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Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Sandy’

Give Them A Hand Foundation Joins With Over 100,000 People In Taiwan To Celebrate Buddha’s Birthday

June 13th, 2013

Photo Courtesy of Pi Lai.

Give Them a Hand Foundation’s (GTAH) founder and chairman, Gordon Tapper was a special guest of the Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) to the Fo Guang Shan celebration of Buddha’s birthday in Taipei, in May, 2013. Fo Guang Shan is one of the largest Buddhist orders throughout the world and is the largest in Taiwan. BLIA is the international arm of Fo Guang Shan.

The celebratory event took place Sunday, 12 May, 2013 in front of the Presidential office. The celebration was attended by more than 100,000 persons who participated enthusiastically, in spite of more than two (2) hours of torrential in the program which included speeches and entertainment.

Taiwan President Ma Jing-jeou, Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Founder of the Fo Guang Shan Monastery, the Mayor of Taipei, Honorary Chairman of the Kuomanting Political Party, Mr. Wu-Po hsiung and Gordon Tapper, founder of GTAH, all addressed the gathering, including Ambassadors of several countries.

Photo Courtesy of Pi Lai.

President Ma, in his speech, expressed the desire for people to find peace in their hearts through the power of religion. He added that BLIA urged people “…to think good thoughts, speak kind words and to do good”, habits he found effective in finding peace in one’s heart.

Photo Courtesy of Pi Lai.

Mr. Tapper spoke of the collaboration of GTAH and BLIA along with partnering organization, United African Congress, in hosting an Interfaith Harmony event at the United Nations in 2012 and 2013 and in doing relief work in communities in New York and New Jersey that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy in November 2012. He added that he looked forward to further collaborative programs in the coming years.

Photo Courtesy of Pi Lai.

Mr. Tapper, who worships in the Christian tradition, spent a week with his hosts, visiting and touring the Fo Guang Shan Monastery at its Headquarters in Kaohsiung, located in the south of the island as well as the newly opened Buddha Memorial Center.


The Monastery sits on a massive campus and has over 1000 rooms for guests. The Buddha Memorial Center is an impressive religious, cultural and educational complex set on 100 hectares. It has a number of Temples for worship, several museums and several restaurants, all vegetarian. In just over two years after opening, the center has become one of the most visited sites in the world for both Buddhists and non-Buddhists.

One highlight of his visit was a one hour audience with the Venerable Master Hsing Yun in which he spoke of the United Nations being the last real hope for world peace. He offered the support of Fo Guang Shan for any future humanitarian projects that will be undertaken jointly by GTAH and BLIA.

A visit to the three-day Taipei International Vegetarian Expo, organized by BLIA, also provided the GTAH chairman with remarkable insights. This event was held in the Taipei Trade Center which housed more than 500 booths, representing several countries and displaying fruits, vegetables and vegetarian food products and meals of the widest variety.

According to Mr. Tapper, “the discipline of the attendees of the Birthday celebrations as they sat through the driving rain for two and a half hours without any demonstration of displeasure and of the dancers, the singers and the children who performed on stage as if they were in bright sunshine, left a lasting impression.”

Photo Courtesy of Pi Lai.Photo Courtesy of Pi Lai.Photo Courtesy of Pi Lai.

Photos courtesy of Pi Lai.


December 9th, 2012


Once again United Nations Staff Members volunteered their services to assist in the Relief and Restoration efforts organized by the Give Them a Hand Foundation/United African Congress, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. Our eight-member team gathered at the Visitation Church of the Holy Virgin Mary, the site of the day’s distribution activities, starting before mid-day. There the team met with volunteers and officials from FEMA, the Catholic Charities and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and his organization. Assemblyman Ortiz represents New York’s 51st District which encompasses Red Hook.

From late morning to approximately 2 p.m., our team assisted in bringing out the supplies and food items from storage and setting up two separate distribution points. In one area needy residents could collect supplies including disposable diapers, blankets, cleaning materials and gift bags of nutritional supplies. The second distribution area, staffed primarily by our volunteers, was responsible for distributing the food items including bottled water, many different types of canned foods and ready-meals and boxed/bagged foods, baby food and even food for pets.

To facilitate orderly distribution, the team first made up several hundred bags of food items picked randomly from a number of pallets and stacked boxes donated previously by supermarkets, grocery shops and individuals and charitable organizations.

From 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. our team handed out the bags to the needy persons, many of whom had been waiting in line in the pouring rain from as early as 11 a.m. that morning.

Our team worked tirelessly and diligently and our efforts were highly appreciated by FEMA and the Catholic Charities, who also expressed their pleasure that we stayed the course throughout the day. Their experience is that many volunteers will stop in for an hour or two but then leave, forcing the sponsors to train incoming volunteers throughout the day which often slows the whole process.

Thanks go to the UN Staff (and UN Retirees) for their concern for the welfare of the victims of Hurricane Sandy and for giving their time to this noble cause.

