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John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
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is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 01.05.05
Fool's Hollow, Quebec

JOHN MAHONEY

I met a man from Pondicherry

This guy's name is Sourèche Rangaya and he now lives a couple of miles up the road with his wife and three young children.

He was born in India, his family still lives there albeit in comfort, and he's desperate to help at least a few of those suffering in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Sourèche is struggling to find an organization that is allowed by Canadian law to dispense tax-free receipts for donations to sponsor his fund-raising efforts.

This is the story he told me:

    Dear friends in the Eastern Townships of Quebec,

    I send you this letter with an aching heart.

    The tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people also wiped out a tiny coastal fishing village near Pondicherry, India, where my parents still live.

    The survivors are simple people who now have nothing - their shacks were swept away, their drinking water polluted, their families and friends and neighbors killed.

    My wife and I owe these people our lives. I want to tell you the story.

    Martha and I and our three children now live on the road from Boynton to Ayer's Cliff. We moved here recently from Val David in the Laurentians, where we lived for twelve years.

    Two years ago we temporarily moved to India so our children could get to know their grandparents and their extended Indian family. One of the communities in which we spent time was Pillaiyarkuppam, a village of subsistence fishermen near my mother's birthplace.

    One day while swimming off the village beach, my wife and I were with a number of children in the water. Our three were playing on the beach.

    Suddenly, a vicious undertow struck. It sucked us under the water. We struggled to save the children. It was clear that we were lost. We saw our own three children waving on the beach.

    "We're going to die," said Martha.

    Then, several fishermen poled their primitive boats to us and hauled us to safety. We were reunited with our frightened children.

    The fishermen would not accept a penny from us. One wise old man said, "Maybe some day we will be in need of help."

    Today, in Pillaiyarkuppam, bulldozers are burying the bodies of these simple villagers who saved our lives.

    The survivors are without shelter, without fishing nets, without small boats from which to cast the nets to catch the fish upon which their lives depend.

    Can't we join together to help them? From one people to another, halfway around the planet - shouldn't that be the true meaning of globalization?

    The most modest home here in the Townships would be a Rajah's place to the villagers of Pillaiyarkuppam. This is not what is needed.

    A small shack to provide shelter from sun and storm will fulfill their wildest dreams. The cost to build one is peanuts to us, but out of reach for them

    Cording to weave a fishing net, wood for a small boat - the costs are minimal but again, beyond their reach.

    We have so much. Can we not send them just a little? If enough of us send a small donation, then there will be enough for them to rebuild their simple lives.

    My father will see to it that all donations will be delivered promptly to the Pillaiyarkuppam elders and equitably distributed to the suffering villagers.

    I pledge to you that all donations will be sent immediately to my father in India for disbursement.

    If you can help these suffering people, any donation - no matter how small - will be gratefully received. I thank you for the people of Pillaiyarkuppan.

    If you need a personal reference, please ask and I shall send it to you.

    Soureche Rangaya
    soureche@hotmail.com

Personally, I don't feel the need for a tax-free receipt to help out but, if that's what Sourèche Rangaya feels he needs, then I hope some group will step up and tell him that they'll go to bat for the survivors in Pillaiyarkuppam.

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