From Relief to Rehabilitation: A short account of the post-tsunami programs of the Diocese of Colombo
Excerpts from the Report of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Colombo to the Diocesan Council 2005
Immediately following the tsunami, our clergy and congregations of the Diocese of Colombo (DOC) provided relief and care to people throughout the country and amongst all communities. Our response was to provide food, water, clothing, medicine and tents, and to organize multi-ethnic, multi-faith youth groups to join local youth groups in the affected areas in cleanup operations. Rehabilitation work commenced in February and the numbers of active projects continue to grow. Clergy in the affected areas took on the added role of project directors identifying needs in their communities and carrying out rehabilitation work. We are indebted to the clergy for their unending efforts since December 26. To aid our clergy, small-scale R&R desks have been functioning in all three regions as well as in the Diocesan Office.
Resettlement of displaced families in permanent homes has been delayed as a result of prevailing confusion over the establishment of the buffer zone in coastal areas and the difficulties faced by the government in identifying land to be allocated for new homes. The DOC, in consultation with the District Secretary, is now prepared to embark on house repair and construction programs. Housing repair will commence in Batticaloa while housing construction will be undertaken in all regions. We are planning to supply around 45 housing units to the tsunami affected areas of the North, East and South choosing the poorest of the poor as beneficiaries. A cluster of houses with common amenities in one block of land and attention to the medical and social welfare of the beneficiaries are envisaged. The College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka will join us in this venture. In the meantime, welcoming centers have been established in a few tsunami camps to provide quiet space, rest and relaxation areas for adults and children.
In providing support for the recovery of livelihood, the fisheries sector, the worst affected by the tsunami received our support. Fishing boats, nets and engines were provided. In order to overcome supply constraints, a boat yard was built in Hambantota by a fisheries cooperative assisted and financed by the DOC. This was replicated in Valaichchenai with assistance from Hambantota. The DOC also financed building of a boat yard in the North for the manufacture and repair of boats which also serves as a training center in boat building and repair.
Persons engaged in varied occupations are being supported to rebuild their livelihood. Carpenters have been given router machines, sanders and power drills while masons received mason spoons, shovels, plumb lines. Similarly welders, mechanics, electrical workers received equipment. Domestic self-employment needs have been addressed by the provision of sewing machines and cooking utensils. Finance needed for the recommencement of small-scale retail trade, salons, groceries, bookshops, pharmacies too have been granted. The DOC has supplied large numbers of bicycles as bicycles enable people such as fruit and vegetable vendors to resume their work. Bicycles are also a major form of transport.
Childcare support for 65 children is being provided by the Jaffna Archdeaconry at KarunaNilayam (girls) and at the Pallai boys home as they prepare for forthcoming examinations. Support for children in the South is being provided through partner agencies. School kits have been distributed in affected areas. A school-twinning program is in progress whereby Diocesan schools have been connected with state schools to help with relevant needs. The principal characteristic of this very constructive program is the collaboration of students and staff on curricular and extra-curricular support. Advocacy programs in the form of community workshops on children's rights and human rights are being carried out in all regions through the Diriya Foundation.
A series of trauma counselling training workshops were conducted from March through May 2005 using the expertise of four professional psychiatrists and psychologists from overseas. The DOC intends to join the programmes of SEDEC of the Roman Catholic Church to train both laity and clergy in counselling in a long term program so that each parish will be equipped to address people with post traumatic stress disorder and other mental illness problems.
We received a massive inflow of support, both in money and in kind, far beyond our expectations. The Diocese of Colombo directed all funding into a central fund so that funds could be distributed equally i.e one-third each to the North, South and East. To date, we have received Rs. 240million, of which Rs. 80million has been disbursed. Rehabilitation projects are first proposed by affected-area Archdeacon/Clergy, following which, the Project Evaluation Committee reviews proposals before presenting them to the Diocesan Tsunami Task Force (comprising clergy and lay members and, chaired by the Bishop) for final funding approval. We are grateful to international visitors including clergy on short term assignments from within the Anglican Communion who offer labor, professional skills, parish support and relieve overworked clergy in the coastal areas. We are also especially thankful for the dozens of local volunteers and members of the community who play an integral part in our entire operation.
In our plans for the months ahead, the major areas of involvement of the DOC will be in housing, fisheries, child care support and trauma counselling. We shall continue to collaborate closely with government and non-governmental organizations as well as community leaders in our endeavours. Following this next phase of rehabilitation, we will continue to monitor the physical, mental, medical and educational needs of the tsunami victims and supply support as needed. As we look towards the future, we are hopeful of the prospect of rebuilding communities and providing as many men, women, and children with a sense of dignity and self-worth by making available the mechanisms to regain their own lives and livelihoods.