Gordon Tapper

Provision of food Services for Victims of Hurricane Sandy

December 1st, 2012

United Nations Staff Members joined with Give Them a Hand Foundation/ United African Congress and fifteen other volunteers on Saturday to staff the kitchen of the North Carolina Southern Baptist Disaster Recovery Team based on the grounds of the Aqueduct Racetrack/Resorts International Casino in South Ozone Park, Queens.

The North Carolina Southern Baptist Recovery Team presently has the largest food preparation operation in the Tri-State Area, having driven up from Down South with an assortment of trailers and equipment capable of providing sleeping quarters, water and sanitation for a staff of twenty and with the capacity to prepare up to 30, 000 hot meals per day. All their staff are here in New York voluntarily and at their own expense. They take time off from their jobs, stay for a week and are then are replaced by others from their organization. (How long will they be able to maintain that?)

They presently serve around 15,000 meals per day and will step up to more than 20,000 meals per day within the next few days as two other food preparation outfits are getting ready to cease operations..

Not much is known about the North Carolina Southern Baptist Operation in New York because they are rarely seen at the distribution end of the process. They work largely out of the limelight. Here in New York, they prepare the meals which are later distributed by the Red Cross under an arrangement they have made between themselves.

Our team of volunteers, including twelve from the Buddhist Light Temple in Flushing, arrived at the food preparation site at a chillingly cold 6.00 A.M. Volunteers were quickly briefed and signed in and within twenty minutes were hard at work in two main areas, sanitizing the food preparation and packaging equipment and preparing the foods that would soon be packed in large temperature controlled containers for subsequent dispatch.

These containers weighing as much as 80 lbs each, fully loaded were then loaded on to a convoy of 42 Red Cross trucks which would subsequently deliver the food to the various distribution points in New York and New Jersey where they would be met by Red cross volunteers whose job it was to share out the food to the needy in clam shell containers.

However, before that, after receiving the food containers, the trucks would move to another path flanked on either side by boxes of food supplies including boxes of bread, crates of water, boxes of clam shells, packets of cutlery, chips, crackers and other items. At each point volunteers would load the quantities of supplies requested by the drivers and attendants until the trucks were fully equipped and ready to set off. This entire process from food preparation to dispatch of the trucks lasted from 6.00 A.M. to 11.00 A.M. with a few breaks in between. Clean up took another hour and by midday most of the volunteers were able to go.

At the end of the day the organizers stated that they would never have met their goals for the day without the support of our volunteers. They added that in the thirty days that they had been in New York, this team was the best and most productive group of volunteers they have had.

One might be of the view that working in the kitchen instead of at the site of the devastation is a lesser service. That would be wrong. There are many people in these areas that wait for this one hot meal they will have for the day. They are still without electricity and they are still staying in shelters and in other people’s basements and still have nothing. It is a valuable service that is being provided.

As residents of New York and New Jersey we should really laud the efforts of the North Carolina Baptist Recovery group to aid our communities in this time of need. No one in their organization is paid to do what they are doing yet they were amongst the first responders to make their way to the area. They deserve the support of New Yorkers.

Thanks also to the UN staff. Special mention must also be made to the support given by the Venerable Chuah Chuen, Abbess of the International Buddhist Progress Society located in Flushing, Queens, NY. She is also head of the UN NGO, Buddha’s Light International Association. She and her members have volunteered on every occasion and though she and many of her female team members are slight in frame, they have tackled the most difficult tasks without a murmur. Her Temple’s support has been critical to the effort of our team.

New Dorp, Staten Island, 17 November, 2012

November 17th, 2012

At 9.00 A.M. on Saturday, November 17, the first group of volunteers with GTAH and partners, boarded the Staten Island Ferry in downtown Manhattan, headed for Staten Island. More than 60 volunteers gathered in front of Staten Island Yankee Stadium, a minor league baseball park, waiting to be transported to the site where we would be working on the day. Included amongst the volunteers were, once again, United Nations Staff, Members of the International Buddhist Progress Society, the Bethel Community Church of Staten Island, representatives from the Liberian Community in Staten Island and representatives of the Sierra Leonean Community in Staten Island.

Our key partner on the day was the NYPD Community Affairs Division. With the assistance of some of its leaders on Staten Island – Lieutenant Goodwin and Officer Gianino – they arranged for our team to be transported to the work site in police vans, equipping us with gloves, masks and cleaning materials for the task of clearing debris from houses on Fox Lane in the Oakdale community of Staten Island.

Fox Lane borders on acres of sea grass which helps to separate the homes from the ocean. Many of the homes and properties we entered were choked with this grass which came in with the sea surge that flooded rooms that were, in some cases, 15 feet off the ground. Some of our volunteers worked on one house for the entire day, clearing out an unending supply of wet and ruined clothing, furniture and other items while preserving some items for further use by the owners. The residents of the devastated area certainly did not expect their good fortune to have so many hands turning up at their doors to help. They were overwhelmed and expressed their gratitude by providing water and buying pizza and sandwiches for everyone during a break period. Other team members working in groups went door to door offering assistance as needed and simply pitched in. One such group filled a container with debris while another helped to rip up the flooring of a house being gutted for eventual rehabilitation.

