As disaster relief efforts continue in earthquake-stricken Nepal, Vietnamese Buddhist nun Ven Thich Nu Tri Thuan, who is based in India, is worried about the future of hundreds of children left orphaned by the recent disasters.
Tri Thuan learnt from local television broadcasts of hundreds of orphans who had lost their parents during the disaster.
“Now there are still humanitarian workers giving out basic necessities and assisting the victims in various parts of Nepal. But in months to come, these workers will be gone,” the 69-year-old said.
The abbess of Linh-Son Chinese Buddhist temple in Kushinagar, India, Tri Thuan was in Nepal for six days conducting disaster relief work. She is worried that these unfortunate orphans may not have anyone to care for them, especially those without any remaining relatives.
How will they fend for themselves? What about food, shelter and education?
On May 8, Tri Thuan flew to Kathmandu to see how she could help these orphans. The abbess plans to adopt the orphaned children legally and take them to Lumbini where they will stay in two empty buildings near her temple. She plans to raise them and provide food, shelter and more importantly, education.
“I tried to take the children earlier but there is paperwork to be done before they can be released. We also need permission from the children’s guardians,” Tri Thuan said.
Born in Vietnam, Tri Thuan was adopted by an American family. In 1989, she decided to dedicate her life to serving poor and underpriviledge communities. She has been in India ever since and has made the country a base for her humanitarian work.
Over the years, she has built temples and over 20 schools. She has also taken 5,000 poor children off the streets and helped to clothe, feed and put them in schools.
Lindy Leong, a Malaysian who is helping Tri Thuan, said: “The abbess cried when she first heard about the Nepal earthquake while on her fund-raising rounds in the United States. The compassionate Tri Thuan is worried about these children and their bleak future, especially those orphaned by the earthquakes. Tri Thuan is committed to long-term care for the children she adopts.”
The distance from Kathmandu to Lumbini is about 10 hours by road and 30 minutes by air.
Tri Thuan visited villages on the outskirts affected by the earthquakes such as Jeevapur (a village in Belgaum district in the southern state of Karnataka, India) and surrounding villages Purandanda and Dhading.
“We wanted to go to some (far-flung) villages but found that it costs US$5,000 (RM18,348) to rent a helicopter for one hour. So we hired a jeep and travelled two-and-a-half hours to these villages,” she said.
They drove through streams and dirt roads and walked 1.5km to the villages.
About 100 houses were destroyed in the earthquakes and the affected villagers were staying in tents.
Tri Thuan distributed biscuits, and gave monetary aid to the villagers who lost their homes and also to repair a village school.
They also stopped by Panga, Kirtipur, which is south-west of Kathmandu. The entire village was flattened and there were 20 deaths and many injured people as a result of the earthquakes. Many more buildings destroyed by the earthquake in nearby villages were regarded unsafe to live in.
Tents, rice and other basic necessities provided by other relief agencies were insufficient. People are still starving and have yet to come to terms with the shock of the disaster.
On May 12, Tri Thuan and a few volunteers were in Boudhanath (a Unesco World Heritage Site), visiting the Boudhanath Stupa – the largest stupa in Nepal.
They were planning to go to Sindhupalchowk district (one of the least developed districts close to Kathmandu) when the second earthquake struck.
She recalled: “The ground shook for a minute. People were screaming in panic. As I prayed, I could hear the Buddha statue cracking. This was followed by two aftershocks within 30 minutes apart. We decided to cancel the visit as this area, too, was badly hit by the earthquake.”
A group of Malaysians is helping Tri Thuan in her “Save the Children of Nepal Earthquake” project.
If you are interested in providing financial aid, contact Lindy Leong (012-2002897), Poh Choo (012-2780339), Bernard Yuen (012-2201128) and Au Yang Yao Chih (012-6280339).