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Tuesday 28 December, 2004

Relief Work in and around Chennai- Latest Updates.

In the past couple of days of red typical-tape confusion and mass fear and shock, a group of city college students have come together with willing and able everyday people to try and focus resources towards the in-the-field relief workers who are making a difference, especially in worst-hit zones in T.N such as Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, and smaller fishing vilages along the coast.

One NGO to which a vast number of such relief workers belong is AID. AID is doing great work, networking with other NGO's and government personel, and we students are spending our time directing resources towards their efforts.

Below is the brief of AID activity as of today, from Mr. Balaji, senior co-ordinator at AID.

I will be posting more on the work us students are doing with AID and Trust Children[an NGO which focusses on aiding the children of fishermen]in the field tomorrow.

Dear Friends,

Reporting from Chennai about the Relief efforts on the Tsunami hit areas.
Please use the information here to collect donations, clothes, medicines,
write up proposals for the rehab work, etc.

After the initial shock and chaos, we are now quite well organized to handle
the relief efforts. A number of organizations have started working
together to handle the relief work - AID, TNSF, Pondicherry Science Forum,
DYFI, Vidyarambam, Pratham and the PHM Organizations. We have formed a
quick informal coalition to coordinate this work. As of now the state level
coordination is being done from the AID-India office in Gopalapuram Chennai.

We are together working on relief efforts in Chennai, Cuddalore and
Pondicherry, Nagapattinam and Kanyakumari.

The relief work is planned in 3 phases:

(1) Immediate Relief - food, clothing, blankets, temporary shelter,
medicines and health camps for emergencies and epidemics
(2) Second Level Relief - Construction of huts and houses and health needs
(3) Third Level Relief - Livelihood needs for the families affected -
forming cooperatives and providing livelihood support like boats, nets etc.

Right now all our focus in on the first phase.

In Chennai - we have divided ourselves into 3 teams:

1. Collection and Information Team: This team will handle calls,
receive donations of money, clothes, medicines, blankets and vessels and
send receipts, give information on the current status of relief work. This
team will also give out press releases, send out email reports and call for
further donations based on the needs. This is the team that people from
outside must contact.

The people to contact: Bharati/Manohar/Hari (AID office -
Ravishankar (IIT Prof) (94440-84910),
Chandra Anil (9382330752,
Smitha Kalyani (98401-73800)
Vibha Ravindran
Balaji Sampath (94440-61033, 28350403(O))

(I - Balaji - may not be available for the next 4 days as I am going to
Nagai and Cuddalore to help with the field coordination.)

2. Allocation and Distribution: This team will get the needs from
various field locations, sort the materials collected, divide it up for
different locations based on the need and send it to the field coordinators
for distribution.

3. Field Team: In each area we have a team of volunteers who will be
coordinating the relief efforts and distribution of materials.

In Chennai we have started the relief work in 5 areas:
Pattinampakkam (Foreshore Estate)
Tiruvanmiyur and Olcott Kuppam

In each area we have allocated 2 people to coordinate with the distribution.
These 2 people are taking down names of people, family survey, needs survey
and what is being distributed. The idea is that this individual rapport
that is built will be useful in working with the people over the next few
months - ensuring rehabilitation and livelihood as well. Every day as the
collections are being done, the field coordinators will go to the relief
camps to provide the people with what they need.

This is the plan everywhere - we work with a community, get a rapport during
the initial relief phase and then work with them on the house constructions
and livelihood rehab phase.

In Nagapattinam district - which is the worst hit in Tamilnadu - we have 3
organizations on the field working: Tamilnadu Science Forum, Vidyarambam
and DYFI. We are also trying to get other orgns and the dist administration
into a joint coordination effort. Many of our volunteers of who are from
fishing villages have died and so have many of the children studying in the
support centers. Ranganathan from Vidyarambam left yesterday from Chennai
with a van load of clothes and relief materials. Locally DYFI and TNSF have
collected some materials and started the distribution. We have sent them
some immediate funds and I will be taking more funds and relief materials
with me today.

