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Caring For Vulnerable Children In SRI LANKA

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Tsunami Support

(Report on the Director's visit to Tsunami-affected areas in January 2005)


Still Waters working to help survivors of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka

Still Waters Society has been engaged in providing aid from the first day after the disaster on Boxing Day, Sunday, 26th December 2004. We used all the reserve funds we had to help with the immediate needs of the survivors.  I have just returned from a three-week visit and it was evident that rebuilding and reconstruction work is a long-term project and Still Waters is committed to support survivors in this task.

Homes and property completely destroyed


It is difficult to describe the extent of the damage to home and property. These pictures show a little of the devastation caused by the Tsunami.


One story from the many

During my time in Sri Lanka I visited Batticaloa on the Eastern coast which took the worst of the hit from the Tsunami. The sight that awaited us as we entered the coastal areas is hard to describe. Street after street all along the coast was a scene of complete devastation. It was hard to find a house that was still standing. The waves had gone deep inland and turned thousands of homes to rubble. Every plot where once there was a proud home of a family had been raised to the ground and remains still just as the Tsunami had left it after doing its destructive work. Amid the shattered ruins were personal clothing, the odd cooking utensil, letters and papers, a photo album and what remains of many peoples’ homes.


And there were white flags everywhere, row after row of them, a piece of white cloth fastened to a piece of stick to indicate the death of a person. Some plots had several flags telling the sad and painful truth of entire families who had perished. On many a plot I met a lone individual or a couple standing or sitting in silence and staring at the sea. Their eyes glazed with a deep sorrow giving glimpses of a sad and broken heart. It was not a time for talk. I stood in silence with them as a sign of solidarity and whispered a prayer for healing of pain, easing of sorrow and the dawn of hope for these unfortunate fellow human beings.

One of the people I was able to talk to was Lakshman (Lucky), who told me his story struggling to hold back the tears. He and his family were all ready to go to church on Sunday 26th December. They were a few minutes late because his 21 month old daughter was not ready, and the Tsunami hit their home. The first wave entered the house with up to six feet of water, and he gathered his wife, child and the rest of the family and tried to escape when the second wave over thirty feet high engulfed his home and swept everyone and everything away. When the waters subsided, Lucky was found alive over 1,000 meters away, but in a serious condition having swallowed too much sea water. He was rushed to hospital where he remained for over ten days. His wife (27), his daughter (21 months), his mother (53) and his sisters (13 and 18) were all dead. All but the body of his only baby daughter were recovered.

Lucky also lost his home, his two fishing boats, his minibus and his engineering workshop. Lucky was clutching the dried out copy of his New Testament as he recalled that fateful Sunday, and wished he had left for church five minutes earlier. We gathered around Lucky embraced him and prayed for him standing amid the ruins of what had been a home he had worked so hard to build.

Lucky needed to get back to purposeful employment and needed carpentry and engineering tools, and we were able to get him a starter pack of tools the next day. I hope Lucky will get the emotional and spiritual support he needs to overcome the trauma of the Tsunami and begin to rebuild his life.

We walked and talked to many people, until the sun began to go down, and returned to the guest house with heavy hearts.

My visit has convinced me that there are no quick solutions to helping people get back to normal life again. They need help, practical, emotional and spiritual to cope with the aftermath of the Tsunami, knowing that their life will never be the same again. An initial step is to get people out of the refugees camps and tents into transitional homes and assist then to get back to gainful employment. We are supporting the construction of these homes recognising the fact that the rebuilding of home and communities is a long-term task that will take several years.

Still Waters buildings saved by a miracle

It is nothing short of a miracle that our buildings survived undamaged, but the boundary fences and walls suffered extensive damage when the huge tidal waves hit our land and brought with it many uprooted trees and considerable debris.



Helping people get back to normal life again


Our site is now exposed, with herds of cattle and buffaloes entering at night and doing extensive damage to the carefully cultivated fruit and vegetable crops on the site. In addition the security on the site is also compromised by this damage and our children too are vulnerable. We had to spend in excess of £4,000 to rebuild the walls and fences, and there is still work that needs to be done.


Help to get children back to school

Several local schools have been damaged or destroyed and this has disrupted the children’s education. In our area two schools are using one campus.

An entire school of over one thousand children has been moved into a campus of six hundred children. The classrooms are grossly overcrowded, with three or more teachers trying to teach in one room.

 


Still Waters have funded the construction of temporary classrooms to help relieve the overcrowding in the short term. We are working with the schools and would like to help with the reconstruction of the school and the provision of much-needed equipment. We had requests from schools for funds to replace musical instruments, computers and audio-visual equipment. We were able to support five schools in our district by providing some of the equipment they needed. There is still a need for furniture and computers, and funds to help will be most welcome.

School Packs

We have donated a large quantity of school packs to children who survived the Tsunami. Families lost everything, and without help the children will not be able to get back to school. The school packs include a large school bag, a dozen exercise books, pens, pencils, rulers, a calculator and a few meters of materials for school uniforms. The Still Waters team have been distributing these and I was able to join them in this while in Sri Lanka.


Thank you for all your help

The Still Waters family of children and staff say “Thank you!” to all who are working hard to raise money to help us continue to care for children and help our brothers and sisters who have been affected by the Tsunami.

V Frederick George MBE
Director


10th Anniversary of the

Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami

Tsunami 10th Anniversary