Arlene Samen, the founder and CEO of One Heart World-Wide, is in Tibet responding to the recent earthquake, supported by funds from Direct Relief. One Heart’s medical team has been working in Tibet for several years and plans to open a special maternal and child health clinic there.
Monday, April 19
We arrived late Saturday night and spent most of Sunday meeting with local Tibetan nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have either been out to the field or have team members who have gone out to Yushu. Right now it is a bit chaotic and anyone who does not have a permit cannot go to Yushu as the roads are so backed up with trucks taking supplies. The military is on the ground setting up tent cities and either trucking in supplies or flying in cargo shipments of what is needed. There have been several hundred victims flown out to local hospitals either in Xining, where we are, or to Chengdu. We have heard that over 1,500 people have died and hundreds are still missing. Hundreds of monks arrived on the scene and have been involved with digging people out of the collapsed buildings, handing out supplies, or helping to dispose of the bodies.
We met with several local NGOs who can receive funds; they have formed an organization to coordinate donations and distribution of supplies. A representative from USAID is coming tomorrow to meet with NGOs and the Civil Affairs Office to see about donating funds to buy basic supplies. Funding is needed the most to help people with immediate needs (food, shelter, water, blankets, solar generators, water purification, cooking utensils, headlamps, medicine). Long term, the entire town will have to be rebuilt. Many of the doctors died in the earthquake and medical teams are flying in to take care of the injuries that were not life-threatening.
We went to one of the hospitals today and met with several of the Tibetan families who had been rescued. Several women went into labor and were evacuated to Xining and gave birth, most of them lost everyone in their family, yet were so grateful to be alive. Everywhere in the hospital we saw families tending to the needs of their family members who were injured. I will find out later who can organize helping the families here in Xining. Everyone is homeless. There are many heartbreaking stories. The courage of the Tibetan people truly inspires me as they come together under such horrific circumstances. The hotel where we are staying has been filled with Chinese relief workers who are leaving in shifts with semi trucks filled with supplies.
It looks like we will be able to start our maternal-child health (MCH) project in the next couple of months. Once we get the project started we would like to be involved with setting up a MCH training center in Yushu. Most of the hospitals either collapsed or are badly damaged. At this time the government will have to rebuild everything. Literally, there are no undamaged structures left. I feel helpless in this moment and feel the best I can do is to help convey the message of what is needed. Our prayers and long-term support will help the Tibetans to rebuild their lives in this very fragile environment. So many people are traumatized; their faith keeps them strong.
With one heart and many hands,