After the devastating tropical cyclone Mocha pummeled Myanmar in May, volunteers from JTS Korea, an international relief organization founded the revered Korean monk Venerable Pomnyun Sunim, visited Myanmar’s Rakhine State in mid-June to cooperate with local NGO Noble Heart in providing humanitarian relief to survivors of the disaster.
Cyclone Mocha, the largest storm in more than a decade, struck Myanmar and parts of Bangladesh in May, leaving a trail of destruction and suffering in its wake, with an estimated death toll of at least 460 people, according to media reports, and hundreds more missing. Most of the dead were Rohingya refugees in the hardest-hit region, Rakhine State.
“In response to these dire circumstance, JTS volunteers, in collaboration with Noble Heart, conducted a visit to typhoon-affected regions of Myanmar,” JTS Korea told BDG. “Their mission was aimed at providing essential food supplies and relief materials to 1,000 households in the village of Minkan—bringing support in the form of food staples and tarpaulins worth US$31.30 per household.”
The Buddhist humanitarian relief organization Join Together Society (JTS) was established by Ven. Pomnyun Sunim as an expression of the compassion of engaged Buddhism, and based on the principle 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).
After conducting a field survey of the worst-affected areas and discussing the provision of relief supplies to 1,000 households in Minkan Village, near the state capital Sittwe, JTS Korea and Noble Heart mobilized the distribution of 20 kilograms of rice along with cooking oil, salt, instant noodles, and tarpaulins to seal roofs and ensure dry shelter, for each of the 1,000 households.
“Approximately 1.5 million people were affected by the disaster,” JTS Korea observed. “People are now in urgent need of food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.”
The category-five storm hammered Myanmar’s coast in mid-May, destroying thousands of homes, schools, medical facilities—and in some cases entire villages—as well as shelter encampments that are home to displaced Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority in Myanmar who are classified by the government as stateless foreign migrants, even though many Rohingya communities have lived in Myanmar for generations. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 1.6 million people in Myanmar were affected by the storm, most of whom live Rakhine State.
“Swift assistance is challenging due to the ongoing conflict in Myanmar,” JTS Korea added. “Our sincere hope is that even a small measure of relief has been brought to alleviate the suffering of affected individuals and communities in Myanmar.
“The second round of aid relief will follow soon.”
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.*
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