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|Voices from Sri Lanka
January 2, 2007
Two Years After the Tsunami
[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon]
Greetings from Sri Lanka!
On the two-year anniversary of the tsunami, we present some sample stories from a few of the beneficiaries of the Diocesan programmes.
Although the Diocese has struggled to embark on our housing programme, we are glad to report that we have completed 10 homes in Ambalantota (South) and are currently constructing 45 homes in Trincomalee (East) and a further 20 homes in Tangalle (South). Our 30-house commitment in the Point-Pedro (North) has been delayed due to the political climate at this time.
We pray for God?s Blessings on our country and for peace to prevail in our Nation. The Diocese of Colombo wishes you a Blessed Christmas!
Ms. Sinnathamby Sivamani
Ms. Sinnathamby Sivamani is a 65-year-old Tamil Hindu grandmother. She lived with her husband and her two married but separated daughters along with 2 young grandchildren. She lost her husband, her two daughters and her home. Sivamani and her grandchildren narrowly survived the tsunami. She was given a temporary shelter by the government. Sivamani had never worked in her life, and left that responsibility to her fisherman husband. Since she also had no other children and having to support herself and her grandchildren, she asked the Diocese for assistance. The local priest described her as feeling completely helpless and hopeless on that day. After a conversation with the local priest, Sivamani decided that she could begin cooking for a living and was provided with some utensils to make food items to supply to local restaurants. She is now gradually making a good living and important, is able to feed her family. Recently, on a visit to her shelter, Sivamani was more confident and hopeful about the future. She says that she now has reason to smile.
Mr. Isuru is a 24-year old Sinhala Buddhist goldsmith. He had the misfortune of losing his wife, mother, his 4-year old child as well as his entire house. He requested assistance from the Diocese to buy some gold and some tools. The Diocese delivered on his request of Rs.33,000. Some months following our grant, Mr. Isuru returned to the Diocese with another request. He asked the wife of the local parish priest to refer orphans whom he could sponsor. The Diocese, with the help of the government agency involved in sponsorship programmes, proposed 2 children aged 8 and 12 who had lost both parents in the tsunami. Mr. Isuru eagerly agreed to the sponsorship and continues to provide a monthly grant of Rs.500 per child towards basic and educational needs. Mr. Isuru has committed to providing this level of support (with annual increments) upto the end of the children?s secondary education.
Ms. Parvathi (fondly called Archchi or grandmother by her friends) is not a tsunami victim. She is a 70-year old Tamil Christian who cooks in private homes for a living. She lived in an 8? by 6? hut, which was destroyed by heavy rains in January 2005 (three weeks after the tsunami). The local priest sent an appeal out to community members to help with the rebuilding of Archchi?s hut. The response was tremendous. A Muslim photographer whom the N.C.C. gave a grant to buy destroyed equipment offered some funds to purchase some wood for the hut. A young Sinhala Buddhist man who lived in a tsunami temporary shelter before moving into a permanent home offered the materials of his shelter at a greatly reduced cost. Two fisherman to whom the Diocese gifted fishing nets, agreed to volunteer their labour since they also had experience in masonry and carpentry. Another tsunami victim offered a vehicle to transport materials. With a final appeal, many community members gave money to complete the work and Archchi now lives well in her new but very modest hut.
Mr. Sagara is a young 25-year-old fisherman. With his father and brother?s recent non-tsunami related deaths, he was the only wage earner to support himself and his mother. Prior to the tsunami none in his family owned a canoe, but rather rented a canoe from a businessman. The Diocesan criteria for assistance included those who did not own their canoes. The Diocese collected damaged canoes from those whom we gave new canoes. We repaired one of these damaged canoes which was designed for the sea in order for it to be used in the local lagoon (where Mr. Sagara works). With the gift of a canoe, Mr. Sagara is able to support his small household. Interestingly, prior to the tsunami, Mr. Sagara was engaged in the growth and dealing of illicit drugs to help support the family - but with his own canoe he has proudly given up his secondary job.
Mr. Sivalingam is a 45-year-old Tamil Hindu fisherman. He fishes on a lagoon close to the sea. On the day of the tsunami, his family of six survived the destructive waves by climbing a tree but lost his canoe, net and his belongings. Being a lifelong fisherman, he found it very difficult to survive and support his family without his canoe and accessories. His four school-going children did not go to school for the many months following the tsunami since their bicycles (their only mode of transportation) was destroyed by the tsunami. The Diocese gifted one bicycle which the children share (since the children go to different schools). The Diocese was also able to provide a canoe with a net through one of our boatyards, which has helped Sivalingam to regain his livelihood and take care of his family. Mr. Sivalingam is back to his area in the lagoon and is a happy man today.
Mr. Wilson is a 55-year Sinhala Buddhist who lost his wife and three adult children in the tsunami. Of his three children, his eldest daughter was to be married in the months following tsunami. Mr. Wilson engaged in business-rental services, renting facilities for parties such as buffet set, generators, tables, chairs etc. The tsunami waves destroyed or damage all of his equipment. On the night prior to the tsunami, the local Anglican priest had returned the generator which was loaned (without fee) for the annual church Christmas party. In our livelihood programme, the Diocese offered Mr. Wilson a grant of Rs. 75,000 to purchase a buffet set. He has restored his professional life to pre-tsunami levels and continues to be very helpful to his community in offering low-cost rentals. On the personal front, Mr. Wilson met and married another tsunami-victim and is now the proud father of a baby boy.
Ms. Swasthika and Ms. Shehara
At the time of the tsunami, Ms. Swasthika and Ms. Shehara were students of Ladies College, a primary and secondary Anglican school in Colombo. The girls or their families were thankfully not affected by the tsunami, but were deeply moved by the suffering of those along the coast. With the help of their Principal, Swasthika and Shehara, along with a group of fellow-students, partnered with two state schools, one in Ambalangoda (a mainly Buddhist school in the South) and one in Kalmunai (a mainly Muslim school in the East) to provide some relief and rehabilitation. Their work included clean-up work, collecting food, re-modelling science laboratories, participating in school events, and teaching younger students nursery rhymes. It was the first time that some students had ever visited the Eastern part of the country and the girls were particularly thankful of being able to help students of a different background than themselves in class, ethnicity and religion.
M. I. Bihari
M. I Bihari is a 24-year old married fisherman with a young daughter. He was raised by a single-mother who passed away when he was 19 and has struggled to support himself and his young family before the tsunami. The tsunami was an even greater strain on the family's finances. The Diocese partnered with a Muslim organization in the Easter Coast and together provided a boat and an outboard engine to restore Bihari's livelihood. He continues his hard work at sea and has been sometimes able to earn more profit than prior to the tsunami due to the greater quality of the boat provided to him. He thanked the Diocese on behalf of the other fisherfolk in the community in which boats were distributed ? many of whom have improved their lives since the tsunami.
Sugathadasa, Geetha and Sumanawathy
Sugathadasa is an unmarried fisherman who lost his brother in the tsunami. Geetha is the mother of three children who lost her home to the tsunami. Sumanawathy is a widowed woman who lost all her belongings in the tsunami now lives with her daughter and son-in-law. All three families are involved in the fishing trade but are now either uncomfortable returning to the sea to continue their livelihood or as unable to catch as many fish as before the tsunami. All three along with their families have participated in our home-gardening programme, where the Diocese partnered with an environmental group to educate communities on methods to grow vegetables, fruits, etc. to cut down their cost-of-living. All methods are organic without the use of any chemicals. The three families are grateful that they are able to be self-sufficient in their vegetable and fruit domestic needs and are sometimes able to share their produce with their neighbours.