Sri Lankans in New York rally around one another for support

By Nathan King, Channel NewsAsia's US correspondent, Jan 8, 2005

NEW YORK, USA -- Across the world, expatriates of the 12 countries hit by the earthquake and tsunami disaster have been scrambling for news of loved ones and helping with the massive relief effort.

New York is home to many Sri Lankans and the community has rallied around one another for support.

Thousands of miles from their homeland but the members of a temple in New York's Staten Island are doing everything they can.

From floor to ceiling, aid destined for Sri Lanka is piled high.

Medicines, clothing, food - all has been hastily collected and shipment arranged for one of the countries hardest hit by the tsunami disaster.

Temples in Sri Lanka are now acting as orphanages and the focus is on the children.

Said Reverend Seelaratana of the Staten Island Buddhist Vihara temple: "The priority is for the sake of the children because, as we heard, there are about 2,500 in Sri Lanka where there is no one to look after them and now they have actually come to the churches and the temples."

"Books, pencils, erasers and little toys for them to play and for them to write, and for them to draw, crayons," said Sirisena, a member of the temple.

As well as collecting for aid, this temple has served as a focal point for information on the tragedy.

Most Sri lankans in New York have either lost a family member or friend, or are worrying about a loved one still on the missing list.

The temple is where news from Sri Lanka is relayed first.

Mr Sirasena said: "There are areas which are inaccessible and we know that so and so was living there and so and so is not found now......maybe he is somewhere, maybe he is in a refugee camp, but on the whole the confirmed damage has affected everyone."

Being so far away from the tragedy, many may feel helpless but not here.

Volunteers like Vijay are loading up another container full of relief supplies while two containers are already on their way.

And, with some luck, one container should arrive in Sri Lanka in three weeks' time.

But, as soon as one container goes, others will follow - such is the generosity from the communities in New York and across the United States.