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A day in the area hit by Cyclone Sidr

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Bangladesh to help with Jolkona Foundation’s relief efforts in Bangladesh. You might remember that we had a goal to raise $2000 to help with our relief efforts. We are extremely proud to say that we were able to actually collect over $2500 with the help of all of our supporters!!! I will post more details soon about the exact amounts we collected and what sort of impact we were able to make with that.

I wanted to write a brief post about my overall experience – probably the most inspirational day of my life. After driving for 8 hours from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh we finally reached a remote village near the coast of Bangladesh which had been devastated by the cyclone. It had been 3 weeks since the cyclone struck and even after 3 weeks of incessant cleanup work, one could still see plenty of fallen trees everywhere. These trees that were completely uprooted, are proof of the cyclone’s power of destruction. Once we got to the village itself we spoke with the locals and heard stories that completely astonished us. I remember talking to one guy who had about 10 to15 people in his family. I found out that he did not leave his home after the warnings and instead huddled in a corner of the house accepting death should it come. He mentioned that the closest cyclone shelter was over 1 Km away and that even if they were to survive and leave their home, they would have nothing since their whole life’s earnings was in that home. Aside from the many stories like that, 80% of the village’s rice fields have been wiped out, children are without any clothes and shoes (in winter) because the winds took everything, from the roofs on people’s homes to all of their belongings and on and on… No matter how much TV you watch, you never know the true damage until you visit the area yourself. After this visit, I am convinced that is true for any natural disaster!

We were able to give out a lot with all of the money that was donated, but it still was not enough at all. Every one of the 33 families in that village got something from us which they were all extremely grateful for. We even provided some relief materials to the surrounding areas as much as we could. As individuals picked up their relief goods, they were shocked and grateful for what they received. One of the most touching things that happened to me was the extreme generosity these people had despite having almost nothing. When we arrived to the village, amidst their chaos, one of the families had prepared lunch for us to thank us for our efforts. They had cooked up some really good chicken – a meal that was probably better than anything they had in 3 weeks. I am still in shock about the giving nature of people who have so little, but am excited to be able to provide the opportunity through Jolkona Foundation to allow those of us that do have money to give, to be able to do so in a meaningful way.

In an upcoming post, we will give details of all the items that we distributed and its impact. This was the 1st project for Jolkona Foundation and something we are very proud of. However, that excitement was overshadowed by how much more these people needed and how our efforts seemed so little compared to the destruction in that country.

Before I close out the blog, I really have to thank all the generosity shown by individuals who stepped up and donated to our drive. Your generosity really had profound impact on these people.

I have put up some of the photos from our visit on FlickR and you can get to them from this URL – http://flickr.com/photos/21733789@N06/sets/72157603419527946/

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