Royal honour for temple campaign

By Sally Henfield, Richmond and Twickenham Times, January 14, 2005

London, UK -- PRINCE Charles visited the London Buddhist Vihara in Chiswick last Thursday to support the temple's ongoing effort to send aid to the Sri Lankan areas devastated by the recent tsunami.

The Prince arrived at 2pm, spending an hour touring the temple and seeing the hard work of all those who have been involved in collecting and packaging items of food and medical supplies.

Speaking of his visit, the Prince said: "I wanted to take this opportunity to visit the London Buddhist Vihara to show support and solidarity to all those in Sri Lanka and elsewhere who have suffered so terribly as a result of this incomprehensible disaster."

Worshippers at the temple have worked continuously for over three weeks to send relief to the country's most stricken areas.

The Prince added: "We hear how people's faith may be challenged but, nevertheless, it's also helped in a strange way to reveal the love and compassion that exists in people's hearts.

"The fact that such powerful emotions exist at all can perhaps paradoxically help enforce faith in that invisible dimension."

Over 7,000 kilos of food have been collected already, and the Vihara has received over 25,000 in donations. The Prince also made an undisclosed donation to the appeal.

The efforts of those inside the temple reflected those outside. Mr and Mrs Weerasekera had driven for almost an hour to come to the temple from their home in Epsom, Surrey, in order to donate items.

The couple are active worshippers at the Vihara and felt the need to support the temple's efforts as they themselves have relatives in Sri Lanka, but are fortunate to have heard that they have not been too badly affected by the disaster.

Mr Weerasekera said: "In the wake of this disaster there has been a shortage of urgent supplies like medicine and disinfectant.

"We think that is it very important that we make our own contribution.

"The people over there will need our help for such a long time."

Julie Pethiyagoda, from Twickenham, has been helping co-ordinate the temple's efforts. She has been particularly affected by the tragic events as her husband now lives in Sri Lanka.

For Julie, the work at the temple is particularly heart-felt: "I lived in Sri Lanka for a couple of years myself.

"The people that have died are people that I knew very well."

Several members of Julie's family had taken a short trip to the coast and were staying in a hotel that was demolished by the waves.

Julie's brother-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew were killed and her niece is still missing.