January 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Uzbekistan: COS - India: Tsunami: Capital Times: Uzbekistan RPCV Kelly Bauer assesses tsunami damage in India

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Uzbekistan: Peace Corps Uzbekistan : The Peace Corps in Uzbekistan: January 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Uzbekistan: COS - India: Tsunami: Capital Times: Uzbekistan RPCV Kelly Bauer assesses tsunami damage in India

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Uzbekistan RPCV Kelly Bauer assesses tsunami damage in India

Uzbekistan RPCV Kelly Bauer assesses tsunami damage in India

Uzbekistan RPCV Kelly Bauer assesses tsunami damage in India

Rob Zaleski: Uzbek woman's generosity lifts the spirit

By Rob Zaleski
January 17, 2005

It is, for most of us, beyond comprehension.

Even now, three weeks after the tsunami disaster that has taken 163,000 lives and shattered countless others, it is difficult to accept that we live in a world that can be as harsh and unfair as this one. But amid the suffering and devastation, other stories continue to emerge - stories that inspire hope and remind us of the goodness of the human spirit.

Here is one of them.

It comes from Kelly Bauer, a 31-year-old native Madisonian who moved to Eugene, Ore., in her teens and now works as a grant writer for Lutheran World Relief in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

Last week, Kelly - the daughter of a friend - was sent to assess the damage at several fishing villages along India's southeast coast, which was among the areas that had taken the brunt of the tsunami's power. The first three villages she visited had received extensive damage, but nothing like what she'd been expecting.

Yes, it had been a harrowing experience for the villagers and yes, some people had to be rescued from rooftops and trees after the waves receded, Kelly told her father in an e-mail that he forwarded to me. But she had begun to wonder why people were calling this the worst natural disaster ever.

"Then we arrived at the fourth village," she wrote.

In a village of 600 families, 110 people had died. That meant, she says, that nearly every survivor had lost a spouse, a parent, a child or a sibling. Many had lost more than one.

While assessing the damage and trying to focus on her work, Kelly says she also found herself "reaching out to touch people - to feel some human contact and tell them, without words, that I'm here for them. It may be arrogant to think simply putting your arm around someone can help heal them, but it felt right to me."

At one point, a group of women surrounded her and, almost as one, shared their nightmarish experiences with her. Most had tragic endings, Kelly said. But there were also tales of astonishing courage.

"Like the young boy who hung on to a roof with one hand and clung to his little sister with the other as the waves washed over her village. At the tender age of 7, he saved both their lives. Or the grandmother who was pressed up against the wall of her house, under water for what seemed like minutes, before her grandson braved the torrent to pull her out."

But there was one other story Kelly wanted to share - a story not unlike the thousands of others that have been occurring around the globe since the disaster but one that speaks to why Kelly and her husband, Jason Bennett, have chosen the vocation they're in.

Several days before heading to India, Kelly and Jason had celebrated the new year with the Uzbek family they had lived with in the late 1990s during their two-year stint in the Peace Corps. (I won't mention the family's name here, for privacy reasons.)

The family is "both an average Uzbek family and extraordinary one," she wrote.

"Average in that they've struggled financially in a country with an annual per capita income of less than $500 and few opportunities to earn an honest living," said Kelly, who noted that the parents, both retired, survive on a $30 monthly pension and occasional income from their five children doing small business or trade.

"Extraordinary in that they are highly educated, aware of global events and consider themselves rich with experience and love."

Toward the end of their stay, Kelly says, the mother - a former teacher - pulled her aside and asked for her help. The woman explained that she had been saving her own money for the last 10 years, moving it from one hiding place to another in the house, waiting for the right way to spend it.

"She had considered giving it out bit by bit to poor families in the neighborhood, but she knew the local gossip network would bring people knocking on her door and she couldn't help them all," Kelly wrote. "She considered giving it to a local mosque or church," then decided otherwise.

"She even considered anonymously slipping it under the door of the poorest family she could find, but then worried that the family would spend it all on frivolous things and soon be right back where they started."

But when the woman turned on her TV Dec. 26 and saw the first news clips of the tsunami disaster, "she knew exactly what to do with the money," Kelly said. Since there are no Uzbek organizations offering aid, the woman asked Kelly to make sure the money went to a reputable organization that would use it to truly make a difference in people's lives.

"I am honored and deeply humbled," Kelly told her father, "to donate $400 to Lutheran World Relief from this remarkable woman to help rebuild communities affected by the tsunami."

E-mail: rzaleski@madison.com

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

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Bellamy finishing term - Veneman to head Unicef 15 Jan
230 RPCVs volunteer for Crisis Corps 14 Jan
Peace Corps Fund needs silent auction items 12 Jan
Matt Gould in one-man Peace Corps show in Hollywood 12 Jan
Taylor Hackford's "Ray" Nominated for Golden Globe 12 Jan
Ambassador Johnson shares memories of Thailand 11 Jan
Senator Dodd suggests PC return to Venezuela 11 Jan
Ambassador Hull wants PC to return to Sierra Leone 11 Jan
Poiriers unhappy with PC investigation of missing son 10 Jan
Emile Hons reflects on the Deborah Gardner murder case 10 Jan
Judge Paul A. Bastine criticized for stalling Divorce 6 Jan
Volunteer Patricia D. Scatoloni dies in Macedonia 4 Jan
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Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
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Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: Capital Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Uzbekistan; COS - India; Tsunami



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