from Sri Lanka/Tsunami &
*One of Sons of Sarvodaya 2) Lotus flower, symbol of Sri
3) Dr. A. T. ARIYARATNE, Founder & President of Sarvodaya
from Sri Lanka!
most of you know, I have been in Sri Lanka since January
would like to satisfy your curiosity regarding 17 boxes
and 220 kg of aid Turkish Airlines carried from New York
Airways was overloaded in Bangkok because of the high
volumes of aid coming from other countries that would
take weeks to carry to Colombo. Therefore, Thailand Airways
carried the aid from Bangkok to Colombo with the help
of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Bangkok and in New York.
However, it took more time than anticipated to move boxes
from Bangkok to Colombo and to get them out of the Customs.
Especially, because of the application of new legislations
passed by the Sri Lanka Government, which took some time,
and at the end of its process, Moratowa based SARVODAYA
Organization received the 17 boxes which contained a mix
of first aid from New York Turkish-American community.
* * * *
Organization had been established in 1958 by Dr. A. T.
Ariyatratne. There are more than 2,500 public benefit
organizations in the country. One thousand of them are
regarded as small organizations. Five hundred of them
provide multi-dimensional services such as contributions
to social and economic welfare and development processes.
In 2,500 of non-governmental public benefit organizations,
SARVODAYA is regarded as the number one. They have more
than 10,000 volunteer workers; more than 2,000 employees
working either full day or half day, and branches in all
over the country. They have internationally sponsored
regional projects with 5 to 7 years plans that answer
the basic social, economic, agricultural, health care,
and development needs of that region. Moreover, they apply
these projects through out the country.
performed the most effective and equal aid distribution
to the regions in need devastated by the Tsunami disaster.
It also immediately organized a team for the "relief
effort." It has been widely praised for its efforts
by the international organizations and it has growing
support for the "Improvement, Reconstruction, and
Organization has partners in America (WWW.SARVODAYA.ORG),
Europe, and Japan. It also has a branch in United States.
Sarvodaya's Headquarters updates the last minute developments
and news in their Web site WWW.SARVODAYA.LK. Its news
are effective and from the first hand.
are two reasons why I summarized the information regarding
Sarvodaya. If you want to send donations/funds your own,
send it directly to Sarvodaya via on-line. I can assure
you that your aid will attain its purpose and it will
be distributed effectively. You make your donations from
above websites. This way, you can assure that your donation
will be directly distributed to the aid regions devastated
by the Tsunami and to the specified rehabilitation projects.
also joined the effort led by SARVODAYA team for "distributing
water" and "family package" in GALLE, AMPARA,
and KALMUNAI. I took some photographs and videoed the
effort. Before the Tsunami, I was preparing documentary
series project consisting of 6 episodes: "Peace Process
of Sri Lanka." After the Tsunami, this documentary
will include footages of SARVODAYA Organization and their
relief efforts related to the Tsunami disaster. Next weekend,
at 4:30 AM on February 6, we will travel to the northern
part of Sri Lanka by an aid truck loaded with "family
package" (such as rice, lentil, canned food, toothpaste,
and soap) and water. This is almost 10 hours drive. Again,
as I did in Kalmunai, I will have the opportunity to see
the Tsunami's aftereffects and Sarvodaya's rehabilitation
efforts on site and to video them for the documentary.
of the best news in Kalmunai was that the Sarvodaya Organization
and the government have started working on building a
school. On the other hand, the food distributed to the
families who live in camps was enough for only 2-3 days
for each family. One thousand families received “family
package (non-perishable food, basic cleaning supplies
like toothpaste/soap for each family)” and food
for two consecutive days. Yet, the aid was just enough
for only the half of the Tsunami victims and people with
food cards and coupons. Most people couldn’t get
the food package and they had to be content with the 2
or 5 liters of bottled waters.
the problems are identified and they are under control,
they can be solved only with thorough and extensive work.
I was informed that the government was also distributing
food in Kalumani. I wondered how much the food distributed
for each family was, how long it lasted, and how frequent
the government distributed the food. The answer was troubling:
It was distributing a package consisting flour, sugar,
and rice in every two weeks. However, that package lasted
less than a week!
who could get food in every condition or who could benefit
from the water tanks installed by the Sarvodaya Organization,
the government, Red Cross, and USAAID were the lucky ones.
of the camps I saw in Galle were composed of tents that
had only the top for sun protection and they were open
on the sides. There was no food, no basic kitchen utensils,
nor mattresses. Some camps were better equipped regarding
kitchen utensils. However, toilets and hygiene were in
very poor condition. If a person had a toothbrush or was
able to brush her/his teeth, then she was lucky.
* * *
Lankan authorities and health officials was worried about
possible outbreak of diseases. As I learned from a meeting
organized by Sarvodaya in Anaradhapura, this did not happen.
A Sri Lankan Doctor said that Sri Lankan people were very
lucky. He said that only three people dead from diseases
and they lived in camps where homeless people were placed
in and where the living conditions were very poor.
* * *
I met a high school student whose house was just across
the Sarvodaya's distribution office. I walked with her
and her friends to see the ocean and the areas destroyed
by the tsunami. When they saw the ocean, they stopped
me and they fearfully repeated, "tsunami, tsunami."
