April 09, 2021

My Experience With the Rotary Club Of Alliston Tsunami Relief Committee

On December 26, 2004, I was glued to the television as I watched videos of the Indian Ocean tsunami.  I was horrified by the enormous amounts of water that sent shockwaves in all directions; to me, it was like watching the region get hit by an atomic bomb.

The 9.1 magnitude earthquake was the largest in 40 years, so everyone was taken by surprise.  The tsunami arrived with such force as to kill more than 230,000 people across 14 different countries and do billions of dollars in damage.  If you didn’t already know, it was one of the deadliest disasters ever recorded.

While watching what was happening, I cried for all of the people who were affected and thought of what I could do to help.  As a member of the Rotary Club of Alliston at the time, some members and I decided to start a Tsunami Relief Project to help rebuild some of the destruction.  We chose a village called Ban Tatchachai, located in Phuket, Thailand, to focus our efforts on.

After more time than we would have liked, on Saturday, May 13, 2006, we were finally able to host a Thai Gala Dinner in order to fundraise for the village.  It was hosted at the Nottawasaga Inn Resort in Alliston, Ontario.  As part of the event, we ate Thai food and saw traditional Thai dancing, Thai boxing, fruit carving, and umbrella painting.  What was especially exciting was having the Thai Ambassador to Canada attend as our speaker.  In the end, the event was a hit and our audience was very generous to the cause.

Soon after the event, I received the following thank-you note from the Tsunami Relief Committee for my involvement:

“On behalf of the Rotary Club of Alliston Tsunami Relief Committee, I wish to thank you for your dedication and invaluable contributions to our committee. Your quiet encouragement and support made the dinner a great success. We persevered and got the dinner to spring into reality.”

Altogether, we managed to raise enough money from the event to build an elementary school.  This multi-purpose building also included a library, was used for occupational training for the residents so they would have the same opportunities as people living in the city, and served as a meeting place for the villagers.  In preparation for the event, I had learned that in Thailand, a school is just like a Buddhist temple—it’s an important center of the population’s lives.

Later in 2006, another gala was held, this time raising $14,000 that would contribute to providing clean drinking water for 1,500 people.  And in 2010, I was invited to the Gibson Center in Alliston, Ontario, for a reception to show appreciation for all of those who had contributed to Thailand’s magnificent road to recovery.  It was great to be a part of the Rotary Club of Alliston’s vision to do things to help the less fortunate and to be recognized for my efforts, but the best part was that we were successful at making a difference.

When was a time you made a difference in a community (locally, nationally, or internationally)?  Let me know on Facebook or in the comment section below!

- Johanne Levesque