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Sri Lankan tsunami victims move into tent houses built by Tzu Chi

Source: Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Feb 4, 2005

Taipei, Taiwan -- The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has completed 196 tent houses for tsunami survivors in Hambantota, a resort city in southeastern Sri Lanka, and a moving-in ceremony was held at the tent community on Jan. 31, 2005.

Tzu Chi, a humanitarian organization founded by a Buddhist nun, Dharma Master Cheng Yen in 1966, will build a total of 300 tent houses and a community with 1,000 permanent houses for the victims of the Dec. 26 devastating tsunami.

Construction work for the remaining 104 tent houses on another part of Hambantota started on Jan. 30 and is expected to be complete in mid-February.

The tent house (3.6m x 4.8 m x 2.5m), which is capable of sheltering 5-6 persons, was built on a foundation paved with bricks and filled with red soil. The tent community is equipped with kitchens and bathrooms, each sanitation site is shared by 12 families, water and electricity are also supplied.

During the construction of the tent houses, many local volunteers and some military personnel from the Pakistan Army and Sri Lankan Navy joined in to help. Tzu Chi also hired some survivors as workers.

The tents were chosen for their spaciousness and house-like quality, as the victims will be living in them for about one year as Tzu Chi completes the permanent housing community, which will also have schools, a medical post and community center.

The permanent housing community is the final part of Tzu Chi?s five-part long-term relief plan to allow the victims to feel secure in body and mind so that they can once again work to support themselves. As Master Cheng Yen described, "The homes we are giving them are meant to be homes for their following generations."

Because the victims have lost nearly all belongings in the disaster, Tzu Chi has provided each tent household with rice, cooking oil, sugar and milk powder sufficient for one month and 26 other essential items, such as desks, chairs, stove, kettle, basin, frying pan, spoons, knives, water pots, cups, bucket, coconut scrapper and medical kit.

Tzu Chi's first medical and relief team left Taiwan for Sri Lanka on Dec. 29 and started providing care for the victims in Hambantota from Dec. 31. Up to Feb 2, more than 20,000 patients have received treatment at the Tzu Chi medical post.

In addition to providing medical care and tent houses, Tzu Chi distributed relief essentials to 3,330 households in Ambalantota and Hambantota on Jan. 29-30, benefiting 12,488 people. They plan to distribute 5,208 bags of rice (each bag weighs 10 kg) and other supplies to the victims in Tissamaharama on Feb. 4.

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