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Wave Upon Wave

Lions have provided aid and hope to victims of the South Asia tsunami since it struck on Dec. 26, 2004.

Lions have provided aid and hope to victims of the South Asia tsunami since it struck on Dec. 26, 2004.

Wave Upon Wave

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Touchstone Story #12  

On Dec. 26, 2004, a 9.0-plus magnitude earthquake occurred under the Indian Ocean near the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. Within hours, a series of immense waves as high as 50 feet struck 11 countries along the rim of the Indian Ocean. More than 230,000 people lost their lives and more than one million people were displaced as a result of the South Asian tsunami—the deadliest in recorded history.

“The ocean took everything,” said Ranjan Jayawardane, a member of the Wellawatte West Lions Club in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Lions were among the first on the scene to provide help to victims, responding with their own waves of generosity and care. In Sri Lanka, Lions partnered with the government to organize aid, working 16-hour days to send supplies and put up tents at relocation camps. Eighty Lions in the medical profession volunteered to provide first aid near Chennai, India, while nearly 70 clubs distributed food and clothing. In Indonesia and Thailand, local clubs gave food, clothing, shelter and medical treatment to refugees.

Lions Clubs International Foundation also mobilized to send relief. LCIF had created disaster-response models following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York to help Lions act quickly when disaster strikes. The models estimate how much funding will be needed by analyzing the areas and numbers of people affected, current and future needs, how long recovery efforts are expected to last and other considerations. As soon as news of the tsunami reached LCIF, Lions put the models in place and started fundraising.

Lions raised US$15 million. Every dollar raised went to Lions in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand to help rebuild homes, schools and orphanages. At the time, it was the largest reconstruction effort in LCIF history.

“Some people had lost families, everything, but Lions stood by them,” said Sangeeta Jatia, past international director from Kolkata, West Bengal, and a member of the Calcutta Midtown Lions Club in India. “There was somebody who they could depend on.”

Long after the waves and initial shock had receded, Lions from around the world continued to pour out their time, energy and resources, helping to rebuild lives and entire communities.

Five years after the natural disaster, Luis Domínguez, past international director from the Mijas Lions Club in Mijas Pueblo, Spain, visited a village in Sri Lanka that Lions assisted in reconstructing. The community, known as “Lions Village” among local residents, was blossoming once again—with new houses, a playground and community center, and sewing machines to help jumpstart economic development.

“What can I say about happy children?” Domínguez said, watching carefree children enjoy their new playground. “I will leave it to your imagination.”

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