For chronological account, begin reading at bottom of page
September 1st, 2005
This month I was able to visit the same beach I had visited just four days after the tsunami hit, and the change that has taken place is very encouraging.
When I walked the beach this time, it was refreshing. It was as if life had sprung up again in the hearts of the people. The beach, instead of its previous state of being strewn with wreckage and debris, was now full of new fishing boats. Men sat mending and preparing their new nets instead of untangling or burning the endless cobweb nets that seemed like they covered everything. There was hope in the air instead of despair, re-birth instead of death.
May 1st, 2005
Community Education Center Having identified and researched more long-term work to assist the victims of the Tsunami Disaster, we are now undertaking the Community Education Center, and are in need of your support in order to make this a reality:
The Target Group is school children between the ages of 6-14 affected by the Tsunami, as well as school dropouts from the fishing community, between the ages of 14 – 20
Estimated Costs over next 4 months:
Building Costs 8 classrooms: $ 52,500
Building Costs Community Hall: $ 16,700
Toilet and Sanitation Costs: $ 9,140
Furniture Costs (Desks and Benches): $ 3,558
False Ceiling existing area: $1,535
Walls in existing classrooms: $3,614
Demolition charges: $2,465
Total costs: $ 89,512
March 1st, 2005
With the first phases of Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation now coming to a conclusion we are ready to move into a long-term work with the victims of the Tsunami Disaster. We have so far identified two projects working with the Tsunami affected children and are in need of your support in order to make this a reality.
Project: Community Education Center
Target Group: School children between the ages of 6-14 affected by the tsunami. This is the primary institution founded with an intention of educating the fisherman community. Of the 1100 students who are studying in this school presently, about 800 students are from the coastal community and about 150 students are from the labor community who are dependent upon the fisherman community for their livelihood.
This school provides free education for the children. During the initial aftershocks of the tsunami the school played a vital role in providing shelter for many of the victims. Presently there are 24 classes in the school but only 19 classrooms and unless new classrooms are built the school will have to be closed. As the management has already committed to providing free education and training they are financially unable to construct the new classrooms that are needed.
- Construct 8 new classrooms which will create 3 new classrooms for expansion.
- Construct a community hall
- Construct new lavatories and urinals
- Provide furniture for the new classrooms
Project: Shelter Home for Tsunami Affected Children
We have identified 150-200 female children who have been orphaned or semi-orphaned from the tsunami. The decision was taken to build a Home for these children where needed facilities of food and boarding would be provided. The school fees, books, stationeries and clothing would also be provided free of costs for these children.
Besides humanitarian assistance, our current focus areas are:
- Children's Emotional Rehabilitation
(29 feet long, 7 feet wide and 4 feet deep): US$ 1,800
The cost of a 10 hp engine: US$ 1,000
The cost of 2 fishing nets for each boat: US$ 800
Total cost of one complete fishing unit: US$ 3,600
Each of the above mentioned boats can take 4-5 fishermen out to sea at a time. The proceeds from the catch of the day are then traditionally divided equally amongst those fishermen.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day
Give a village a fishing boat and you feed them for life.”
-- Our adaptation of the old Chinese proverb
Family Services has been providing fiberglass-fishing boats to the Tsunami affected villages that are being used jointly by the fishermen for the common good of their villages. The income from their catch is being used for the sustenance of the entire village.
We are thrilled to say that more motorized ‘Community Boats’ were launched at a fishing village called Thanthiyarayankuppam in Villupuram district, and 25 non-motorized fiberglass-fishing boats were launched at a fishing village called Songalikuppam in Cuddalore district!
We will never forget these 2 momentous, emotionally charged days! It was the first time after the Tsunami that the fishermen from these 2 villages went back to sea and reeled in the fish. Our team had the privilege of going out to sea with the fishermen and joining them for a delicious fish curry meal afterwards.
February 26, 2005
It has now been 55 days since the Tsunami struck. We have been working at the disaster sites in Tamil Nadu since the 28th of December 2004. Over the last 53 days, we have been able to do the following with your help and support:
- Distributed Relief materials in 11 villages to over 6000 families
- Provided 30 motorized fiberglass-fishing boats, which will sustain 2 whole villages in Villupuram and Nagapattinam.
- Provided toolkits to over 300 boat workers who lost their tools in the Tsunami.
