Chennai, India/Colombo, Sri Lanka – In what was arguably the most successful emergency relief effort in the history of Food for Life, volunteers from more than 15 countries converged on Sri Lanka, India, and Malaysia to provide hundreds of thousands of hot vegan meals to stranded survivors of the catastrophic 2005 tsunami.
Food for Life volunteers in South India were the first responders, bringing hot food to survivors literally hours after the first waves hit shore. Just a few days later, volunteers from the US, Croatia, Australia, Poland, Hungry, Sweden, Italy, England, India, and Mauritius converged on Colombo to begin feeding programs around the island.
Over the ensuing months, volunteers set up temporary cooking facilities in schools and shelters managed by the Sri Lankan army. The villagers offered to assist in cutting vegetables while Food for Life cooks toiled over large pots cooking over firewood. The facilities were as basic as one might imagine in a disaster zone, but no one complained. Food for Life volunteers were happy to see the smiling faces of the people they served, who relished everything offered to them.
NOTES from A Volunteer’s Diary
Chennai, India December 28, 2004 – After serving hot meals to about 2000 people, on the direction of the local people, we went in our food van to more interior places. The men cleared the pathway for us. When we arrived, we mostly saw children, half naked or with no clothes at all, running up to us with food. Some of the people had food packets in their hands. When we asked them why they were coming for more food, they said that the packed food sometimes had a foul smell, whereas what we brought was hot, fresh and very tasty! December 29, 2004 – Today we made enough lemon rice for 5000 people. We went to Pattinapakkam, the most affected area in Chennai, which was recently visited by the Chief Minister. The area was so precarious the police had cordoned it off. When we told them we wanted to go in and distribute food, they gave us permission, but fearing that some unsocial people might destroy our van, the police escorted us halfway inside. To our delight, the people were very happy to see us and said, “No one has come this far to give us food. There has only been food distribution to the people outside this area. Thank you for coming here.” In just two hours, these very hungry people devoured our lemon rice with passion.Food for Life Global continues helping orphans of the tsunami through its affiliation with Gokulam, orphanage in Colombo.
Gokulam-Bhaktivedanta Children’s Home
A refuge for orphaned children in Sri Lanka, providing physical, spiritual, and emotional nurturing and education in an atmosphere of hope and healing. With the care they receive at Gokulam, destitute children gain the self-confidence, determination, and integrity to enter adulthood as productive and successful world citizens. In response to a never-ending need exacerbated by the devastating tsunami of December 2004. To learn more about GOKULAM and how you can support the children, visit www.gokulam.org