Installment #26 — February 23, 2001

The Earthquake Fund

Three thousand three hundred dollars! I’m amazed, and delighted, and proud that so many of you—Dave’s friends and family, and Rita’s and my friends and family—have donated so much to Gujarat Earthquake relief. Be assured that your money will be put to work on the longer-term rehabilitation of several of the worst-hit villages in the Kutch and Rajkot districts.

Swami Ishamayananda, the ashram’s financial officer, told me that the ashram has so far spent 95 lacs of rupees (about $210,000) on earthquake relief, and expects to spend 10 crore rupees ($2,200,000) on medium-term shelter (temporary structures that are more substantial than tents) and village rebuilding. The fund currently has 90 lacs ($200,000) from general donations, so another 910 lacs ($2,000,000) are needed. You have given about 1.5 lacs ($3,300), a great start toward the goal. [If any of you can spare a couple of lacs, let me know.]

When we started the fund, Dave and I had thought that we could raise perhaps $200-$400, and that no transfer of money to India would be required because I would be able to make the donation to the ashram out of the money I had with me in India. But Dave has done such a good job of promoting the cause, and you-all have responded so well, that the fund has exceeded the total amount of money I have with me. Our backup plan was an electronic funds transfer, but that has run into a glitch. [The glitch: I don't have a bank—just a brokerage account. I've wire-transferred funds to and from it many times before, including internationally, but the ashram gave us info on doing a "TT" (telephone transfer, I think), apparently not the same thing. We weren't able to get routing info from the ashram that my brokerage could use.] I tried a cash advance on my Visa card, but that didn’t work either.

So we have had to modify the plan a little. On Thursday, February 22 I made a donation of $2,600 to Shri Ramakrishna Ashram Gujarat Earthquake Relief Fund on behalf of the Assisi-Downs Earthquake Relief Fund. A picture of the receipt for that donation appears on the Earthquake Relief Fund page (it is a "provisional receipt" because the donation was in a foreign currency; the ashram will convert our dollars to rupees and issue a final receipt showing the amount contributed in rupees).

The Ashram prefers a check-in-the-mail to an electronic transfer because the ashram’s Indian bank takes a substantial fee from money transferred to it. So the remaining $700 will be contributed by check, mailed by Dave to the Ashram in Rajkot. The receipt will be mailed back to Dave and he will post it here. This will take at least a week to accomplish, so check back here for the second receipt in early March. [The check went out on February 23 via Air Mail.]

Please accept our (Dave’s, Rita’s, and my) thanks for your support; I was proud to be able to present your donations to the Ramakrishna Ashram today, and to tell them "This money is from our friends".

The following was excerpted from an email from Allen—I thought that it was humorous enough to share with everyone:

The saga of the Visa card:

Went to the first bank at 10:50—bank opens at 11. We wait—no Visa—referred to second bank. Second bank "can only give rupees, not dollars", can’t change rupees to dollars for a non-Indian, nor for Jikaka because he doesn’t have an account there. I accept the idea that I will need to make the contribution partly in dollars and partly in rupees. "The ATM is being reloaded—please wait."  "The ATM communications are down—please come back later."

Later, into the ATM goes the card, out comes request for PIN. What pin? I don’t have one.

Back home and a collect call to Visa. Operator takes info and says that placing the call may take one hour. Wait near the phone. The call back comes in about 15 minutes. Visa can issue a new PIN but it takes 24 hours. ATM cash advance is limited to $300/day. Why not go to a bank tellerno PIN needed and no $300 limit?

Call to bank manager—"This is a backward country." Teller can’t handle Visa, only the ATM can.

If I had any hair, I’d pull it out. I gave up. $2600 now, $700 later.

Previous Installment Home Next Installment