COURTESY OF MULTIFAITH LEADERSHIP FORUM
Dr. Bunchar Pongpanich, left, and the Rev. Edison Munthe will discuss disaster recovery efforts.
Victim efforts crucial after disaster
Government cannot be relied upon, say visiting relief leaders
People who have lost homes and businesses in a natural disaster need to be involved in their own long-term recovery, said leaders of relief efforts for residents of South Asia coastal communities wiped out by the Dec. 26 tsunami.
"We've learned never to let the government be responsible for everything," said Dr. Bunchar Pongpanich, chairman of the Save Andaman Network, which is helping fishermen in Thailand.
The Buddhist physician and the Rev. Edison Munthe, a Lutheran minister in Indonesia, are in Hawaii to speak about recovery efforts and lessons learned from continuing partnerships between government agencies, corporations and nonprofit agencies.
Their talks at 1 p.m. today at Chaminade University Henry Hall and at 4 p.m. tomorrow at St. Andrew's Cathedral Tenney Theatre are free and open to the public. The lecture sponsor, a coalition of local religious groups, believes their insight will benefit U.S. communities hit by hurricanes and flooding, and Hawaii in particular because it is vulnerable to tsunamis and hurricanes.
The seeds of recovery in their nations have been as small as investment in a family's food stall in a Sumatran village, or the creation of small shipyards that will replace the small boats of Thai fishermen, the men said yesterday at a news conference.
"People from around the world spontaneously sent things, showing the heart of people wanting to help," said Munthe. "The need now is not for blankets or food; they need help to start their own lives. If they were a tailor, just to have basic supplies to begin again, or a small family with a vegetable stand, if they have $500 it would start their business."
Pongpanich said reviving communities by making people self-reliant is the goal of the network of agencies he heads: "We don't go buy a boat -- we ask them to build shipyards."
The Save Andaman Network has begun 37 shipyards and is helping 120 of the 150 Thai villages devastated by the tsunami: "The money goes to a shipyard committee. When they fish, they must return 10 percent to the community fund."
The Thai public health doctor said that before the disaster, "the business sector and the nongovernment agencies did not work together. We are learning to cultivate cooperation," he said. Thai corporations provide 60 percent of the funding; private nongovernment agencies and other nations, 30 percent, with 10 percent from the government of Thailand.
Also rare for both countries is the interfaith support system that has evolved to help survivors, who are mostly Muslims.
Aceh, the hardest hit area of Sumatra, is 95 percent Muslim, said Munthe. He works in north Sumatra, which is about 50 percent Christian, while Indonesia as a whole is 90 percent Muslim.
"The grassroots people are very thankful for those who support them," Munthe said. "They know the American soldiers and volunteers are Christian. Whoever helped them ... they are brothers.
"There are some extremists who say, 'Why accept help from those who are not our own?' But it is not openly expressed."
Many denominations in Hawaii participated in tsunami relief immediately after the disaster. The Rev. Ruth Peterson, an Oahu Lutheran minister, said the Multi-Faith Leadership Forum planned the talks to track the recovery months later.
"There is a lesson for us -- that together we are stronger than the individual," she said. The forum includes representatives from Hawaii Muslim, Jewish, Bahai and several Christian communities.
Disaster recovery lessons
The Rev. Edison Munthe, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Indonesia, and Dr. Bunchar Pongpanich, a physician and chairman of the Save Andaman Network in Thailand, will give the "Two Months After Katrina and Ten Months After the Tsunami" presentation at the following locations. All are open to the public.
» Today, 1 p.m., Chaminade University, Henry Hall room 109.
» Tomorrow, 4 p.m. St. Andrew's Cathedral Tenney Theatre.
» Wednesday, noon, Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu campus.
» Friday, 7 a.m., University of Hawaii at Hilo.
» Munthe will also speak at the 8:30 a.m. service tomorrow at Central Union Church and the 10 a.m. service Oct. 30 at Calvary-by-the-Sea Lutheran Church, 5339 Kalanianaole Highway.
» Pongpanich will also speak at the Higashi Hongwanji Mission, 1685 Alaneo St., at 10 a.m. tomorrow.