By Italy News Team (Originally in Italian)
On August 24, 2016, Central Italy was devastated by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake and several strong aftershocks. Historical towns in this mountainous region, such as Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto, sustained severe damage. At least 292 individuals lost their lives, and about 2,500 people were left homeless after the quake. Thousands of individuals, including firefighters and volunteers, joined the rescue and recovery effort.
Following Supreme Master Ching Hai’s loving instruction, our Italian and French Association members quickly formed a relief team to go to the affected area to offer love and support, with EUR 5,275.62 from Master’s relief fund and EUR 950 contributed by our Association members.
On August 26, our team went to the biggest relief camp in Arquata del Tronto, where we delivered 20 camping mats, 20 sleeping bags and 20 flashlights to the distribution center there. The camp was already very organized, and everyone was being well taken care of. Many kinds of donations were pouring in from all over. Enthusiastic and warmhearted volunteers were always on hand to help. Two television stations from Italy interviewed our team members.
Next, we went to the camp in Pescara del Tronto where 113 people were being housed. We donated 22 camping mats, 30 sleeping bags and 30 flashlights, as well as a big bag of socks. Here we met a team of journalists who talked to us about how prayers and meditation can be a way of psychological support to the victims. We also met Brother Gaetano, a monk who is part of a branch of the Franciscan Order called Il Mandorlo, a self-sustainable community. He is one of 16 monks who were helping at the camps to raise the morale of the people, especially focusing on the children.
En route to the next camp, we met some volunteers from Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali (National Animal Protection Agency) (ENPA) who were doing good work for the animals in need. They even have ambulances for animals and offer emergency services! They told us how they had freed a dog from the earthquake area who was chained up, and also how they had rescued a cat and her kittens from the rubble. We were very touched by these stories, and donated two bags of organic, vegan dog food to them.
The next camp we found was near the town of Accumoli, which was closed to the public for safety reasons. This camp provided care and shelter for about 100 people, and even had a mobile post office. We donated mats, sleeping bags, flashlights and batteries to their well-managed operation. We spent some time speaking with different volunteers, and interviewed the camp leader, who was a shining example of dedication and commitment. As we were leaving, a member of the military approached our team leader, shook her hand, and repeatedly thanked her.
The bridge to the most-damaged town of Amatrice was being repaired, so we were directed to a new camp under construction in the village of Illica, where a group of professional chefs and chefs-in-training were providing meals for 500 people. We noted down what they needed, and returned the following day with supplies for their kitchen, such as cleaning detergent, garbage bags, plastic plates, eating utensils and drinking cups. We also presented the chefs with a selection of vegan meat alternatives, and explained how to prepare them. The head chef told us that there were some people in the camp who required a plant-based diet, so the vegan products would be put to good use.
On August 27, with the information provided by Andrea, the son of the owners of the apartment we rented, we were able to find smaller villages where the people are sometimes overlooked. In the village of Salletta, we visited a camp with about 70 displaced people, and donated some supplies. Next, we arrived at a new camp in Sant’Angelo that was well equipped, attending to about 100 people. The volunteers there were very helpful, and gave us some of their supplies to distribute along our journey. The camp leader suggested that we explore the smaller, undamaged roads to look for those in more desperate need.
We spent the next hour walking up a mountain to get to Amatrice, the most seriously damaged town, and witnessed the incredible relief operation by various, highly professional governmental agencies including Civil Protection, the Ministry of the Interior, fire departments, mountain rescue teams, as well as NGOs such as the Red Cross, the United Kingdom-based Save the Children, and an Italian animal protection group LAV (Anti Vivisection League). Although almost three-quarters of the town was destroyed, the Italian government and humanitarian groups were doing an incredible job of taking care of the people in need, and their love could be felt everywhere.
Seeing that everything here was well arranged, we turned our efforts toward the smaller communities. The first informal camp we found was at Cossito, set up by about 20 residents from nearby villages. They said that although the Civil Protection Agency was helping them, there were many things they still needed. We distributed necessities such as plates, toilet paper, flashlights, batteries, coloring books and sweets for the children, as well as cardboard boxes. We also presented them with a set of Master’s books – The Dogs in My Life, The Noble Wilds, The Birds in My Life and the Italian version of I Have Come to Take You Home. Everyone was very happy with the gifts, and they said that even our mere presence there brought them a great sense of joy and comfort. Several people came out to offer us cake and to thank us. It was very gratifying to see these dear souls touched and comforted by Master’s love.
We continued onto Collalto and distributed relief items to a few families camping in open fields. They were very pleased to receive the supplies. We continued down the road where we found a house of elderly people, and offered our support and comfort. They were very touched that they had not been forgotten. Taking their advice, we went to visit Roberto, who was living in his house alone. Welcoming us with his three dogs, Roberto was very happy to receive relief items. He had lost several family members, but was still very warm and positive, and he offered our team soft drinks.
Upon leaving Roberto’s home, we met some volunteers not affiliated with any group. They had driven all the way from Turin in northern Italy, and brought medicines to the victims. On their own initiative, they were searching the area in their jeep for those in need, to help move them to governmental camps. One of them said he was proud of how the Italian people were dealing with the situation and how caring they are. We were in total agreement – the Italians have done a great job! Kudos to these humble souls.
Next, we went to deliver some gasoline to a family that needed it to power a generator, because the quake left them without electricity. The family kindly gave us some spare fuel containers, and directed us to another remote area called Villa, where we were able to donate many essentials supplies. A young child and his mother immediately began coloring and playing with the playdough we gave to them. We also gave some masks to a digger operator for his use, as his work involves a lot of dust. Later, one of our team members returned to donate more gasoline for the people to run their generators.
Finally, we went back to the camp at Acccumoli to deliver some relief supplies that they had previously requested, such as activity items for children. Within this camp, an Italian humanitarian aid group, INTERSOS, had set up a recreational marquee specifically for the large number of children. Our two big boxes of supplies containing crayons, notebooks, coloring books, paints and playdough were very happily received. It was wonderful to see such warm smiles on their faces.
On the third and final day, August 28, we prepared a gift pack to offer to Andrea, the son of the owners of our rented apartment, and his group of local friends, who are vegetarian and vegan. The gift pack included various kinds of vegan meats, such as vegan sausages, vegan burgers, and seitan (gluten protein products), that we bought from the local supermarket, as well as Alternative Living flyers and the Italian version of I Have Come to Take You Home. Andrea and his friends were such kindhearted souls, helping in whichever way they could with relief efforts in the earthquake-affected areas.
Throughout the relief work, we were amazed, impressed and touched by all the efforts made by the governmental organizations, military, different police forces, NGOs and private associations. Not only did they do a fantastic job to set up well-organized, well-equipped camps in less than 24 hours, but their dedication, sincerity and wholeheartedness was out of this world! We are all very appreciative of the privilege to serve others in their most desperate hours of need. We pray and meditate for all those affected by this devastating earthquake. May they continue to receive the needed support, and may they rebuild their lives soon.
View relief videos:
Expenditures by The Supreme Master Ching Hai and Her International Association for Earthquake Relief Work in Italy
|Camping mats, sleeping bags, flashlights, batteries, socks, organic vegan dog food, vegan meat alternatives, toilet paper, kitchen supplies (cleaning detergent, garbage bags, plastic plates, utensils and drinking cups), gasoline for powering generators, masks, and supplies for children (crayons, notebooks, coloring books, paints and playdough)||5,390.19||A|
|Relief team travel expenses||835.43|
|Total|| EUR 6,225.62