A Oneness Heart

December 26th 2004 is a tragic day etched into history and memory alike.

As this anniversary is fast approaching, I am prompted to pay tribute to my recollections of the tragic event.

Whilst I was visiting China with Sri Chinmoy and fellow students on a peaceful cultural exchange, in the Indian Ocean thousands of miles away and closer to my home, the worlds most devastating Tsunami was striking South East Asia.

In a another related clash of extremes, whilst I was contemplating my life away from Veterinary medicine, my friend and colleague Dr Elaine (Eu Ai) Ong was getting ready to go into action in the wake of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka as a field volunteer.

Perhaps one of the lesser known aftermaths of this tragic event was the unleashing of thousands of semidomesticated and wild dogs through these devastated countries. They survived in areas where the majority of people did not. As a result, the incidence of dog attacks from these terrified animals and the rate of rabies infestations rose dramatically, adding a deeper burden of suffering and danger to these torn nations.

Whilst Sri Chinmoy was soulfully praying and meditating with us in China and putting to music a most beautiful, immortal poem written by the President of China to the suffering people of South East Asia, unbeknownst to me, my friend was getting ready to fly directly to the battlefield.

I remember the feelings of shock starting to spread amongst our group as we realised the horror wrought upon the people in the Tsunami afflicted countries; the grief and the feelings of disbelief that Mother Nature could wreak such havoc upon countless innocent lives. It was quite some time before the extent of the devastation could be registered and even longer before it would begin to be reconciled.

Fortunately, it wasn’t too much longer before many of us were launching into practical solutions. The Oneness-Heart Tears and Smiles was instrumental in bringing much needed relief to the stricken region of Banda Ache with the provision of building materials and boats. The Art from the Heart program, another initiative of Sri Chinmoys, saw school children in Australia and from around the world creating pieces of art with messages of love and hope to be distributed to the orphaned children of Banda Ache. During these early months of adjustment, as I was helping with these projects at home, my vet colleagues were vaccinating and desexing dogs in Sri Lanka.

Whilst the majority of the Western world was seeking ways to assist the rebuilding of lives, a group of animal welfare workers from UK, USA, Australia and Asia were developing Tsunami Animal-People Alliance (TAPA). My colleague, Dr Eu Ai Ong, amongst them.

“The Tsunami Animal-People Alliance operates a field sterilisation clinic that moves within the tsunami disaster zone and refugee settlements, providing rabies vaccinations, sterilisations, and general vet treatment to animals who are individually owned, community owned, or true strays. The Sri Lankan people have been very receptive to our Sri Lankan teams’ helping their communities and their animals. Our goal is to vaccinate and sterilise five to six thousand animals per year, educate regarding responsible pet ownership, and raise awareness of the link between the welfare of the animals in a community and the welfare of the people.”

It has been almost four years now since the Great Tsunami and since countless lives were irrevocably altered. It seems strange to contemplate that whether we were personally afflicted or not, we all carry some of the torment wrought upon our earth on that fateful day. As a timely reminder of the connectedness of all life and all our lives it also serves as a catalyst to bring out our humanity and drive us to act with our hearts capacity to serve our fellow man.

It is very comforting to feel that we have the capacity to overcome the impediments that often prevent us from being better citizens of the world and from helping each other in such times of need. Hopefully we can continue to demonstrate these good qualities now without requiring such another tragic catalyst.

I know that people like Dr Ong and her colleagues have discovered new ways to serve humanity through these initiatives and long may they continue to inspire the rest of us to continue to think and behave a little differently for the ongoing betterment of our world.

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