To witness the loving care of one human being to another is humbling.
My colleagues and I are moved beyond words by the overwhelming display of love you’ve expressed toward the victims of the tsunami disaster during the past couple of weeks.
We witnessed the unspeakable horror of little bodies mangled beyond recognition, felt the indescribable joy when someone presumed missing was discovered alive elsewhere, 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. Many of you sent money, others offered their services, still others asked how to care for the children.
Last week 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. (See also Rabbi Wilhem's account)
Our dedicated staff worked tirelessly also to deliver food, lodging and emotional support to the survivors of this horrendous event. We visited the hospitalized, 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. (We gratefully acknowledge a $25,000 allocation by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s to aid us in these efforts.)
In addition to our own efforts in Thailand, our colleague 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.
This week our three Chabad Houses are flooded with hundreds of young travelers still recovering from the shock, keeping our rabbis and rebbetzins busy from early morning till early morning.
We are also focusing our efforts on delivering aid directly to the hardest-hit victims.
In the beginning of the week a couple 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.
One of the most heartrending things for me 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 will start a toy drive for the children.
The toy drive has begun and, please G‑d, we will also be partnering with schools and organizations worldwide to provide kids affected by the devastation with their own toys.
There is more to report but I must sign off for Shabbat.
On behalf of the six families and 12 rabbinical students serving in Chabad of Thailand -- thank you for entrusting us with the sacred mission of representing you in this important relief work.
We welcome your continued outpouring of support.
Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor
Chabad of Thailand
To help us in our humanitarian mission of Ahavat Yisrael and Tzedaka in the aftermath of the Tsunami