About Us Contact Us Help




VPS - India Dairy, Helping The Tsunami Victims

Keshav Shukla

Letter from Chennai

On January 29, 2005, Nicholas Cavallo, Charran Mahadeo and I arrived in Delhi, India. In the evening of February 2nd, after spending a few days in Vrindavana, we departed for the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu to commence VPS’ Tsunami Relief project. The next day, Venkata Dayananda a VPS coordinator from Chennai guided us through multiple villages along the costal area roughly 40-60 miles south of Chennai.  We chose this region of Tamil Nadu, though not the hardest hit in Tamil Nadu, because of the lack of attention given by the larger non-profit organizations.

First we went to New Kalpakam, where we were able to see the problems the villagers are facing.  They told us of about a dozen people who died from the Tsumani, mostly elderly women and children. The villagers also explained that they do have a number of remaining medical problems since the Tsunami, including lesions, back problems, eye damage and muscle/bone damage to limbs. The villagers of New Kalpakam continued by explaining that they did not feel safe where they were and they wanted to move the village a half-kilometer away from the shore.

The second village we visited was Oyyali kuppam. The mood and concerns of the villagers was similar to that of the residents of New Kalpakam. They explained that the teachers in Oyyali kuppam are teaching children in a makeshift school,lacking any chairs or desks, school supplies, walls, and a proper roof, as the original school has been reduced to a pile a brick due to the impact of the Tsunami. We were also told that immediately after the Tsunami hit Oyyalikuppam, many villagers, mostly women and children, were missing. Luckily most of the missing eventually turned up. Many of the missing people had actually jumped on trucks and busses traveling on the nearby road and landed up to 10 kilometers away, eventually returning home later. However, still many did not survive. The majority of fatalities were children that were alone at the time.

With the direction of Venkata Dayananda, Nagaraj Kethineni, Thara Venkat,Douglas D’Cruze, Balaji Ramachandranan and Ravi Navaneetha Krishnana, we had previously chosen Oyyali kuppam as one of two villages (the other being Padupattam) where we would organize a number of events to better understand the residents’ concerns and also to help restore a feeling of peace and security to the village. The planned events included:

A street meeting with the residents, where they were able to speak freely about their experience, concerns, needs, and feelings

. Local games such as Kabaddi, musical chairs and volleyball, including activities for women organized by VPS volunteers Gayatri, Satya Prakash and Prashanthi, with prizes that included pots and pans.

. Two vegetarian feasts sponsored by VPS and prepared by local residents, feeding over 1500 people.

· Two cultural drama performances conducted by a local drama group, including skits from Mahabharata and Ramayana, that each lasted past 6:00 am.

· Clothing distribution of T-shirts to youths and saris (collected by VPS member Radhika Majumdar) to widows.

The events exceeded the expectations of all of us. The feast we organized brought about a needed sense of unity among the families, as it was the first time the village ate together since the Tsunami. After the games everyone in the Oyyali kuppam spoke of the excitement and fun they had the entire day. Rama Das, a local resident expressed that the lighthearted atmosphere created allowed them to divert their minds from the Tsunami for the first time. The dramas were the highlight of the three days we spent in the two villages. It was amazing to see the vast majority of the villagers attend. The drama in Oyyali kuppam attracted around 500 people.  The laughter from the villagers during the comical skits was virtually non-stop. Rajammal, an elderly womanfrom Oyyali kuppam said that we had touched her heart.

The Hope Foundation and Venkata Dayanadan were instrumental in the events that occurred in the three days we visited Oyyali kuppam and Padupattam.

As of January 28, VPS raised roughly $19,000 from four sources (1) Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, (2) Venetian Moon Restaurant, (3) Aviva Life Insurance Company and (4) personal donations from VPS friends and members. The final dollar amount is expected to be higher as donations have been received since we departed from US on January 28.

On February 6th, we sat down with Dr. Ashok Kumar, in-charge of the Hope Foundation in Chennai, and discussed how VPS will help the villages we visited. VPS has decided that the donations remaining after the expenses for the games, feasts and dramas will be spent equally on two projects: the ongoing funding of an out-patient medical clinic and the reconstruction of the villages’ school.

An out-patient medical clinic has already been established by the Hope Foundation. It provides general medical support to both Oyyali kuppam and Padupattim. The clinic is rapidly running out of supplies and is funded only for about one month longer. VPS has committed to providing the financial support to keep the facilities running longer. With the funding we are able to provide thus far, it is expected the clinic can remain open for the next 6 months.

VPS has also committed to provide funding toward the completion of the incomplete school facility now serving both villages. The funding will aid in providing furniture, supplies and completing the school’s structure itself.

Though we feel happy with the improvements we were able to provide to these two villages so far, we are still not content. We feel it is our duty to provide future support. The residents of Oyyali Kuppam are still living in the tents. Their future is extremely uncertain, as the Indian Government has been unclear about the level of support they will provide in terms of land and building materials. It is also unclear whether moving the village as discussed is even a feasible undertaking. Regardless, the villages will need future support to repair the damage to their homes.

After leaving Chennai, we will head to Vrindavana. We will continue with the rest of the activities in India including providing clothes, cleaning supplies and food to sweeper class people in Vrindavana. We are also exploring the possibility of starting a new project to establishing a clean and green Vrindavana. Please stay tuned for more info. Our programs are only being possible by your kind contributions and supports. If you want to donate your tax-deductible donation, please send it to VPS address:

For more info please visit www.vps-international.org.

India phone # 0(565) 445-5519.

Bookmark and Share |

You may also access this article through our web-site http://www.lokvani.com/

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Copyrights Help