I told them that they could wait here but I wanted to
go further. They were afraid and in panic. They neither
left me nor went further. I difficultly persuaded them
and went forward about 100 meters but they stopped me
again. They told me that a local man approaching me was
a thief. I wasn’t sure if the man was really a thief
but I gave up insisting on. When we returned to Sarvodaya’s
distribution office, I witnessed another unpleasant incident.
A woman grabbed my arm and dragged me inside. First, I
didn’t understand what was happening. When I went
inside, I saw that there was a fainted woman. They wanted
me take a picture of her. However, batteries of my camera
were dead. I tried to understand what happened to her.
She had a hearth attack because of waiting for a food
package under scorching sun. Shortly, she was taken to
the hospital by a 3-wheel vehicle. An old woman was crying
for her. I've never learned if she was saved.
Kalmunai, I also witnessed two incidents in an aid-queue.
Sarvodaya was authorized by the government to distribute
the aid packages to people who had government-issued-card
and coupon proving that they were affected by the tsunami.
There were many arguments in the first two hours. It was
very hard for Sarvodaya officials to distribute the aid
packages and they couldn’t even start the distribution,
for half of the members of each family did not have “food
card and coupon.” When I asked why, they told me
that they live in camps because of the tsunami and the
government was late for preparing food cards and coupons
for everybody. This caused increasing arguments and complaints
since people couldn’t get their food packages.
a young man who had food card and coupon, showing his
food card and with lucid English, said, “I have
my food card and I am affected by the tsunami like all
these people but I won’t take food. These people
are between life and death and they need these packages
more than I do.” He was an English teacher in a
school with 1,500 students. The school was destroyed by
the tsunami. Then, it was moved to other regions but no
student wanted to attend the school. Because they were
impacted both psychologically and cerebrally. In a hopeful
manner, he asked me if I need any Tamil interpreter. I
sadly told him my budget was limited.
* * * *
a hospital that I visited in Kalmunai, Sarvodaya distributed
mosquito nets for the newborn babies. At that moment,
I realized there were many newborn babies. As after-tsunami
babies, they will be the first representatives of a new
wondered how many babies were born in Sri Lanka right
after the tsunami and how many of them had a healthy family
environment. When I asked this question to Sarvodaya’s
coordinator, he told me he would compile the information
and let me know. However, since his local work and research
continued in Kalmunai, I couldn’t get any statistical
information for the whole country.
* * * *
Galle, in particular the conditions of the camps which
I have seen, did not give me much hope for those victims
and their children’s future. It seemed that they
will have very harsh time to get out their camps with
in healthy condition and able to establish a new life
from that point on. 1.5 hours south of Colombo at the
west coasts, where the devastating damage took place,
as a result of children and people’s trauma and
their combine effects for the short and long term
still cannot be define and measured! The major train accident
which caused by tsunami waves had killed in one-half-hour
over 1500 people. Now, the country is in rehabilitation
and reconstruction process which is considered that might
take near to 10 years.
exhibition I saw on January 17 was very effective and
thought provoking. At the same time, it was a very positive
West Shores, more than 1000 students lost either their
mother or father by the tsunami. In a very short time,
Cultural Ministry of Sri Lanka started a rehabilitation
project for these. The Ministry distributed crayons, colored
pencils, and papers to these children to let them draw
and transform tsunami’s effects. The exhibition
was between January 16 and January 17. Over 850 children
participated in the exhibition. The government gave a
certificate to all children who had a painting in this
exhibition. It also gave a prize for their education cost.
would like to congratulate the Cultural Ministry for starting
and concluding such a constructive and healing project
like this for the students. It was very clear in students'
eyes that the Ministry prevented a possible trauma from
occurring by transforming children's pain into a project
like this. They were happy to be alive and they were hopeful.
This also helped to have visual illustrations of the tsunami
from the perspectives of the children and youth. In Sri
Lanka, thousands of flowers of hope are already emerging
from such a tragedy.
the tsunami disaster, Sri Lanka is in "reawakening"
period now. In the long term, this may be a strong foundation
for a "peace period."
* * * *
read earlier and learned from Sarvodaya authorities that
Tsunami partly effected Negombo as well. Negombo was my
first stop when I came to Sri Lanka two years ago. Therefore,
I was wondering Negombo and went there on January 30.
negative effect of Tsunami at Negombo is barely visible
compared to other towns and cities. The most visible effect
was empty beaches and streets although the entire touristy
infrastructure was intact.
loves and reflection of the cultural richness and dazzling
flowers from Sri Lanka...
1, 2005 - Negombo
Visits to Sir Arthur C. CLARKE - Impressions
One of Sarvodaya's special program titled, Sons of
Sarvodaya. Under this program, secondary and high
school studuents stay, intern and trainlng on special
projects for 2 weeks at the Sarvodaya Headquarters in
-- Translated by Pelin BALI
Reflections from Sri Lanka & Tsunami
For Media Release- A Power Point Presentation
Date: May 2, 2005 @Turkish House, New York
Ünver, The Light Millennium, Inc., 2005.