In Cuddalore district - we have TNSF, PSF and DYFI working together. A
cholera epidemic seems to be starting in both Cuddalore and Nagai - we are
sending out preventive information pamphlets and are also taking medicines
for the people there. Senthil Babu has gone there yesterday.

In Kanyakumari - MALAR is coordinating the relief efforts. Many of the
villages where they are working have been washed away. We have sent Rs.
30,000 yesterday and will be sending more.

I am leaving in a truck with Charles, Damu and Jagdish - with the relief
materials collected here today. Will be leaving from AID office by about
5:00 pm. I will first go to Pondicherry and then to Cuddalore There we will
meet with the local TNSF and DYFI and other teams to plan the relief rehab
work for the next 1-2 weeks. Damu will stay there to continue helping with
the work there as well as to keeping giving the collection/allocation teams
in Chennai info about what is going on and what are the current needs.

Then the truck will go to Nagai and meet with the teams there - to plan out
a joint relief coordination and also plan for the long term rehab work
needed. Charles and Jagdish will stay there for at least a week or ten days
and work with the teams there - and also send us back information about what
is happening.

AID Bangalore volunteers have collected funds and a truck load of relief
materials - they will be coming to Nagai and Cuddalore directly today.

I am sending some of the photos that we took yesterday at the Chennai relief
camps. You can use these for further collections.

What we need in terms of collections:

1. Money - lots of it - for buying quick relief materials as well as
for the long term. There are many people contributing and wanting to
contribute. Please collect it from people and send it to the AID office:
Cheques can be made in the name of AID-India and sent to:

Old No 132, New No 242,
Avvai Shanmugam Road
Gopalapuram, Chennai - 600 086

(In the US - collections are being done by AID-US - you can contact
1-888-TALK-2-AID or 301-209-0508 for more details. Vibha is also doing
collections for this.)

2. Clothes - particularly blankets

3. Food - rice, wheat and dal - as grains for cooking and using over
the next one week.

4. Medicines (antibiotics, ORS, bandages, cotton, etc - basic first

5. Doctors - people willing to stay in Nagai and Cuddalore and treat
people in health camps.

6. Vessels

For the second and third phase we are planning on community groups and
cooperatives that will jointly construct housing and buy boats, etc.

The total immediate relief budget (from my initial estimate) is about Rs. 20
Lakhs. This may go up to about Rs. 40 Lakhs. (This is what we need -
ourselves and the other NGOs and community groups that we are working apart
from what the government is providing.)

The long term relief budget needed is more than a few crores - but whatever
we can get we can make use of. One boat for 50 people costs about Rs. 1
Lakh. We will need about 10 boats for each community and will be working
with about 100 communities - a total of about Rs. 10 crores. Housing will
cost about Rs. 50,000. There are more than 50,000 people who need this
help. You can calculate the total budget required! We will of course also
use the government relief support and try to reach to the most needy. But in
spite of government funds, there will be a lot of need for rehab support
that we will need directly as well.

Please use the information above to raise funds and collect the materials
and to send out appeals. You can also draft short proposals to submit to
your companies and other groups that may be able to give grants for the
above purposes.

There has so far been a great response from all our volunteers and a lot of
individuals from everywhere are contacting us with offer for help. People
from Bangalore, villages in Vembakkam and Banavaram, Colleges in Chennai
(Stella, Ethiraj, IIT, etc), volunteers in the US, Software professionals,
people from slums in Chennai, people living in flats, people from different
NGOs, individuals, etc. But the scale of the problem is so much that we
will need all the help we can get.

We will keep you updated with the information from the field regularly.
Thanks a lot for all your help. If you need more specific info please

94440-84910, 28350403

9382330752, 044-28350403

Smitha Kalyani
smithakalyani@yahoo.com 98401-73800


Balaji (me - after 4-5 days)
balaji_sampath@hotmail.com 94440-61033


Balaji Sampath

Prayers and energy to all. Here's to organised relief, and some hope, and a lot of dry land and clean water.

President- Students Union, Stella Maris College, Chennai.
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