The news of the huge tsunami on December 26th affected Dhahran community deeply. The Domestic Camp in particular was directly impacted with loved ones and property in the direct path of 30 foot walls of water. Some have lost everything. Priyantha, who has worked for me for 10 years, was unable to locate his family for four long days. I cannot even begin to imagine the fear and heartache that he endured during those days.
The idea of a relief drive came up quite suddenly on Wednesday, December 29th. At 10 a.m. Priye told me DHL had been authorized to airlift 20 tons of goods to Sri Lanka scheduled for Thursday evening. He was concerned they wouldn’t have anything to send. All goods collected had to be at the DHL warehouse by 6 p.m. Wednesday evening. Ten minutes later an e-mail was dispatched to everyone on my list with details of a drop site and time frame and a request to distribute the information to others.
Within two hours of the email, donations were being dropped off. Everyone was so generous and eager to help in any way possible. It was just incredible. Our commissary and mini mart were bought out of medications, rice, sugar, dried milk, flour, baby formula, etc. Arabian Food Services donated rice and noodles and sent a driver into Khobar to try and locate water purification tablets. In a matter of 6 short hours over half a ton of blankets, bedding, food and medications were collected for the DHL airlift. Two Sri Lankan expats, volunteered their truck and their time to carry all the goods to DHL. Priye, and six of his friends were on hand to help load the truck. The Women’s Exchange cleared its shelves of needed items and made donations to the cause.
One thing that touched my heart, is that everyone who contributed felt that what they gave seemed so small compared with the need and wished they could do more. The response of the community was very generous and this shipment of aid was one of the first to arrive in Sri Lanka and be distributed.
This drive has sparked off several more relief efforts on and off camp. One is being organized out of KFUPM and a second community drive is being held today to be airlifted by Air India. Our spiritual organizations on camp have taken up collections to help provide much needed relief. Efforts are being made to collect funds for the rebuilding of homes in affected areas. Some individuals have indicated a desire to go there personally and help with relief efforts.
Even our children want to contribute to the effort. Dhahran School Student Council is having a Walk-A-Thon on Wednesday, January 19th, and Dhahran Hills Elementary Student Council is collecting “Halallas for Humanity”. The outpouring of generosity here in Dhahran is truly amazing.
Indian and Sri Lankan employees in local companies in Khobar whose communities were hard hit have been collecting donations and purchasing medications to send. More than SR 5,000 was collected in the Domestic Camp. I am humbled that those with so little are so willing to give. There were several people from our community who were vacationing in the area when the tsunami hit, so we have real life stories to inspire us and are able to hear in detail the devastation that was left behind.
The feelings we all have concerning the tragedy of this past week should make us all realize one thing – that under the skin we are all brothers and sisters no matter where we live. People around the world are all working together to ease the hardships of millions affected by this widespread disaster. In the face of human tragedy, race, religion, and politics do not matter. It is regrettable we cannot remember this lesson before tragedy strikes.