from: Peter Knupfer, peter@mail.h-net.msu.edu

H-NET is spearheading an effort to assist in relief efforts in the Indian Ocean basin by joining with relief agencies, the nonprofit sector, and the media in providing accurate background information about the peoples and cultures of the regions affected by the tsunami disaster. Our collaboration includes the Institute of Rural Health at Idaho State University, which does research for, and provides support to, health professionals and relief workers around the world. For more information about the issues that relief workers face, you can visit the Tsunami Aid Worker Support page at the Idaho State University Institute of Rural Health (www.isu.edu/irh) or Psychosocial.org (www.psychosocial.org) which is part of Actions Without Borders Idealist.org. For more information about how the media can be involved, please visit the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma (www.dartcenter.org). You may also wish to visit the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies at www.istss.org.

The central purpose of this initiative is to recruit well-qualified field experts in selected topics related to the language, history, culture, mores, religions, and political practices of areas where relief operations are active. These experts will create fact sheets, provide press interviews, and otherwise offer background information for reporters, journalists, relief workers, and other individuals entering the disaster area. This material will help make the relief effort more sensitive to local cultural conditions and thereby improve the efficiency of these operations. It may also help to reduce the potential for secondary trauma among relief workers exposed to an extremely stressful and culturally unfamiliar environment of death, suffering, and destruction. The briefing and background material will be available from a website offered by H-NET.

If you are interested in assisting, please read further:

We do not assume that this list is all-inclusive; if there are groups or regions in which you are an expert and believe them/it to be a part of the disaster, we welcome your input: Buddhist tradition; Indonesia; East and West Timor and surrounding areas and tribal groups, Aceh Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India (Southern), Sri Lanka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Maldives, Somalia, Malaysia, Lakshadweep Islands, Child Sex trade in Southeast Asia.

Examples of the types of information that will be collected:

Brief History of people or area: 1-2 short paragraphs. Make sure to include information on previous wounds to their culture and/or generational trauma such as wars/civil conflict, colonialism, other disasters. These kinds of earlier events shape a group's ability to recover and so the information is pertinent to all relief workers and media.

Cultural heritage information, such as summary of core beliefs; role of family; gender roles; typical view on cause of an event like a tsunami (how does the group explain life events: fate? can humans control events, etc.?); typical ways of processing trauma and grief (public or private rituals? is there a language or vocabulary of grief or suffering?); typical views and practices on death and dying (are high mortality rates typical, what are the family or cultural protocols in death; what are the mourning rituals and how are outsiders viewed in regard to the mourning?); sense of place (how does the group view its sense of place? relationship between land, culture, identity—how is environmental destruction interpreted and understood?); indigenous knowledge systems: are there folktales, wisdom of elders, traditional ways of knowledge, power of healing derived from tradition, literature, etc. that would be relevant for the aide worker or media to know? Dominant religion and spirituality: Theological or informal belief systems that shape responses to natural disaster.

This initiative will recruit volunteer field experts who can provide demonstrable proof of qualifications to serve as consultants and advisors on the regions, cultures, and types of information described above. THIS BEGINNING PHASE IS A VOLUNTEER EFFORT. Should more extensive involvement or coordination be needed, arrangements for compensation or funding support may be considered.

If you believe you qualify by training and experience and can contribute to this effort, please send a CV or other electronic record of credentials or qualifications that includes accurate contact information to tsunami@mail.h-net.msu.edu. THE MESSAGE SHOULD CLEARLY INDICATE YOUR CAPACITY TO SERVE AS A FIELD EXPERT AND ADVISOR IN THE TOPICS OR FIELDS INDICATED IN THIS APPEAL. List editors will make an initial sort of reply and forward those from applicants meeting minimum qualifications to Amy Hudnall, of Appalachian State University and the Institute of Rural Health at Idaho State University. She will provide instructions and more information and work directly with applicants.

Fact sheets, briefing papers, and eventually a database of field experts will be available online as they are collected. We will send updates to this list as the project evolves.

Thank you for your generous assistance to this important endeavor.



Prof. Peter Knupfer
Executive Director
H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online
141h Old Horticulture
506 East Circle Drive
East Lansing, MI 48824
FAX: +517 884 6994
Voice: +517 432-5134
Email: peter@mail.h-net.msu.edu