Following devastating earthquakes and aftershocks that rocked southern Turkey and parts of Syria in March, revered Korean monk Venerable Pomnyun Sunim, the Jungto society's leading Dharma teacher, joined to volunteers from Jungto's sister organization, JTS America, and local relief groups to help provide humanitarian aid to survivors of the disaster.
Shortly after news of the earthquakes spread around the world, JTS volunteers responded with team members on the ground, working hard to reach those at the epicenter of the crisis. aid worker in Türkiye (formerly Turkey), distributing supplies and offering support to those in need.
Fri. Pomnyun Sunim arrived in the southern city of Gaziantep on April 15, heading for nearby Osmaniye camp where relief distribution was underway. Working closely with the Turkish humanitarian organization Shafak, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and JTS volunteers provided food and other necessities to 500 affected families housed in the camp, with each family receiving a 40-kilogram aid package consisting of 14 food items, including rice .
“Despite the scorching 35-degree heat, volunteers, many of whom were observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, continued to distribute supplies without even taking a sip of water,” the Jungto Society told BDG. " Fri. Pomnyun Sunim also personally distributed food all day without taking a sip of water in solidarity with the Muslim volunteers.
The Buddhist relief organization Join Together Society (JTS) was established by Ven. Pomnyun Sunim as an expression of the compassion of committed 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 disadvantaged communities in developing countries, JTS is run and operated by unpaid volunteers, who ensure that all donations benefit marginalized communities. JTS carries out relief activities in countries affected by humanitarian disasters and has engaged in humanitarian projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, North Korea, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The humanitarian organization has also been granted special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Fri. Pomnyun Sunim then traveled to Turkey's border with Syria on April 16 to visit the Watan camp. Here, the famous Dharma teacher joined volunteers in distributing boxes of relief supplies to an additional 2 families.
The team also visited a makeshift school in the camp that educates earthquake-affected children and also incorporates a play therapy program as a means of dealing with psychological trauma. After observing the children and their conditions, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim joined in their games and encouraged the teachers and school staff.
On April 17, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and the JTS team studied the extent of the damage in the earthquake-affected areas in the border region and discussed potential ways to help people there, such as rebuilding schools and providing other forms of support to affected communities. The team visited several damaged schools, including a primary school (grades 1 to 8, 3 students enrolled), where 500 students and 150 teachers lost their lives in the earthquake.
“Currently, students are taking classes in temporary tent classrooms. JTS plans to fund the school's reconstruction and restoration work to standardize the school's operation and classes,” the Jungto Society explained. “The team also met with members of the White Helmets, a local organization that has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times and has been recognized in Korea.
“During discussions with the leader of the White Helmets, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim stressed the importance of helping anyone in need, regardless of gender, religion or nationality. The White Helmets and Ven. Pomnyun Sunim agreed to this principle, emphasizing their joint commitment to provide aid and support to all those affected by the earthquake.
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Fri. Pomnyun Sunim is a widely revered Dharma teacher, author and social activist. He founded many organizations, initiatives and projects around the world. Among them are JTS Korea, an international aid organization working to eradicate poverty and hunger, and Jungto Society, a volunteer-based community grounded in the teachings of the Buddha and dedicated to solving modern social issues that lead to poverty. suffering. Fri. Pomnyun Sunim also works closely with the International Network of Committed Buddhists (INEB).
In October 2020, the Niwano Foundation for Peace 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 tireless efforts to build trust and goodwill between communities of different faiths and cultures, towards the goal of world peace. *
* Buddhist monk Ven. Pomnyun Sunim Receives 37th Niwano Peace Prize (BDG)