 88 temporary shelters have been completed of the total 137 houses. Flooring has been completed in 58; 32 have been already occupied and flooring is in progress in 30 others.
In Pannithittu village of Pondicherry, 88 temporary houses are proposed to be built, of which 25 structures have been completed. The roofs and walls are already in progress. The beneficiaries are supervising the construction work and are themselves doing the flooring, for which we are paying them Rs.250 per household.
The Additional District Magistrate of Pondicherry appreciated the work being done by LWS (I) and asked them to go forward with the work of repairing partly damaged houses in Nallavadu, Narambai and Pannithittu villages.
LWS (I), along with many other NGOs, attended an NGO coordination meeting called by the District Collector of Cuddalore in which he requested NGOs to submit their list of families to whom livelihood support like boats, engines and fishing nets will be given. He will use this information to avoid duplication.
Mr. P. Kristian Pedersen, Programme Secretary, Asia, and Mr. Sudhangshu Sekhar Singh (both from DCA) visited our operational areas in Anichankuppam in Viluppuram district and Nallavadu in Pondicherry.

ACT Partners Meeting

ACT Partners met February 15 in Pondicherry to review the Tsunami work underway and planned, and to discuss a revised funding appeal. Reports were given by the UELCI, CASA and LWS (I). Plans were drawn up for a visitation team to see the relief sites from March 1-4, and for the ACT Communicator to visit ACT partners’ operational areas from March 2-16. The next ACT Partners meeting will be held March 23.

NGO’s Coordination Meetings with the Collectors of different districts

These meetings were attended by:

The Rev. Dr. Augustine Jayakumar at Cuddalore
Mr. Rajkumar at Nagapattinam
Ms. Vidhya Rani at Kancheepuram

Other information

ELCA Film Crew. A film crew from Evangelical Lutheran Church in America visited the UELCI’s Tsunami operational areas in and around Cuddalore and they are going to produce several documentaries.

ACT Visitation Team. A group of six members representing Action by Churches Together (ACT) are currently visiting ACT’s India partners and their Tsunami operational areas.

FOR UPDATE-7 PICTURES VISIT ALBUM 7


The Rev. Chandran Paul Martin
Executive Secretary
UELCI, Chennai
March 1, 2005