Local Buddhist Temple Sends Materials To Sri Lanka

by Jennifer Bisram, Chronicle Reporter, January 13, 2005

New York, USA --The NY Buddhist Vihara Temple in Queens Village shipped more emergency supplies to Sri Lanka for tsunami-affected families last Friday with unexpected help from the Taiwanese government.

<< Participating in press conference are (l-r), two senior monks from the temple, Congressman Ackerman, Taiwanese Ambassador Andrew Hsia and Borough Pres. Helen Marshall.

Volunteers wearing Help To Lanka vests loaded 650 boxes of supplies given to the temple onto a truck donated by the Taiwanese government during a press conference last Friday. Congressman Gary Ackerman of Bayside, was joined by senior monks and officials of the temple, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Taiwanese Ambassador Andrew Hsia.

Prior to Friday, the temple officials questioned whether they?d be able to send all of the emergency supplies to Sri Lanka, according to the temple?s treasurer, Buddhi Abeyasekera. Although thousands of people have been supporting its tsunami relief efforts by donating money and emergency supplies, they were still short of one thing?a means of getting all of the supplies there.

Costs of containers and transport expenses can run over $20,000. That?s when the Taiwanese government stepped in and offered to pay for containers and shipping costs for the supplies.

?In 1999, when Taiwan was hit with a very bad earthquake the world came to us, and the world helped us, so now it?s our time to give back and reciprocate,? Hsia said.

The Taiwanese government has played a large role in the tsumani relief effort. In addition to helping the Buddhist temple, they have also pledged more than $50 million and dispatched hundreds of rescue and medical teams to the affected countries.

At the conference, the borough president said she was delighted that Queens, one of the most diverse counties in the world, is responding the way it is.

Goya Foods Incorporated also contributed to Friday?s shipment, which will not reach Sri Lanka for 45 days. The company contributed 3,000 cases of dry food products such as soups and beans, primarily things that could be eaten by just adding hot water and stirring. ?This is our way of helping,? said Rafael Toro, spokesperson for Goya.

While there was a large quantity of emergency items donated to the temple, there were also cash donations. Within a week and a half, the NY Buddhist Vihara Temple had collected about $110,000 in cash donations, according to the temple?s treasurer.

The temple is working on a larger effort, building an orphanage that will house at least 100 children in Sri Lanka who are newly orphaned ?The orphanage will take some time to start up because we are waiting on word from the Sri Lankan government on land space,? said Bhanthe Dhaammajothi, a senior monk. ?It will include housing and educational facilities.? For more information on how to make a contribution, go to www.helptolanka.org.

?This is very moving,? said Congressman Ackerman, as he spoke of his involvement in the boroughwide effort. ?I have three children and will be a grandfather in a couple of months and I can?t imagine the pain and anguish for the parents who lost their children and for the children who lost their parents,? he said.