EDEN AID - Promoting Social Justice




The Rescue Story of the Israeli Citizens & Voluntary Organizations

for the South East Asia Earthquake Victims in December 2004

On the night of December 26.2004, there was to be a holiday celebration in Sri Lanka, together with the rest of the nations of the world; however, fate decreed otherwise. A massive earthquake in East Asia was followed by two tsunami waves that devastated the coastlines of this beautiful, peaceful and magical island. Its houses were destroyed, its inhabitants killed, and the land was in chaos. The difficult scenes and the anguished voices did not find Israel's citizens indifferent.

One day after the tragedy emergency headquarters were established in Israel in cooperation with international aid agencies and with volunteers wanting to assist the victims of the catastrophe:

Operation "Facing East" set out on its journey. The volunteer organizations in Israel turned to Jewish communities throughout the world in order to bring them together to provide aid; thus the operation to assist the victims of the tsunami turned into a widespread Jewish project, and the unique connection between Israel and the Diaspora gave the project "Facing East" additional value.

The response to the call for aid to victims of the natural disaster in South-East Asia expressed itself in a massive recruitment of volunteers, donations of equipment to survivors and financial donations that made the whole operation possible.

A base of operations was established by the forum "IsraAid" - a forum of organizations for international humanitarian aid set up by the National Council for Volunteers in Israel in 2001. This forum was expanded during Operation Facing East by the addition of volunteer organizations in the public sector, by representatives of the kibbutz movement, by members of the business community and by government bodies. The President of the country gave his blessing to Operation Facing East; the Department of Education approved a day of fund raising by children and youths; the media assisted, and a special internet site for collecting donations from the country (and the world) was set up.

Contributions totaling $1,000,000 were collected.
120,000 tons of foods were distributed to the needy.
36,000 bottles of drinking water were distributed to survivors, and special equipment to produce drinking water from the humidity in the air was donated.
17,000 blankets were provided.
Hundreds of tents and shelters for shade were put up in the camps; field kitchens made the distribution of cooked food to thousands of survivors possible.
Large quantities of medical supplies and equipment were provided.
About 50 volunteers from Israel went to disaster areas: doctors and nurses, psychologists, social workers and community workers, therapists trained to work with youths at risk, and experts in logistics and specialists in humanitarian aid management.The ocean swept everything away, and volunteers helped survivors return and rebuild their lives in all areas.


Food distribution: Foods donated by kibbutz and private industries were transferred by sea, and together with fresh food purchased locally, were distributed in the camps. Special attention was given to pregnant woman and children.

Distribution of equipment: tents, beds, mattresses, blankets, mosquito netting, clothing, kerosene cookers and lanterns, kitchen and hygiene supplies were provided.

Rebuilding of a treatment center for children with special needs:
a unique center caring for children and youths with physical or emotional handicaps was restored. In addition to physically rehabilitating the buildings and stocking them with the necessary equipment, the Israeli volunteers initiated post-trauma social activities such as nature hikes, memorial services for those lost in the disaster and creation of memorial corners.

Building temporary housing: It was necessary to expedite moving people from tents to temporary housing to better protect them from the Monsoon rains. 50 units were built; the labor was provided by the local people, and was important in rehabilitating them and providing a livelihood.

Psychosocial aid: a great many activities were conducted by experts in post-trauma fields for survivors: children, youths and adults in the camps and in the villages. Plans for immediate and also long-term care were developed, and workshops were held for local community functionaries - teachers, health workers and religious leaders - in order to widen the circle of involved people and to guide them in identifying signs of post-traumatic stress and dealing with them effectively.

School rehabilitation: a school that was badly damaged in the disaster was refurbished, its equipment renewed and a laboratory and playground set up for the benefit of the students. Unique to this project was the recruitment of the families of the students and other local community members, who volunteered their services and participated in the project. Supplies for students: books, notebooks, school bags, writing utensils and school uniforms were given out.

Restoration of small businesses: the volunteers from Israel cooperated in reviving and developing small businesses that were destroyed in the disaster. Basic tools were provided, fishing boats were repaired, inventories of merchandise were restocked and workshops were restored. Also restored was a professional guidance and training center that ran workshops in economics and financial management, business initiatives and commercial skills.

Professional training in a number of fields was organized, and among the teachers and guides were a number of volunteers from Israel. The goal was to build a long-term program to help hundreds of small business owners' return to full functioning.


Aid to local medical services: clinics and hospitals were destroyed, and health professionals were injured. Medical professionals assisted the population in a number of areas until the local network could be rehabilitated and return to its full function. Clinics were established for the care of mothers and children. First-aid training was given to various groups, and
first-aid kits were distributed. Pediatricians, specialists in public health and nurses trained local midwives and created a program for future instruction.

Training for health personnel in Israel - a delegation of doctors, nurses and health administrators came to Israel for special instruction in coping with disasters and preparing populations to deal with them, as well as guidance in community health. The program was made possible with the aid of the Israeli Medical Association, the Ministry of Health, the Hebrew University in
Jerusalem, Haifa University and Hadassah Hospital.

The Center of the Empowerment of Women: a community center for women was set up to provide a gathering place and social support system; in time this developed into a training center for sewing, cooking and art.

Creation of libraries: libraries were started in camps, villages and schools. The libraries were free of cost, and also provided space for afternoon activity and relief from post-traumatic stress. A large selection of general reading, non-fiction and school books were provided, as were computers, and the areas were used also for doing homework and preparing for exams. Mobile book vans were stocked and sent out to distant villages, for the enrichment of the population there. Publishing: in recognition of the fact that literature, music and drama are important elements in social and community rehabilitation, the Israeli delegation assisted in publishing five books and discs.

Photography project: a unique photography project was undertaken with portraits of 4,500 survivors; these photos were shown in an exhibition, and afterwards were given to the survivors to record their endurance and beginning of new lives.

Renovation of the orphanage: an orphanage for 35 girls between the ages of 6-18 was restored, and a study room and computer classroom built. Volunteers from Israel created a program for social guidance and activities.

Construction of a village: in a cooperative venture, 33 houses, a community center and a clinic were built, and families of survivors were selected to populate the village.