Apr. 16, 2023

Distribution of Relief Materials at a Refugee Camp on the Syria-Turkey Border

Hello. During the 30-day period of Ramadan, people who practice Islam, known as Muslims, observe a fast from dawn until sunset. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim began his day with a pre-dawn Ramadan breakfast at 3:30 am, and later joined the activists from Shafak to head toward the WATAN camp situated on the Syria-Turkey border at 6:30 am.

On their journey to the camp, Sunim was joined by activists from the White Helmets, a local volunteer civil humanitarian organization founded with the mission of aiding individuals in the most perilous regions. Notably, they have been nominated three times for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize and have also received the Manhae Prize in Korea.

After passing several large refugee camps, they reached the WATAN camp. Relief materials were to be distributed to about 2,000 households today. In recognition of the hot weather, plans were made to distribute the relief materials in smaller batches, to a few hundred people at a time. Sunim and the JTS emergency relief team greeted the refugees and began distributing the materials right away. Each box, containing 14 food items, weighed more than 40 kilograms. The weight was excessive for elderly individuals or children to carry, so the volunteers at the camp helped them transport the boxes. 

After distributing the supplies for two hours without a break, Sunim visited the school within the camp, which  incorporates play-therapy as a means to address psychological trauma, in addition to regular educational programs. As Sunim entered the school premises, the children were engaged in play. After observing the children for a while, Sunim joined in their play.

Following the school visit, Sunim resumed assisting in the distribution of relief supplies and took a moment to engage in an interview with a local journalist. 

Despite the scorching weather, everyone persisted in distributing work, while refraining from taking a single sip of water due to Ramadan. Even the young men experienced sore shoulders and swollen hands. However, despite the hardships, their faces radiated brightness. 

As scheduled, the distribution was completed at 2:30 pm.  Then the men and women, young and old, gathered around Sunim to express their gratitude. Among them was a man with gray hair and a gray beard. 

“Thank you very much.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m 54.”

“I’m 70. I’m much older than you (laughter).”

Sunim took photos with individuals and groups, including the approximately 50 volunteers who participated in the day’s distribution efforts. After assisting in cleaning up the distribution area, Sunim headed toward the headquarters of the White Helmets under the protective presence of the police. 

Arriving at the headquarters at 3 pm, Sunim engaged in conversation with the representatives of Shafak and the White Helmets. Sunim commended the White Helmets representative for their efforts in overcoming the challenges brought about by the earthquake and conveyed his wishes for positive outcomes. 

“I was impressed by the efforts of the White Helmets in assisting your fellow citizens. Korea also has a history of overcoming the challenges imposed by the Japanese occupation through the efforts of independence fighters. Those endeavors for our independence instilled a sense of self-esteem within us. I sincerely hope that you will persist in your pursuit of independence for your country, overcoming any obstacles that come your way until the very end.” 

The representative of Shafak expressed admiration for the way Sunim handled the distribution work. 

“We encountered several moments of crisis today, but you handled them with remarkable calmness and a constant smile on your face. Your composed demeanor allowed all the activists at the distribution site to stay focused and carry out the distribution work in a safe manner. Thank you.”

Following the conversation, Sunim took a picture with activists from three relief organizations. 

It took Sunim and the JTS emergency relief team more than two hours to return to their lodgings by car. Sunim had a Ramadan dinner at a nearby restaurant before completing the day’s schedule. 

As there was no Dharma talk today, I would like to conclude this edition of Sunim’s Day by sharing one of the questions posed during the Dharma Q&A session held at Minh Dao Temple in Ho Chi Minh City.

My performance review rating dropped, what should I do?

“I’ve been working at a company and steadily advancing in my career. However, my performance review rating unexpectedly dropped last month even though I have consistently met my targets. I’ve raised my concerns but I don’t understand the company’s response. Now I am feeling confused and lost. Having achieved a high position at a young age, I’ve crafted a five-year plan, but now I find myself at a loss, lacking clear direction and consumed by confusion. What should I do?”

“No one can achieve everything they want. Achieving a higher position than others at a young age is considered a success, isn’t it? You have indeed succeeded, so to speak. However, it seems like you are dissatisfied with not attaining even a higher position. Let’s consider a scenario in which someone becomes the leader of a political party and runs for the presidential election, but ultimately loses. Would you consider that person a failure or a success? What is your opinion on this?”

“I don’t think he or she is a failure.”

“Even though he or she failed to become  president, becoming a presidential candidate representing a party is still a notable achievement. Similarly, it’s important not to view your life as a failure. How can one continue to attain higher positions? Even if your performance review rating dropped, it doesn’t equate to failure. Simply reaching your current position is a success in itself. It’s only by adopting this mindset that you can find peace of mind and prepare yourself for the next steps ahead.

“If one gets divorced and marries again, is it a failure or a success? It is a success, not a failure. If you reflect on the situation and say, ‘Sunim hasn’t married even once, but I’ve married twice,’ then it can be seen as a significant achievement(laughter).

“Having the right perspective is crucial. It’s essential to think positively about the things that come your way, but you keep thinking negatively about them. That’s why you perceive your life as a failure. Let me ask you: Are you dead or alive?”

“I’m alive.”

“If you are alive, it’s a tremendous success. The mere fact of being alive is a remarkable achievement. When you wake up in the morning, say to yourself, ‘Wow, I’m alive!’ This will bring joy to your days. Embrace this positive mindset to live happily every day. Then you will approach your work with a newfound sense of satisfaction. 

“I always opt for affordable flights, leading some to believe that I endure hardships. However, it is not I who endures hardships, but rather the airplane! When compared to traveling by boat or bus, air travel offers comfort. In the same way, I encourage you to approach your daily life with a positive mindset.”

“Thank you.”