Though the rains have begun to cease, the people of Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu are still struggling to regain normalcy. Many people have lost their homes, their belongings, and their livelihoods have been disrupted. Our volunteers on the ground report that many poor and needy people have been living in cramped and unsafe areas, and therefore by providing food and household items, we are meeting their most basic needs.
Amma has sent more than 500 volunteers including 40 international volunteers, members of AYUDH, our youth wing, as well as students and faculty from our own Amrita University to help in the relief efforts. Amma has also made a donation of Rs. 5 crores (749,000 USD) to the government of India. The funds were presented by Amma’s senior representative, Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, to the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.
The flooding, which began in late November, left many homeless or trapped by the waters. Our local volunteers immediately began providing support by cooking and serving hot meals as well as distributing medical supplies and other badly needed necessities. They have also been helping rescue those who were stranded. As the floods have subsided, we have ramped up to more long-term relief. Each day, the local branch of AYUDH has been packaging food and other basic necessities and sending at least one truck load of supplies to the devastated areas.
On Sunday, December 13th, a team of 40 international volunteers took a 24 hour bus ride from our headquarters to join in the relief efforts. These volunteers have been helping to pack and distribute thousands of food packets in affected areas twice a day. With a positive and compassionate attitude, the volunteers are supporting each other, as well as providing kind words and smiles to the struggling survivors.
Our medical relief team of 10 doctors from our own Amrita Hospital remains in Chennai since the beginning of the floods. With two fully equipped ambulances, they have been going to various areas to find people who are in need of assistance. Every day the team attends 700 to 800 patients.
The streets of Chennai continue to be littered with debris and household items from flooded houses. Though the rain itself has slowly subsided, the wreckage remains. Residents of Chennai and throughout Tamil Nadu are struggling to return to their lives. Our volunteers are working with local cleanup crews to restore the area, improving sanitation and reducing environmentally hazardous waste.
Our relief efforts are not only centered around Chennai. Small, rural villages across Tamil Nadu have also suffered tremendous losses due to flooding. Many villagers feel scared and without resources. In one village, Jaffarkhanpet, the people were feeling hopeless, until our volunteers arrived. One villager explained “you are the first people coming here to help.” We are support these small villages in the same manner as the big cities with regular medical camps and distribution of basic supplies
In the coming days, our volunteers will distribute household items to 10,000 families, with kits including cook-ware, basic cooking supplies such as rice and milk powder, soap and toothbrushes, new bedding, and a variety of clothing items.