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Susan Lee: Help in any way you can; Disaster of epic proportions.

Byline: Susan Lee

LEASE help'. That's all the title of thee-mail said and for a moment I wondered whether it was a con, one of these electronic entreaties to send money to a faraway shore with the promise of millions in return.

Still, with the kids in bed and the tea dishes done, I had time to sit at the computer so I opened it anyway.

On screen came a picture of a little boy. Blond hair, blue eyes and dressed in what was a hospital gown, his nappy visible beneath.

He was aged no more than two. He wasn't smiling and his eyes had a deadness about them as they averted the camera's gaze.

`Does anyone recognise him?

He's from Phuket and he's missing his parents. Do you know him?' said the accompanying text.

Fortunately this little boy has now been reunited with his father but there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of children left alone in the wake of the Asian tsunami disaster.

How terrible for no-one to know your name. How terrible for no one to know even where you're from. How terrible to be reliant on the kindness of strangers across the globe to try to reunite you with someone, anyone, who can call you Jack or Tom or Sven with love and recognition in their voices.

There are those who are already complaining that we are seeing too much disaster footage on our televisions; who warn that compassion fatigue will set in and that the public's collective memory is a short one.

I don't think they could be more wrong. The tsunami disaster is unlike any other I can remember.

First, it happened at Christmas time and the contrast between our own celebrations and the horrors unfolding in Asia could not have been more stark.

Secondly, the media coverage has been enormous and is directly responsible for the public's breathtaking response.

We do have short memories and that is why the pictures have to keep coming in - and why I have e-mailed the image of that little lad to everyone I know.

It's a small gesture but as we have learned in recent days it is those small gestures, thousands and thousands of them, which all add up.

Then maybe, the year will end better than it began for the dispossessed, the hungry and the homeless of Asia.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 7, 2005
Words:394
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