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Malaysian Buddhist counseling group sets off for Sri Lanka

The Buddhist Channel, Feb 18, 2005

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia -- In response to the appeal for humanitarian help from Sri Lanka, the Counseling Unit of the Buddhist Gem Fellowship (BGFCU) despatched a reconnaissance team of counseling helpers to Sri Lanka on 27th January to assess the needs and requirements of the tsunami survivors.

<< Next phase of relief effort is to assist victims to face post tsunami trauma such as depression, regaining self confidence and acceptance of loss of family members

With the assistance and advice of Venerable Saranankara (Chief Venerable of the Sri Lanka Temple, Kuala Lumpur) and Bhante Wimala, a base camp was set up by the team at a town called Matara. There are six tsunami relief camps in Matara with about 65 families located in each site. Based on initial findings, the team have discovered that many of residents residing in these camps need psychological support to help them regain their confidence and self worth. Many have been found to be highly traumatized by the tsunami tragedy.

Lim Chin Kah, the main coordinator of the BGFCU says that since many tsunami camps have already been set up by the government and local/international NGOs across of Sri Lanka, the counseling unit have decided to ?adopt? the camps at Matara. "With limited resources at our dispense, we felt it would be more productive to concentrate our humanitarian and counseling efforts on just one location," he said.

Sources confirmed that the BGFCU plans to send more counseling teams to Matara over the next few months.  Each team will comprise of two to four helpers each and will spend about twelve days there. A family in Matara has offered to provide accommodation for the helpers during their missions there.

Chin Kah have appealed on behalf of the BGFCU for public contributions to assist the helpers in their humanitarian work while in Matara. "Each volunteer may have to go to Sri Lanka several times (spread over a few months period) to re-visit the victims and follow up on the counselling.  Some of them may have to take no pay leave from their work. It can hence be financially taxing on some of the volunteers", he said.

According to Chin Kah, the extent of the humanitarian missions in Sri Lanka will depend on the amount of financial support that the team receives. BGFCU he says, which was set up more than a decade ago to provide free telephone counseling service to the public, is a very small outfit with very limited funds.  "We sincerely hope that members of the public can support us to help our unfortunate friends in Sri Lanka," he appealed.

Another volunteer, Low Mi Yen who is slated to leave with the second batch of volunteers on Feb 21, 2005 said that the target of intervention will mainly concentrate on group art therapy and counseling. She plans to engage young victims in the therapy sessions by using toys such as beach balls, soft or stuffed toys and lego sets. As for the adults, plans are still afoot on the best way to engage their attention to participate in groups session or discussions. "It is easier to get the children to come and "play" but we expect it to be tougher to gather the adult," the veteran counsellor predicts.

The cost of sending each volunteer to the Matara camp will involve expenses such as flight tickets, daily meals and transportation from place to place will be borne by the BGFCU. The BGFCU welcomes any public donation to help subsidise the air-fare for the volunteers. Part of the funds will also be used to purchase gifts for the tsunami survivors and other essential items to support the missions there.

For more information on supporting the BGFCU Sri Lanka Humantarian Relief Mission, please contact the following:

BGF Counseling Unit,
c/o 71, SS 22A/1,
47400 Petaling Jaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan

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