Tsunami Eagles Relief Team Delivers Magic In Thailand Indian

I'm back and physically intact ;) — Doc

PHANG NGA PROVINCE, Thailand, Feb. 21, 2005 — Reaching out to a fishing village in Thailand, an American Indian-organized relief team brought smiles and healing hands to Phang Nga, a province in southern Thailand where thousands were killed by the Dec. 26 tsunami.

''The people here are devastated. Homes gone. Boats gone. Children dead, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, grandchildren, all dead,'' said Doc Rosen, Hunka Lakota medic with the Emergency Air and Ground Lift and Evacuation Service Team (EAGLES) team.

''The people here are still afraid of the sea. In this one village, 4,000 dead out of 6,500.''

Rosen said the EAGLES team planned to go to Bandeh Aceh, but was kept out of the region by the Indonesian military. Instead, the team went to Nam Kem in Phang Nga. Rosen found his magic and sleight-of-hand tricks for the children offered much-needed healing.

''The kids flock around asking for magic tricks, as do the adults. The other aid workers say some have not smiled in weeks, but they are laughing as I do my sleight-of-hand,'' Rosen told Indian Country Today in an e-mail from Thailand.

''Today an old man who lost his entire family, 16 people, smiled at me and then he asked me to 'do the rabbit trick.'''

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The Thai counselor said they thought they would lose him because he was not responding before this, but now he is talking again and eating.

''They are so sweet and gentle. Many have lost everyone. Brothers dead, sisters dead, mother and father dead, it is the constant litany. I cry at night, but only when alone.

''A little girl started calling me 'uncle;' her favorite is the magic coloring book …

''The Thai counseling people say that the magic tricks are the biggest step the kids have taken towards normalization.''

Rosen also helped shortly with the recovery of bodies, and toured refugee camps and orphanages while performing magic and providing medical aid. A group of orphans in a temple were among those he entertained. Meanwhile, the team handed out toothbrushes, performed medical exams and treated other aid workers as well.

Rosen is a longtime activist and medical trainer in the Civil Rights Movement and American Indian Movement. Doc worked with Dr. ML King. He was the first medic in Wounded Knee, S.D. in 1973 and continues to serve as a medic for the AIM.

Rosen spends part of the year on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations in South Dakota and Big Mountain Reservation on the Navajo Nation. He is one of the founders of the Guatemala Acupuncture and Medical Aid Project and travels regularly to the Guatemalan rainforest where he works with Maya, the survivors of La Impunidad massacres of over 240,000 Maya people.

With the EAGLES Team in Thailand, Rosen said, ''We also build houses. The men cannot work, they cannot feed their families, they do not feel alive and their entire culture is in danger of dying. The government does nothing for the poor family fishermen. They are talking about rebuilding boats but only for the big boat fisheries, not the long tails. They need to have their fishing boats rebuilt or repaired.''

Rosen said the Tsunami Fishermen's Relief long tail boat project is trying to do exactly that, with local people and resident foreigners working together. They need to raise $45,000 to repair or replace all of the boats of the surviving fishermen.

''Right now I am putting a lot of my efforts - outside of clinic hours and doing magic shows - into helping with construction of the dry dock. It is mostly just lifting, carrying, and hammering. This project can give the people the tools to help themselves.''

As he departed from Nam Kaem, Rosen wrote, ''[I] said goodbye to all of the kids, lots of grownups too, and did some last slight of hand for them. It makes me sad to have left them. Every Thai person I met, and lots of Westerners as well, thanked me. The need is so incredible; the outpouring of help is also incredible. I am honored to have been working with these folks.''

Rosen was joined by Alex Bertelsen, a physician's assistant serving the Nisqually in Washington. Bertelsen volunteered for the team and, like Rosen, paid his own way to serve

Bertelsen described the smashed buildings and the devastation that remained after the sea water crashed through buildings, sweeping the people and debris inland and carrying them out to sea. In Nam Kaem, no medical relief arrived for two weeks and people with broken arms and legs and treatable injuries died from infections while waiting for help.

Bertelsen provided a medical assessment for the EAGLES team and helped construct the plywood one-room box homes being constructed by international aid groups. While living with the EAGLES team at a local refugee camp and eating local food, he also helped with the sports and recreation projects to bring joy to children and youth.

Bertelson, who speaks Thai, once served as a U.S. Army Special Forces medic in Asia. ''I have a connection with the Thai people and wanted to help.'' He said he was wondering how he could help when he ran into Dr. Robert McDonald, Blackfeet, an organizer of the EAGLES team, and McDonald asked him if he would like to join the team to Thailand.

''Everything was serendipitous,'' Bertelsen said.

He said there is a great need for post-traumatic stress work in Thailand; however, the greatest need for medical teams remains in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, where the lack of roads and infrastructure hinders aid to tsunami victims.

McDonald organized the team with American Indian activist Robert Free Galvan (WK'73 vet) in Seattle.

Galvan, in Seattle, is organizing a clean water project for villagers hit by the tsunami. Stephen Johnson, Chippewa from Ann Arbor, Mich. who is working in finance and lives in Singapore, is assisting him. Johnson serves as a contact to identify villages to receive the forthcoming water supply systems.

In the U.S., a microbiologist has identified water systems and places near Thailand where components may be purchased to reduce transportation costs. The systems, which can pump and filter out water to serve at least 1,000 people, will cost around $25,000 per system and a small amount more for local people to install.

''We are still hoping to have a Native organization or tribe sponsor the water project for at least one or two villages,'' Galvan said.

AmeriCares' international programs have stated a willingness to help Galvan and share some logistics and data. ''So we need to inspect and assess the village for the installation requirements and secure the sponsor for the cost of the system and its installation,'' Galvan said.

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