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Deeply Inspiring Report from a Big-hearted Disaster Worker in Thailand

Jan. 7, 2004
Dear friends,

A big-hearted friend of mine named Bill Francis had been thoroughly enjoying rich times fulfilling his dream of travel and exploration in Southeast Asia for many months--and then it hit. He was in Thailand on Dec. 26th, the date that will be etched in the memories of many millions in Asia who forever lost loved ones and saw tragedy beyond comprehension. We who live far removed get only a glimpse of the tragic reality from our television sets and newspapers. We simply cannot imagine what it is like to be in the midst of this tangle of dead bodies rotting under the tropical sun, all victims of a still unfolding disaster spread along hundreds of miles of now destroyed coastland. So many hoping desperately that their loved ones might still be alive, yet having to search through putrid corpses knowing that their worst fears have more than likely come true....

As soon as the killer wave hit, Bill became a man on a mission. Completely forgetting about the extended vacation and rich adventures he had experienced, he set immediately to do everything he could to help in this time of great need. A former military man, his excellent organization skills came in handy. He soon found himself organizing and coordinating a small army of foreign volunteers doing their very best to alleviate the massive suffering.

I've been on Bill's email list ever since he left on his trip almost a year ago. He's shared many fascinating experiences, from meeting a king and royal family, to leisurely beach holidays, to times of deep spiritual retreat with special friends. But what is happening now has put all of that into the seemingly distant past. Now is the time for action. I share with you below a recent email Bill sent out. A sense of exhaustion is felt in his words, yet there is deep inspiration in the face of great adversity here. May we all be inspired to rise to the highest and best of which we are capable in times of great need. And let us continue to send prayers and whatever support we can afford.

Here's his email:

Hi all,

Thank you for all the love and support.  I'm okay.  Very tired, working very hard.  I helped create and now run the Foreign Volunteers Center, some 350 people from many countries who ache to help.  Here's some highlights:

New Year's - no one said Happy New Year. We didn't know what to say. I sat quietly in my room and prayed.

Brave volunteers, Thai and "falangs" (foreigners) donned masks, gowns, boots, gloves, caps and lots of tiger balm (for the smells) and made themselves go in and work among the dead, helping, carrying, photographing personal effects, tatoos, picking up trash, moving bodies.  The tropical climate is hell on decomposition. I helped. I lasted about 6 or 7 hours until I saw something that was too much. I stopped and got help. I called my Dad. He helped more.

We've got counseling for the volunteers, thank God. 

The Thai's and professionals have now taken over; no more of our volunteers work with the dead. Thank God for that too.

Translators, hospital visitors, distributors of information, food, supplies; truck loaders, data base creators and compilers, hand holders, listeners, counselors, volunteer directors, coordinators of every kind, all these and more the volunteers do daily.

Bangkok - a falang came to create a childrens' home for the newly orphaned

Bulgarian embalmers gave me their card..."we're going to our hotel to rest, call us and we'll come right back."

Denmark - a special forces trooper formed a team and flew to a remote island to help a distressed family search for loved ones for two days. 

America - A flight attendant from California took leave and flew here, just to help.

Hungary - Zoldt, a big beautiful man, one day in the temple, next with an embassy, next creating a data base in

Mike - origins unknown, leading a cleanup effort in a remote town

Amy - American living in Thailand going to villages, assessing needs for food, clothes, cooking utensils, bare basics, then gets and delivers them. Her friends pour money into her bank account, she pours it into the villagers.

Japan, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Holland, England, Canada, Mexico, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Poland the list goes on - each pouring their light into this dark time.

Sadly, many survivors work tirelessly, driving themselves. We offer counseling. They just work. It helps them for now. Their stories stagger me. 

There is too much to tell, but this gives a snapshot of the foreigner's efforts. 

You cannot imagine the numbers and efforts of the Thais themselves.  Its amazing.

Here there is a tidal wave of human kindness, strength, determination and selfless giving.

I'm am blessed and humbled to work with all of them.

Please forgive the writing, I've no time to polish it tonight. Time for a shower and sleep.

Good night.




William the Seeker 

Whoever forgives first, wins.  My brother forgave me.  He wins.

I received the below short follow-up email from Bill on Tuesday:

Hi again,

I don�t know how to feel, but I�m going to be on the CBS Nightly News with Dan Rather tonight, 6pm EST.  He was wonderful.  I spent about two hours with him and again I am humbled and blessed. 

I�d be honored if you watch.

I hope they run most of what we discussed.  It got to the core of who I am and blessed the thousands for their unselfish efforts. 



Fred here again. For a very special treat in commemoration of all those who lost their lives and families in this disaster, I invite you to enjoy the beautiful five-minute song and slide show titled "We are one family" at For those with a dial-up connection, the download will take about five minutes, but it's worth the wait. As an ever increasing number of people remember that we are all one family, we will see ever more powerful shifts in this world towards love and cooperation.

For those interested in making a contribution to relieve the immense physical and emotional suffering resulting from this disaster, I recommend the following two organizations as being the best in the usage of their resources: 
Non-violence International had an office in Aceh, the worst his area of Indonesia. They lost office workers. 
Sarvodaya is an amazing organization in Sri Lanka playing a pivotal role in disaster relief

Thanks for doing you part in working together for the good of all. May we all inspire each other to be the very best we can be in each moment of our lives.

Wishing you a new year filled with love, depth, and meaning,
Fred Burks

PS I am very thankful to have had the invaluable help of Michael Dubois in completely redesigning two of the websites I manage. I think you'll like the new look at and

Follow-up Note: For an update on the most incredible, inspiring work of Bill Francis in helping to heal in Thailand after the tsunami, see
For a collection of videos of the devastating tsunami:

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