Tzu Chi prepares to offer more aid to Myanmar

CNA, May 26, 2008

HUALIEN, Taiwan -- The Buddhist Compassionate Tzu Chi Foundation based in eastern Taiwan is preparing to provide a second round of relief aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, a spokesman for the religious group said Sunday.

The spokesman said that a delegation of Tzu Chi volunteers who returned to Hualien County Sunday after completing a two-week relief mission, reported to Dharma Master Cheng Yen, founder of the Tzu Chi Foundation, about their work in the disaster area and discussed what else the foundation could do to help the victims.

According to the spokesman, Tzu Chi volunteer Lin Shu-hua from Hualien County led about 100 other volunteers from Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar during the two-week operation. They distributed relief supplies to more than 3,000 families, helping over 13,000 displaced flood victims in several of the worst-hit areas, including Shwebaukan and Nyaung Thong Pin -- two townships near Yangon, the largest city of Myanmar.

Master Cheng Yen told Tzu Chi volunteer workers and other devotees that the foundation needs to prepare for a second round of relief work in Myanmar and pray for the disaster victims there.

She said that Tzu Chi workers will have nothing to do with politics, and that their only concern is to help the disaster victims through their post trauma difficulties.

The Tzu Chi delegation was one of two known groups from Taiwan allowed into Myanmar by the country's ruling military junta, the other being a relief group dispatched by the Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery -- a Buddhist temple located on Taiwan's northeast coast.

The Ling Jiou Mountain team visited 42 villages during its 10-day stay in Myanmar and distributed various relief supplies, including 20 metric tons of rice and 7,000 loaves of bread, and provided medical treatment to about 160 sick and injured victims each day. The monastery is also planning to send a second relief team to Myanmar.

On May 2, Cyclone Nargis devastated the densely populated low-lying Irrawaddy delta, causing a deadly surge that inundated the region and swept at least 78,000 people to their deaths. More than 56,000 people are still missing.