The email below from my colleague Mohammed Nurhussein, Chairman of the United African Congress, to the volunteers best sums up this experience:

“Dear Fellow Volunteers,

A gorgeous mosaic that is New York was in evidence today when a diverse group of volunteers composed of UN Staff, Immigrants of various nationalities and faiths, young and old, men and women descended on Staten Island to lend a helping hand to fellow New Yorkers adversely affected by the super storm Sandy. It was deeply gratifying for me to have been part of this uniquely human manifestation of solidarity and empathy, New Yorkers helping New Yorkers in need. We helped home owners whose houses were flooded all the way to the second floor. We took out wet moldy clothing items in garbage bags, removed soggy mattresses, furniture, dinning and kitchen items, bookshelves, tables, and emptied the attic of all its contents, helped clean up the mess on the floors. The home owners were touched by the gesture and took pictures of us and with us. Despite their loss, we were able to see that we managed to bring some comfort and respite as well as a smile to their faces. That was the ultimate reward for us. There was a warm camaraderie among us as we all cheerfully took part in what was at times a physically demanding work. Our work in Red Hook last Monday was also a similar experience and we hope to replicate this next week in Far Rockaway

To all volunteers, the coordinators and particularly the super coordinator, the unflappable Gordon Tapper who managed to pull this off, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for a job well done. The United African Congress is proud and honored to be one of the organizations of this unique coalition.

With my best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving,

Mohammed A Nurhussein, MD, Chairman, United African Congress”


Thanks to the leadership provided by:

Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, Chairman of the United African Congress

Sidique Wai, President of the United African Congress and Senior Advisor to the NYPD Commissioner.

The Venerable Chueh Chen, Abbess of the International Buddhist Progress Society

Imam Shamsi Ali, Director of the Al-Hikma Mosque in Astoria, Queens

Famod Konneh, Chairman of the African Advisory Council

Passynna Bulabula, Secretary of the African Advisory council

Mamadou Kone, President of the African Day Parade Committee

Ahmed Dean Kargbo, President of the Sierra Leone National Association

William Wade, President of the Liberian Association.


Gordon Tapper


November 12th, 2012

Red Hook, Brooklyn, 12 November, 2012

GTAH, with its traditional coalition partner, The United African Congress, brought together more than 120 volunteers anxious to have an opportunity to bring a measure of relief to the people of Red Hook, Brooklyn who are suffering the ill effects of Super Storm, Sandy.

Volunteers included two dozen United Nations Staff Members, twenty five members of the International Buddhist Progress Society, led by the Venerable Chueh Chen, thirty members of the Mosque led by Imam Shamsi Ali, members of several African Community and Diaspora groups as well as GTAH and UAC members. Not only was this group a reflection of the wonderful melting pot of cultures and nationalities that New York City is, but also a demonstration of Interfaith Harmony in action.

Red Hook was one of the Brooklyn communities that lost power for more than two weeks, with hundreds of residents virtually shut in their quarters in high rise apartment buildings with no lights, no heat, and no elevator service – and in many instances with no food. A secluded waterfront community, with no subway service linking it to the rest of the City, Red Hook is low-lying and when the storm surge hit, large swathes of the community became flooded.

Prior to bringing in our volunteers, the leadership of GTAH and UAC met with key organizers in the community including members of the Red Hook Initiative (RHI), Assemblyman Carlos Ortiz initiative and representatives from OCCUPY. Special mention must be made of the outstanding young lady, Gillian Kaye, who three weeks ago wandered into the ravaged Red Hook to see how she could help and then rapidly morphed into the visible director of the OCCUPY effort in the area, coordinating the delivery of services and assigning hundreds of volunteers to locations where they were needed on a daily basis. Her energy and organizational skills are boundless, bringing to mind the Shakespearian quote, “some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. In Gillian’s case, she combines all three possibilities.

Our team of volunteers began their activities in Red Hook on Monday morning. Electricity had been returned to the community, making redundant the plans for our team to deliver pre-packed bags of blankets, flashlights, batteries and other items. Similarly plans to deliver meals to those shut-ins in the high rises were no longer a priority as many could now get out themselves.

In co-ordination with OCCUPY, our team changed tack and joined in the process of cleaning out flooded buildings and throwing out tons of debris. Another group manned food lines in Coffey Park distributing cooked meals, fruit and water to hundreds of people lined up to get sustenance.

Our volunteers made meaningful contributions to the community. It was a drop in the bucket when put against the massive task that lies ahead and which will continue for months, if not years. However, community efforts like these, along with the help from government agencies, private sector and concerned individuals, will bring about the rehabilitation of Red Hook.

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