Southern Devastation

Trip Start Oct 20, 2004
Trip End Apr 26, 2005

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Monday, January 31, 2005


When Andy and I woke on the morning of the 29th, we were ready to give up on Sri Lanka and return to Singapore. Our frustrations on various levels have been exacerbated by the awful side-effects of the anti-malaria medication. In addition to vertigo and nightmares, we've both experienced horrible mood swings during which the lows envelop us into dark pockets of hell. By Saturday morning we felt that we'd had enough, and were prepared to leave Colombo as soon as possible. We had one final meeting with the YMCA Sri Lanka and were ready to move on. Then we had lunch with Ashfaque.

Timing is everything. Ashfaque, with whom we had been talking for two weeks but hadn't met personally until that day, added yet another dimension to our Sri Lankan efforts. During lunch, he shared his passion to help the victims of the tsunami and showed us outlines of the projects with which he is currently involved. During our meeting he reignited the spark that had brought us to Sri Lanka in the first place. He offered us the chance to join him on a trip to Kirinda, a village east of Hambantota, where he would finalize a contract to rebuild a preschool. We were reluctant; we agreed to consider the journey, but we didn't want to go without a good reason. So we arranged to send requested supplies to the displaced villagers, and that afternoon we bought 100 towels, 100 bars of soap, 200 plates, and 20 packs of feminine products for the hundred families residing in one of Kirinda's temporary camps. That afternoon, Ashfaque again proposed to take us south, suggesting that we personally distribute the supplies to the villagers. Since the trip would be short (he was scheduled to leave that night and return the following afternoon), we accepted. Ashfaque, Jeetu, Devendran, and Yaseen picked us up in Devendran's van at 1:30 in the morning. We drove through the night and arrived to Kirinda as the sun was rising. Although I have witnessed much of the coastal devastation, I wasn't prepared for what we saw in Kirinda.

Kirinda is a small fishing village of about 7,000 people. It was hit hard, as was most of Sri Lanka's coastline; much of the village was completely leveled, including the harbor and its surroundings. Before the tsunami there were 38 boats, all of which were destroyed or seriously damaged. 100% of the villagers rely on the fishing industry, and many displaced families are currently living in refugee camps. The camps consist of rows of plywood shelters with tin roofs. We spent a while stopping from door to door to hand out the plates, towels and soap that we had brought. It felt so insufficient, so ridiculous to be offering so little; I feared our small gifts to be more insulting than helpful. Our gesture was received with smiles and appreciation, but inside I felt ashamed not to be giving more. The experience was certainly humbling, and we left knowing that we had to find a more significant way to help.
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