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 Contents: UU World Back Issue

Tsunami victims receive UU aid

By Jane Greer

As of the end of January Unitarian Universalist organizations had raised more than $1 million to support survivors of December's Indian Ocean tsunami. The UU A is working with the UU Service Committee and the UU Holdeen India Program to deliver goods and services to survivors and to aid in reconstruction efforts. Both organizations have an extensive network of relationships with local agencies, allowing them to deliver aid quickly and efficiently.

Most UUs and congregations have donated directly to the UUSC or to other established relief organizations. However, one UU woman is delivering a more personal form of aid.

Ruani Freeman, a Sri Lankan living in Waterville, Maine, was stunned to hear of the tsunami. Her family still resides in Sri Lanka, one of the hardest hit countries, and her brother was vacationing on the Sri Lankan coast when the waves hit. After hearing that her relatives were safe, Freeman decided that she needed to help her country. Using her Sri Lankan connections and her experience as a fundraiser for the American Friends Service Committee, she started an organization to provide direct aid through a Sri Lankan agency she knew personally.

So began the Sahana Project. Sahana means comfort or solace in Sinhala. The project, which focuses on delivering long-term aid, is setting out to link U.S. states with Sri Lankan villages to fund specific reconstruction projects. Within each participating state, professional groups could work together to raise money for their own fields-teachers might raise money for school supplies and doctors might finance clinics. Freeman is hoping that the Maine fishing community will aid Sri Lankan fishermen. In the course of working together, she hopes that Americans and their Sri Lankan partners will develop personal, long-term relationships.

Freeman started the project with the support of her congregation, the Universalist Unitarian Church of Waterville. "As much as people value the larger aid organizations, they long for a more personal connection," says the Rev. Severn Towl. "People have written notes with their checks saying that they like knowing that all of their money is going to relief and not to the operating expenses of a larger organization."

Visit the Sahana Project Web site or call (207) 873-7595 for more information. Visit the the UUA's Web site or the UUSC's Web site for more information on the disaster relief program.

 Contents: UU World Back Issue
UU World : 43

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