- Conducted Emotional Healing Programmes for over 6000 children in 16 villages
- Renovated a school building in Thazhanguda village. The children of this village are now having school in 3 renovated and freshly repainted buildings. (We are in the process of finalizing the rebuilding of another school building in Cuddalore.)
The Village Across the River
It is common knowledge that the villages on the seashore have suffered the maximum damage but a short while ago it was brought to our attention that some villages further inland have also suffered extensive damage but have received no aid. We sent out a scouting party and found out that this was true! A village called Sungalikuppam consisting of 66 river fishermen and their families were actually on the verge of starvation! -- The Tsunami had caused the river water to suddenly swell and had swept their catamarans out to sea. As a result they hadn’t been able to go fishing and sustain themselves!
Upon discovering this, our team worked through the night and packed hundreds of ‘Family Relief Packs’. Each pack consisted of 10 kilos of rice, 4 kilos of dal, 2 pans, cooking pots and ladles, children’s clothes, saris and shirts.
The gratitude with which the residents of Sungalikuppam received these packs the next morning was moving. When our team returned to base camp after the distribution, we received a call from the village headman, Mr. V. Palanivelu, who said, "We have eaten today because you have brought us food".
We are also working on providing non-motorized fiberglass fishing boats to these fishermen. We would also like to set up a playground with play equipment for the children in this village.
January 21, 2005
At the official request of the Cuddalore District Collector, we began an Emotional Healing Program for 1400 children at Devanapattinam, Singarthoppu and Sonankuppam. These are some of the villages where the death toll has been quite high. The psychological effect on the village children has consequently been quite severe.
We organized games like volleyball, and games like dodge ball, tug of war, kabaddi, as well as activities like long jump. Each of these events was followed in the evenings with a puppet show that we performed and a cultural folk performance by the CERP volunteers (our local partners in the project).
Tools for Boat Carpenters: The Carpenters Association of Malumiarpettai have lost their tools in the Tsunami. These are carpenters who make a living and sustain their families by helping to make & repair fishing boats. They requested us for tools to be able to continue earning their livelihood. We have supplied all 51 members in the association tools worth $126 each.
We have also provided tools to 8 groups of Boat Salvaging Workers in Cuddalore Taluk. Each group received $800 worth of salvaging tools.
January 15, 2005
“Post-disaster trauma” is not simply a new media buzzword. Post-disaster trauma is a reality.
As our jeep pulled into Muthaliyarkuppam village 20 km from Cuddalore, pandemonium suddenly broke out as someone shouted “tsunami!!” Men, women and children began screaming and running away from the ocean.
A little boy called Vinod just stood there frozen, sobbing. Both his parents were on the beach. He did not want them to die. I just held his hand and put an arm around and told him again and again,” Don’t worry! It’ll be all right!” The boy clutched my hand and would not let go, tears still streaming down his cheeks. The panic eventually subsided. It was a false alarm! Thank God.
But the children, many others like Vinod, still looked terrified. Coming from another part of India, I don’t speak Tamil. But I really wanted to get through to this boy! Not quite sure what to do, I pulled out a pen and drew a circle in my notebook. The boy mumbled something. Then I drew 2 eyes, a nose and a mouth inside the circle. A slow smile crept across the boy’s face. Progress. Then I drew the rest of the body and for good measure added a few balloons in my picture. Vinod began giggling. The fear had dissipated.
By this time a few more kids had crowded around and wanted to have their “portraits” made. (Just for the record, I can’t draw either!) But since they had decided they wanted to be sketched, I sat down on the ground and began ‘sketching’ them. They loved it!
By this time, the rest of our team that had been talking to the villagers regrouped and we launched into the little entertainment program we had planned for the kids. It began with an action song in Tamil, which the kids followed along with, followed by street theatre with a relevant message. Then clowns followed and for the next 20 minutes had the village roaring with laughter with their antics! – The laughter was healing! It was as if a tsunami wave of happiness had just swept through Muthaliyarkuppam and left a smile on everyone’s face! It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.
Emotional Healing and Rehabilitation
January 12, 2005
When a disaster strikes, children are usually the worst affected. The children on the east coast of Tamil Nadu are no exception. The Tsunami has exacted a heavy emotional toll. Many of them don’t want to see the sea again. Others have nightmares at night. Yet others repeatedly tell their parents every day,”Let’s move away from here!”
