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Chaos at the Buddhist Maha Vihara

The Buddhist Channel, Jan 5, 2004

Temple suffers from "Anarchy of altruism"

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- Emergency provisions and other relief materials are piling up in the compound of the Buddhist Maha Viahara located here. Shrine halls and car parks are so over filled with boxes of clothings, blankets and food that the goods are now stored in open areas, exposing them to open elements under the sun and rain.

Temple officials and helpers are working overtime to avert chaos due to the lack of coordination among those seeking to do good. The condition in the Buddhist Maha Vihara reflects a situation of what is termed as "a surplus of good intentions".

People are tripping over one another to give what they have. Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, has called such a situation as "the anarchy of altruism" that produces waste, duplication and frustration. Relief officials say that a certain amount of chaos is to be expected in the initial phase of their operations but that during that time, critical assessment occurs to ensure that supplies, equipment and personnel end up in the right places.

"It's easy to see huge piles of supplies in warehouses and conclude that is a sign that the operation is not operating as quickly or as efficiently as it should be, but that would be a mistake," Mr. Raymond said. "Some time is needed in the beginning to determine just what is needed and where to prevent waste."

Pictures of the Relief Chaos

Efforts are under way to bring in more volunteers in the next few hours to clear the log jam. Temple officials are coordinating with youth groups and housewives via SMS and emails to mobilize urgent request for helpers. "What is critically needed at the moment is physical help," said Goh Seng Chai, a committee member of the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia. He appealed to anyone who is available to come to the temple after office hours to help clear the compound.

"If we treasure the vihara for what it is, and how it has helped to enrich us as Buddhists, this is the time to give back our service," he added.

Meanwhile, the Maha Vihara has made an official announcement with regards to the dateline for the receipt of relief aid for the tsunami victims. The following has been declared:

1) With effect from January 5, 2005, no more ole and new linen of any kind (i.e. clothing, blankets, bedsheets and undergarments)

2) With effect from January 7, 2005, no more donation of food or in kind.

3) With effect from January 16, 2005, no more donation of cash or in kind.

The temple committee also thanked all donors for their generous donations, contribution and their overwhelming support. A special mention was made to "enthusiastic volunteers" for their dedication, precious time and untiring efforts." The statement added that their "spontaneous response" to the call for help "deserves a big round of applause".

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