The Buddhist humanitarian relief organization Join Together Society Korea (JTS Korea), founded by the revered Korean Seon (Zen) monk Venerable Pomnyun Sunim, has reported the successful distribution of a second round of emergency relief supplies in southeastern Pakistan in response to the ongoing humanitarian emergency that resulted from last year’s devastating floods.
Record-breaking rains in Pakistan, which fell from June to October 2022, submerged a third of the country beneath floodwaters, killing at least 1,739 people, including 647 children. A further 12,867 people were reported to have been injured, and more than 2.1 million people were lost their homes.
The floods, which have been described as the worst in Pakistan’s history and one of the costliest natural disasters of all time, also resulted in damage to property and infrastructure estimated at US$14.9 billion, and an estimated US$15.2 billion in economic losses. Environmental authorities have blamed the flooding on heavier-than-usual monsoon rains and melting glaciers coming in the wake of a severe heatwave, both of which have been attributed to climate change.
JTS responded swiftly to the humanitarian crisis. In October last year, JTS President Gena Park conducted a field study in Pakistan, in cooperation with government offices and the non-profit NGO Fast Rural Development Program (FRDP), to identify households most in need of relief aid.
There the JTS team witnessed thousands of families who had lost their homes now struggling to survive in roadside tents and makeshift shelters. Amid a lack of clean drinking water, infectious diseases, including malaria and dengue fever, were reported to be increasing.
Based on their review, and in consultation with Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, JTS decided to provide aid to 10,000 households in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh Province, which was distributed in collaboration with the FRDP.
JTS was established by Ven. Pomnyun Sunim as an expression of the compassion of engaged Buddhism and the belief that helping others is the best way to enrich one’s own life. Charged with bringing hope, empowerment, and self-reliance to underprivileged communities in developing countries, JTS is run and manned by unpaid volunteers, who ensure that all donations benefit marginalized communities. JTS carries out relief work in countries suffering from humanitarian disasters, and has engaged in humanitarian projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, North Korea, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. The relief organization has also earned Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
JTS rapidly procured and delivered a range of supplies, with three coordinated distribution runs in late October reaching a total of 6,000 households. These provisions included much-need staples, with 11 types of food, including rice, beans, sugar, salt, pepper, pickles, cooking oil, biscuits, and flour. A second round of humanitarian relief was conducted in January, successfully bringing supplies to a further 4,000 households.
“We have completed distributing food aid to the last 2,000 households in Shaheed Benazirabad, which is the most flood-affected district here in Sindh,” Park said from Pakistan, where she has been helping to coordinate JTS’s aid distribution effort. “We don’t know when this problem will be over, but we’ll continue to do our best here. And so we need your constant attention and your support—thank you!”
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim is a widely revered Dharma teacher, author, and social activist. He has founded numerous organizations, initiatives, and projects across the world. Among them, JTS Korea, an international aid organization working to eradicate poverty and hunger, and Jungto Society, a volunteer-based community founded on the Buddha’s teachings and dedicated to addressing modern social issues that lead to suffering. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim also works closely with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).
In October 2020, The Niwano Peace Foundation in Japan presented the 37th Niwano Peace Prize to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim in recognition of the revered monk’s international humanitarian work, environmental and social activism, and his tireless efforts to build trust and goodwill between communities of different faiths and cultures, toward the goal of world peace.*
* Buddhist Monk Ven. Pomnyun Sunim Awarded the 37th Niwano Peace Prize (BDG)
International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
Fast Rural Development Program
How melting glaciers contributed to floods in Pakistan (NPR)
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