We have focused our efforts on the children, specifically their emotional healing and rehabilitation. These Emotional Healing programs involve reaching out to the children in various ways, whether it is playing games with them, teaching them songs or a variety of extra-curricular activities. – In short, having fun with them in a manner that is meaningful and that shows the children that the world does care about them and that life goes on.
We have also found that laughter and happiness are contagious, and when we interact with the children, the entire village gathers around to watch. The smiles rapidly spread from face to face and before long, the atmosphere in the village changes dramatically for the better.
Related to this, one of our volunteers recalls: “Taking part in co-curricular activities like art, games and music plays a big part in helping the children to sleep better at night. While helping out in the aftermath of the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, we also found that the sight of children playing and learning, and the sound of their laughter, helped restore a sense of normalcy to the villages which had been devastated by the quake.”
The Relief Commissioner of Cuddalore District, who has personally witnessed the reaction to these Emotional Healing Programs, and the District Collector of Cuddalore requested us to carry them out in 31 villages in Cuddalore district where the Tsunami devastated the lives of so many.
Throughout February and early March, teams from FCF India will tour Cuddalore district with these special programs. This initiative will involve:
- Playing skill and confidence-building games with the children
- Conducting extra-curricular activities with them
- Teaching them songs
- Performing skits and clown acts for them
- Giving them activity books, as well as stationery, and hygiene items
The District Administration meanwhile has given us a list of affected villages. This program is expected to touch the lives of at least 10,000 children in 31 villages. We need your help in sponsoring our volunteers as well as supplying needed educational and personal hygiene items for the children.
December 31, 2004
Based on our previous experience (Gujarat earthquake , the cyclones and floods in Orissa [1999 & 2001]}, one of the biggest needs was to find people that we can work with and through in situations like this as every one wants to be sure that the relief really reaches those that are in need. Also another major need is accurate information: exactly what the needs are and exactly how many people are affected. This allows for an organized/ systematic way of putting those needs into the hands of the affected.
After stopping in Pondicherry for breakfast, we went to town called Thazhanguda, one of the worse affected towns in the District. All along the way there were refugees living in temples and compounds and the 8 kms of road leading from the main road to the devastated beach areas was strewn with piles of clothes that well-wishing relief groups had just dumped by the road side. Water tankers were making their way to the disaster site and trunks with food packets and grains were distributing their supplies to the crowds that were thronging them.
We finally made it to the beach. We really couldn't have been prepared for what swept over me. In all our experience we have never really experienced such complete devastation as what now lay before us. Everything was just pushed back by the power of the sea and laid in heaps all over the entire stretch of beach. Boats wrapped around trees or pushed right through houses and what seemed like miles of tangled fish nets. Coconut palms, household articles, clothes and debris. But what struck me most was the feeling that Hope was gone. It was like when someone knocks the wind out of you physically, but in the spirit. I don't know how to explain it. Most of the people had evacuated but here and there were individuals or families just staring out into nothing.
There was one man that I noticed when I had first arrived that was just sitting there in the sand "gazing". In his lap were food packets and small loaves of bread that aid workers had placed there but you could see they didn't mean anything to him.
I wandered into one house or what remained of a house to find a small makeshift altar built with a small pile of children's clothes and schoolbooks,and candles lit. Then the man that I had noticed sitting on the beach came in and started talking to me in Tamil saying that he had lost everything, his wife and 3 of his 5 children, his home and his boat, I could tell he just didn't have it in him to know how to start to rebuild his life. Not knowing what to do I just took him in my arms and hugged him and then he just burst forth in tears and uncontrollable crying and grief and I too could not restrain the heart ache. At last he got it out, all the pent up grief and uncertainty and questions at last had an outlet and came gushing forth. How long we stood like this I'm not sure but the tears we shared were from our hearts. Inside I felt like there was hope.
A Catholic nun we are working with shared a similar experience and she said this was the first day that some of the people/ families that were hardest hit were able to even say anything or even make an effort to express the anguish that was inside. Anyone coming here must realize that when they come. These people hurt deep inside. Not only do they need to rebuild their homes and lives and means of lively hood but many of them need to find a reason to even put forth the effort to carry on.
We travelled to 4 villages yesterday and each story was the same. On one island there were 128 people living. All are gone. On another small peninsula they said the waves were as high as the trees and those that survived did so by either climbing the trees or grabbing on to the branches as they were swept by. One man, whom we talked with, had come back to claim the bodies of his mother and sister in law. When the wave hit he was tending his nets. He said he was picked up and thrown across the peninsula and found himself on the landside of beach.
