Sri Lanka

Tzu Chi building 1,000 houses for tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka

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The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has begun building a community with 1,000 permanent houses for tsunami survivors in Hambantota, a resort city in southeastern Sri Lanka, six months after the devastating tsunamis struck 11 Indian Ocean nations in December 2004.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held at the construction site on June 25, 2005. The ceremony was attended by some 300 people, including local government officials, religious leaders, community representatives, and Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

The new community is located in a new town about three kilometers from the old town. Each house will have a living space of 18 ping (108 square feet). The first group of houses will be completed in six months.

In the community, to be called "Great Love Village," Tzu Chi will also build a clinic, an activity center, and a school (which will have about 20 classrooms for junior high school students).

A blessing message from Dharma Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi, was read at the ceremony by Hsieh Ching-kuei, who is in charge of Tzu Chi's humanitarian aid and cultural affairs.

Mahida Amaraweera, Sri Lankan deputy minister for urban development and water supply, expressed thanks to Tzu Chi for helping the survivors in various aspects. He said he would do his best to ensure smooth completion of the construction project.

Soon after the Dec. 26, 2004 disaster, Dharma Master Cheng Yen called on Tzu Chi members around the world to raise funds to help the victims, saying that all people living on this planet are interconnected and when disaster strikes one region, everyone everywhere ought to help.

Tzu Chi's relief efforts have been focused on helping the survivors in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the two countries hardest-stricken by the tsunamis caused by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake.

In first five months after the disaster, Tzu Chi's efforts in Sri Lanka included dispatching seven medical teams to Hambantota (treating 27,072 patients between Dec. 31, 2004 and Feb. 3, 2005), building 296 house-style tents, and distributing 1196.61 tons of rice and other supplies.

A branch office, manned by Tzu Chi volunteers and locally-employed staff members, was established in Hambantota on March 20 to continue providing care for the affected people.

In Indonesia, Tzu Chi has built about 3,000 tent houses for quake and tsunami survivors over the past six months. It will also build 3,700 permanent houses in Aceh Province (2,000 in Neuheun, 700 in Lamseupeung and 1,000 in Meulaboh). (End)

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