How Earthquake Relief Funds Are Being Distributed
We at the Konchok Foundation would like to explain how we are distributing the generous earthquake relief donations.
We are supporting the leadership of Surmang Dutsi Til monastery in their efforts to help the people affected by the earthquake. They have spent their lives in that region and have many family members there. Many monks from Surmang are working with them.
MAY 3 UPDATE ON RELIEF DISTRIBUTION
Update reports posted on the Konchok Foundation website describe the type of support work that the leadership and monks from Surmang monastery were doing in Jyekundo during the first two weeks after the earthquake. This included participation in emergency rescue efforts as well as counseling and support for families, numerous prayer services for those who had died, and provision of supplies and emergency financial aid. The Surmang team is still continuing to work on food supplies. Meetings with families have also continued, now at a considerably more gradual pace.
We are happy to be able to give you a financial update on the Konchok Foundation participation in the relief effort to date. Thanks to the very generous support provided for earthquake relief by many hundreds of donors to the Konchok Foundation, approximately $100,000 has now been received in earthquake relief donations. The Surmang team has now expended nearly $60,000 in relief funds from Konchok Foundation. About three-fourths of this was used for emergency financial aid grants to families in Jyekundo. Grants varied somewhat, from about $30 to, in a few cases, as much as $100 U.S. equivalent to a family with particularly dire needs, with an average of $50-$60 U.S. equivalent (about 400 yuan.) Somewhat more than 700 extended families were given an emergency aid grant. The total number of family members in the extended families who received financial support was roughly seven thousand people or so.
About one-fourth of the Konchok expenditures to date were for relief supplies, principally food. One of the update reports noted 20,000 pounds of barley flour and yak butter that were brought in to Jyekundo by the Surmang team. Also mentioned in an update report was a truckload of clothing and also food that was brought in by the Surmang team. The Surmang team is presently purchasing ten thousand pounds of barley flour, and will also be purchasing several thousand more pounds of butter. In addition to the nearly $15,000 of Konchok funds expended so far on supplies, Surmang Khenpo received financial donations of approximately $25,000 from other sources that were used in supply purchases.
Among the major after-effects of the Jyekundo earthquake will be a refugee situation that will persist for years. We are talking with the Surmang leadership about how we can best support those who were displaced, making use of the earthquake relief funds still available to Konchok Foundation.
The Konchok Foundation’s relief effort has naturally focused on our existing collaboration with Surmang Dutsi Til monastery. Additionally, some funding has been provided for the rebuilding of Thrangu monastery via a joint fundraising effort in Boulder. Also to the Munsel school near Jyekundo that was destroyed in the earthquake. Also for earthquake refugees that are being supported by the Wayen monastery in Golok.
APRIL 19, 2010 REPORT
We should note first that, as of this writing, it is has now been four and a half days since the earthquake struck, and the relief efforts are continuing to evolve day-by-day. The leadership and many monks from Surmang Dutsi Til monastery traveled right after the earthquake to the devastated city of Jyekundo to help with the relief and rescue work.
At this point, the work of the Surmang team consists of helping families try to find missing family members, trying to help them get food, and trying to help them get tents or shelter, as well as doing prayers for the dead. The funds we are giving them help them to carry out these vital tasks.
There are a lot of Chinese army and also some NGO staff who have been arriving in Jyekundo. This has already made a difference. Right now, the many hundreds of monks who have come into Jyekundo from surrounding monasteries are doing at least as much to help people, and possibly more, than the Chinese government, from what we've been told.
The leaders of Surmang Dutsi Til are advising us on how to best help those affected by the earthquake. We have a daily phone call with the Khenpo of Surmang, who is in Jyekundo. He is able to give us his own eyewitness reports and also let us know, day by day, what he and others are doing with the funds we’re providing.
The first thing that the Surmang team is doing with the relief money from Konchok Foundation is that they're passing out emergency aid of about $50-75 (US equivalent) to families they know. That expanded from forty families in the first two days after the earthquake to approximately two hundred families by the fourth day.
Food is an immediate priority. Many, possibly even most, families have not yet received food aid from the government, which has been bringing in substantial quantities of food but with very erratic distribution. There is nowhere in Jyekundo yet where food can be purchased. So families are sending people out to towns where food can still be purchased to bring it back. After being approached by hundreds of people asking them for food on the third day, the Surmang team sent up someone that day to get a truckload of food in Xining and bring it back. Unfortunately, yesterday the government set up roadblocks on all of the roads leading to Jyekundo from other areas and only authorized vehicles can now get through. The Surmang leadership has proper papers to get their truck back through, but someone will now have to go up to Xining with the papers and bring their truck of supplies back.
Up to this point, the Chinese government has not yet got the basics covered. They have definitely stepped up their efforts, and that will allow the monks, whether from Surmang or from other monasteries, to shift their focus if the government does do more. As to the digging for victims, the scale of the problem is huge. One report says there were 15,000 collapsed buildings in Jyekundo alone. Khenpo estimates that there are now 3,000 monks in Jyekundo helping, and many of them are engaged in digging.
Khenpo has advised us that the next priority for distribution after food is clothing; there is an urgent need for coats and gloves. People in Jyekundo have lost most of their clothing and will be dwelling outside for the foreseeable future. It is still quite cold at this time of year there. As yet there are no reports of the government bringing in clothing. Khenpo said yesterday that, if coats don’t start getting distributed soon, he will have to go to Xining to buy a lot of coats and also gloves to pass out.
Once the Surmang team, and everyone else, can get past this first stage of emergency relief, then there will need to be discussions about what else the monastery will be doing to help people and how we can support that. We are still in this first stage.
We feel that we are getting clear reports from the Khenpo and others in the Surmang leadership. We have worked with them for more than five years on the construction of the Surmang shedra, so we have a good, and frank, working relationship. Based on the daily phone call, our team here has discussed prioritization, accounting and long-range planning. We are dealing with a huge situation which is new for us, just as it is for everyone there. We are now requesting advice from a long-term member of the Shambhala community who is a senior disaster relief specialist working for the US government. He is heading into the affected zone now. He has reviewed with us our initial work and told us that he thinks that our Tibetan colleagues and we are on the right track.
It is too early to know exactly how the Chinese and international relief efforts will materialize in the weeks to come. What we are concentrating our hearts and minds on right now is the extreme suffering that has hit this region — a place with which we all have such a profound karmic connection – and joining forces with our dharma family there who are working so hard to assist those in need. We are fortunate that Surmang itself was not severely affected by the earthquake, and that Trungpa XII Rinpoche, Aten Rinpoche, the Surmang Khenpo and the monks from Surmang not only survived the earthquake but are deeply involved in the rescue and relief work in Jyekundo. We really appreciate the daily calls with them that keep us up-to-date on the latest developments and that enable us all to work together despite the huge obstacles presented by this situation.
A note about the Konchok Foundation team. Konchok Foundation has no paid staff at this time, nor does it rent an office. The day-to-day work is entirely done by volunteers, all of whom are also members of the Konchok Foundation board of directors. The team of directors who have been working daily on the earthquake relief effort are, in alphabetical order: Lyndon Comstock, Holly Gayley, Bob King, Lindy King, Ginny Lipson, Richard Reoch, and Peter Volz. The other members of the Konchok Foundation board of directors are (Directors of the First Class) Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Lady Diana Mukpo, and Mitchell Levy; (Directors) David Garrett, Alex Halpern, Derek Kolleeny, and Landon Mallery.