FCF Project Partner Family Services India has initiated a two-phase approach.
An important focus area for our team is to help bring healing and hope to the hearts and minds of these traumatized children and families, thus our initial focus on the emotional rehabilitation of the disaster victims.
Every FOUR DOLLARS will supply a child with a Children’s Relief Pack, consisting of:
Soap and soap dish
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Schoolbooks and Stationery
Every EIGHTEEN DOLLARS will supply a family with a Family Relief Pack, consisting of:
2 Sleeping Mats
Cooking Utensils, pots and pans
1 Kerosene stove & kerosene
1 First aid kit.
Rebuilding Lives - The majority of those affected were fishermen and their families. After visiting the affected areas of Cuddalore, Injambakkam, Vettuvankeni fishing village, and Kovallam and assessing their long-term needs, we are involved in rebuilding their homes and livelihoods. Following is a highlight of our program overview:
150 DOLLARS will supply a village family with:
The necessary funds to rebuild a home destroyed in the disaster.
500 DOLLARS help a village family fix their fishing boat, motor, and/or nets damaged in the disaster.
Can you please help? As you can see above, even a small donation can help.
December 29, 2004
We toured the whole coastal area with the head administrator for the Cuddalore District . This district covers an area of about 50-60 kilometres of water front area, with 51 villages, 41 of which were affected, 36 severely. The waves grew in strength and magnitude as they swept southward and when they hit the villages further south the damage was even greater.
We’ve set up a base of operations in Cuddalore to receive aid and workers and then in cooperation w/ CERP we can dispatch the aid and the workers. The first three village areas that we’ll be concentrating on are Injambakkam, Vettuvankeni fishing village, and Kovallam.
One thing that’s very important at times like this is building a rapport between the people affected, including the Village Head, and the NGO that’s trying to help them. On Father Vincent’s team are 2 Sisters who are doing most of the information gathering and reaching out to the fishermen and their families. Gita, one of the Sisters, is a real go-getter and she knows how these people think and act. She also knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of aid and assistance and the red tape and lengthy process that can be involved so she really gets things moving.
Working with Father Vincent of Coastal Earthquake Relief Program is a pleasure. He is a very sweet, dedicated and humble man and also very capable. He has commissioned teams to all the affected villages along the coast, who have compiled list of all the families, the extent of the loss they have incurred and together we made a 3 phase programme as to how to go about meeting those needs.
Another big factor involved in relief work is making sure that goods reach the affected families. Yesterday we witnessed a sad situation with another agency in one village where things were getting out of hand and the people distributing aid couldn’t control the crowd so people started just grabbing things off of the truck! A well-meaning church in Chennai had sent two truckloads of pots, sheets, eating and cooking utensils valued at about $7000 and someone directed the other truck to go to one of the affected villages. This truck never made it.
When it was getting near the site, someone let the word out that they were carrying pots, sheets and utensils and the truck was mobbed, the goods virtually looted from the truck and the driver had to flee the site. These are all factors that have to be addressed in organizing an efficient relief operation.
What we worked out with these folks was to issue an identification card for each affected family, so they have a case number and as we distributed the goods they have to show their card and then check it off the list.
One of the main topics the villagers, largely fishermen by trade, wanted to discuss was for the loss of their boats and livelihood. It was suggested by the government that each NGO “adopt” a few such villages and see them through to complete rehabilitation. From short term immediate to long term self-sufficiency and complete ownership of boats and houses. As it stands now they would have to take loans out to reconstruct but they have nothing to put up to get such loans. This is where the 3 phase of restoration comes into play, with the final stage being personal ownership/ possession. (See more below.)
At that point, whatever is not needed in “our” villages we can offer to other villages or NGOs.
December 27, 2004
We visited several villages along the Coast to see how the villagers were doing and what their needs are. We have contacted several agencies and are planning on teaming up with some of them to help distribute aid to affected villagers. Meanwhile staff is procuring and organizing supplies of food, clothing, blankets, pots and pans and other essentials. Our short list consists of: food staples, milk powder (especially for babies), cooking utensils, soaps and toiletries, bed sheets & blankets, floor mats
FCF Tsunami program undertaken in Tamil Nadu villages:
- Distribution of pre-packed Relief packs to children and families
- Rebuilding damaged/destroyed homes in villages
- Supplying fishermen with fishing boats, motors, and nets damaged or destroyed in the disaster.