01/27/2005, 00.00
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The Church helps people return to normal life

by Weena Kowitwanij
In southern Thailand Catholic relief centres provide medical care as well as education and leisure activities to tsunami victims.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – A month after the December 26 tsunami, the first goal of Catholic relief centres in southern Thailand is ensure that life gets back to normal. To do so, the Catholic Church is doing its level best to provide medical and psychological care to the victims as well as education to the young and support to the volunteers.

Here are a few stories about what Catholic relief centres are doing in southern Thailand.

In Phang-nga, 71 families from Khk-Kuk village, mostly fishermen, came to a centre set up by the Church. They are 'new Thai' or 'morgan', i.e. people living from the Andaman Sea without permanent rights on the mainland and turned to the Church for help. 

"We are taking care of the 'New Thai'," said Sister Uraiwan, who is running the centre. "They are now living in the temporary houses built by the Royal Thai Army [but] most of them would like to stay by the shore, [living] together in the same community".

She insists that now is the time "to take care of their daily life since they earn nothing at present.  We make sure that the 54 students go to school everyday. We advise them on hygiene and help some who have mental problem."

"Four seminarians from Lux Mundi Major Seminary in Samphran help organise leisure activities for the children after schools."

At Taptawan, five kilometres from Khuk-Kuk, there is another Catholic relief centre. Its staff is helping the 195 local families it hosts get back to a normal life.

Fr John Bosco Suwat Luangsaard, who is in charge of the centre, said that "most people here earned a living selling snacks, drinks and souvenirs to the tourists. Now those who have some knowledge about the stage are rehearsing to perform a show called Ta-lung or Shadow Play.

Despite the good will, there are many difficulties. For instance, temporary shelters have zinc roofs that absorb heat during the day and prevent many people from sleeping inside so hot it is. Fans are needed to make it bearable.

The centre is also involved in providing health care to people from the village and from surrounding areas. Father Suwat noted that "two doctors and ten nurses are on 24-hour standby shifts."

The Church is also providing support to volunteers involve in relief operations.

Another relief centre was set up at the headquarters of the International Catholic Conference for Scouting and Asia Pacific Region for Scouting. It is run by Salesian Fr John Baptist Suthep Chornthong whose task is to "provide all volunteers, scouts and teachers with a pleasant stay so that they will work effectively".

The centre also offers the 'School for Life' programme to scouts; it enables them to reflect upon their experiences.

The outpouring of compassion and empathy continues from abroad as well.

Sr. Angela Phannee Phuruanhong, the Mother Provincial of Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Bangkok, said that "many European organisations form France, Italy and German have offered their support to children. So we gathered background information on each of them for further consideration.  Some projects even offer education up to pre-university level on a year-to-year basis."

Yesterday a Buddhist memorial service was held in Phang-nga and Phuket hotels to honour the victims of the December 26 tsunami. 

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See also
After tsunami cynicism assails Christians, Muslims and Hindus
Caritas Thailand sending first aid shipment to Nargis victims
Here love refuses to die, says Cardinal Toppo
Tamil Nadu fishermen ask state government for safe homes not far from the shore
Struggling through the emergency to get back to a normal life after the tsunami


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