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Beautiful Voluntary Service

Posted January. 03, 2005 22:47,   


“Is there a voluntary worker from Switzerland?”

At the front gate of Phuket International Hospital, a Thai doctor called out urgently. An injured Swiss man had lost his temper and was trying to hurt himself. Someone is needed for interpretation.

A female voluntary worker from Switzerland rushed to the room on the second floor. She held his hands and stroked his back gently. The Swiss patient who attempted suicide became stable, hearing his familiar mother language.

Phuket, once a resort town, has now turned into a dead zone after the tsunami hit, but several volunteers from all around the world are protecting the lights of waning lives.

The Association of Phuket Travelers, a Korean voluntary service group, is also among them.

On December 27, right after the quake swept the city, voluntary workers from the association found a place for an incense-burner stand to mourn the dead, and they have been staying at the site for 24 hours a day.

When the body of Lee Hye-jung (27) was cremated on December 29, about 100 members gathered to pay silent tribute to her.

“I really appreciate it. With so many people staying here by my daughter’s side, she won’t be lonely,” said her mother, sobbing.

The association has also taken part in excavating bodies of victims at Kaorak and Krabi.

“Without them, not only totaling the number of victims, but also excavating missing persons must have been extremely difficult,” said Ambassador Cho Jung-pyo, who was in charge of the field work.

The number of people who came here in person to offer helps is quite a lot. Ivan Chevalos from the U.S. came to Phuket last month to participate in the international boat competition. But, as the competition was canceled due to this tragic disaster, he volunteered right away to help the city.

He has been volunteering to guide people or make a list of patients at the Phuket International Hospital. He has now a hoarse voice, but his face lightens. “Volunteering at the tsunami-hit place that will be long remembered in history, and this is a chance that I will not have ever again,” said Chevalos.

Phuket city hall is a gathering place for voluntary workers from countries around the world. People from over 60 countries have set up tents, helping their people get passports or find hospitals.

Among them are hundreds of Thai junior-high school students wearing white shirts and green pants. They are working hard, delivering drinking water and food.

“The situation here is so terrible and even scary sometimes, but thinking that I am helping Korean victims here makes me feel happy,” said Kim Wha-ran (24), wiping sweat off her face. She is from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and now offers helps regarding consular matters.

Hyung-June Park lovesong@donga.com