While rescuers continue to sift through the devastation of the recent 7.9-magnitude earthquake to hit the Gujarat state of India, massive international relief efforts are just getting off the ground. State officials have estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 people were killed in the quake, and some searchers are saying that the final death toll could be as high as 30,000. The medieval city of Bhuj was virtually wiped off the map and more than 500,000 are homeless.
The Canadian government has already pledged $3 million, the U.S. government $5 million plus heavy equipment, and every international aid organization has stepped in to offer ground level services and support. Indo-Canadian and Indo-American groups have started a fund-raising campaign and donations have been rolling in.
Local realtor Denise Brown is also getting people involved in Whistler, encouraging families and businesses to contribute to aid organizations. As a child sponsor through World Vision for the past three years, Brown says she has seen the amount of good her donation of $31 a month can do.
"Last weekend World Vision contacted me and asked if I could help find other sponsor families," says Brown. "In the wake of the earthquake, they are seeking new sponsors for an additional 35,000 children.
"Were in a position now where we have a Disneyland situation where we feel that what happens in the outside world doesnt affect us. I wanted to challenge other people in the community to take on more responsibility for other parts of the world."
In addition to the child sponsorship program, World Vision is accepting one-time donations for aid packages that include food, shelter, safe water, blankets, medicine, beds, cooking utensils and personal hygiene. Often the fallout of natural disasters can be worse than the disaster itself as the survivors are subjected to adverse living conditions, disease, malnourishment and the elements.
"There are a lot of people out there than need help," says Brown. "Its one thing to change the channel when World Vision is on, but thats a little bit of denial. Open your eyes and see whats going on in the world, and what you can give. A little really does go a long way."
You can find out more from the World Vision Web site: www.wvi.org