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Acts of Generosity Help Ease Tsunami Tragedy


Amid the tragedy of this week's earthquake and tsunami disaster, stories of help and heroism have crossed national and racial divides. Such acts of kindness offer some hope for many lives left torn apart.

Across South Asia this week have come stories of humanity and kindness that have touched the hearts of thousands of people caught up in the tsunami disaster that engulfed the Indian Ocean region.

Five days after the earthquake-triggered tsunami swept across the seas between Indonesia, India and Africa - taking more than 120,000 lives - people have recounted acts of spontaneous courage and kindness.

Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India bore the brunt of the massive waves that engulfed communities and holiday resorts with little warning early Sunday morning.

In Thailand, tourists speak of the generosity shown by locals who were themselves grappling with tragedy.

Angela Stafford, head of the international center at the Bangkok-based BNH Hospital, says the support shown by the Thais helped many to cope.

"I suppose kindness is everywhere," she said. "But I think Thailand is a special place and I've seen it before with people that give you things and do things for you without a motive. And maybe Buddhist people give freely without expecting anything in return."

Ms. Stafford says for many the situation was simply overwhelming.

"Their emotions are all over the place because they've lost somebody in very tragic circumstances," she said. "But they're overwhelmed by how people have helped them, how the Thai people have helped them, but they can't think it's nice because they're sad, because they've lost a relative."

Damage caused by tsunami in Thailand
Many foreign tourists - missing loved ones and dazed in the immediate aftermath - were often taken in by Thai families and given food, shelter and care.

Ms. Stafford tells of how young Thai girls assisted foreigners by carrying out responsibilities well beyond their age.

"Young girls carrying things for people, taking them to the temple to identify bodies and comforting them when they were crying and they were only young girls themselves," she continued. "They could cope with that and [offer] support."

Expatriates and tourists also came forward as local volunteers in the hospitals and responding to calls for clothing and supplies.

Australian Graham Doven, a long time resident on Thailand's Phuket Island, who ferried many stranded tourists to locations of safety, says such assistance was the natural thing to do.

"It was more of just doing things that had to be done - of just trying to get people settled, someway, somewhere they could just lie down, [and] somewhere they could sleep - somewhere they could just get something to eat because they had nothing," he said.

In the small sea-level island nation of the Maldives, locals and tourists worked together to combat the disaster. Akino Nagamine, a spokeswoman at the Kanuhura Resort, says quick thinking by the staff helped make sure all of the guests escaped alive when the tsunami waves left the island covered with more than a meter of water.

"It was very, very frightening," she said. "Luckily, we had the life vests, enough for the guests. So immediately we distributed them and we gathered all the guests and the staff by the area of the resort, which is by the pool side and when we were gathering, actually, another wave, from the west side, attacked the island."

Ms. Nagamine says that no one was hurt, and now about half the hotel is still operating. She says about 60 of the more than 250 guests decided to continue their vacations and to show their appreciation to the staff, raised $10,000 as a donation for those who had lost their belongings and to help other victims in the Maldives.

Such acts of kindness and comfort and giving are everywhere in the region.

For this tourist in Thailand, the experience will remain with him forever.

"We are really impressed now everything is well organized, all the transportation, all the accommodations, all telecom - whatever is needed - all we have," he said. "We are really, really happy and we really appreciate that the Thai people are so helping us."

From a tragedy that has taken so many lives, such glimpses of humanity, and kindness across national and racial divides will leave a lasting impression in the hearts of many.

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