Facing the debris of existence (Akkampettai, India) - Photo: D. Sansoni
Asha is only two years old. Within minutes, her young life was radically and irreversibly changed. Asha's mother Baladevi and her five-year-old sister Megha have been reported missing since the sea-surge struck. On the disastrous day of 26 December 2004 they all went to visit the grandparents in Kanakachettikulam in the Indian province of Pondicherry. When masses of water entered the house, Baladevi tried to save herself and her children clinging onto the ceiling fan. It was all in vain. One of their young relatives could only get hold of Asha.
Grandmother Devaki now cares for the little girl whose father has left the family a while ago. Grandmother Devaki says: "I'm afraid that her father will not care for her as he is going to get married again soon." In the context of SOS Emergency Relief Programmes, employees of SOS Children's Villages India have promised to provide Grandmother Devaki with what she needs. Being little Asha's legal guardian, she will receive food and medication and was granted a place in kindergarten for Asha.
The fate of Asha's family is one of hundreds of thousands of families. After the tsunami tragedy, the life of countless people is not the way it was before. Many have to start from scratch again; an incredible show of strength when grieving for your loved ones. SOS Children's Villages supports hundreds of affected families with far-reaching activities. In order to not only help ease the victims' lot short-term, but to also secure the future of children and their families, SOS Children's Villages establishes long-term programmes with the focus on particular villages.
Construction of temporary shelters in Akkampettai, India - Photo: D. Sansoni
This is how about 900 families in South India are being supported in rebuilding their lives again. Five activity centres for children are currently operative. There, the children draw, sing and dance together, receive meals and counselling. Two of these centres busy taking off the burden of the shoulders of parents are located in the district of Cuddalore; one of them also has a playground for children from Chinnavaikal and Kannaginagar. Talks with authorities regarding the rebuilding of 100 houses in both towns are underway. T
he other three activity centres are located in Singaravalen in the district of Kanyakumari, in Akkampettai in the district of Karaikal, and in Pudukuppam in the district of Nagapattinam. Those three fishing villages and the small town of Periyankayaka near Singaravalen are being completely rebuilt (including community buildings to house kindergartens, schools and health centres etc.) by SOS Children's Villages, with the local people actively involved. As an interim solution until completion of construction, temporary shelters have been established, and the families have already moved in.
Bringing hope to the children at the activity centre in Pudukuppam, India - Photo: D. Sansoni
About 550 families with more than 1,180 children received start-up support to equip themselves with essentials. New families are continually admitted to the emergency relief programme established to provide help in cases of hardship (especially families where either the father or the mother died in the sea-surge disaster). The plan is to accompany the families for a number of years and provide intensive support in the areas of child education, nutrition, health and training.
Additionally, SOS Children's Villages will support widows who are not being cared for by their children and pregnant women for an extended period of time. Another stage in the process will see fishing families organised in small cooperatives (India and Sri Lanka) receive boats, fishing nets and other equipment to be able to make their own living again.
In Sri Lanka, relief activities similar to those in India are being implemented. About 1,000 families from the coastal areas in the south and south-east of the island state are covered by SOS Children's Villages' emergency relief effort.
Near SOS Children's Village Galle in the south, families are being supported in rebuilding their destroyed lives, and smaller relief programmes are also operative there. Early this week, cooking equipment, books, exercise books, school bags, shoes, and school uniforms were distributed to families in the small village of Piyadigama near Galle. Families who had been hard-hit by the sea surge disaster had already received food, but no kitchenware to prepare their food in. Besides, they had run out of money to send those of their children to school who are required to attend. It was possible to remedy the situation there.
SOS Activity Centre for children in Pudukuppam, India - Photo: D. Sansoni
In co-operation with the locals, SOS Children's Villages is entirely rebuilding the two completely devastated fishing villages of Komari and Iraalodai on the east coast, with a total of 830 families to benefit from the activities. Solidly-built community centres which can be used to house schools, kindergartens or health centres shall provide locals with a safe haven during times of emergency in the future. Like in India, co-operatives in Sri Lanka are being provided with fishing equipment and boats; especially families with only one parent left will receive integrated support in all areas of their lives.
In order to take some of the burden off the shoulders of parents facing demanding times who have to rebuild their lives after the disaster, SOS Children's Villages also operates activity centres for children in Sri Lanka and organises classes for students in temporary camps.
In India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia (where SOS volunteer teams provide orphaned children with counselling and try to keep them occupied with children's games in relief camps in the province of Aceh), the opportunities are there to build SOS Children's Villages for children who have lost all their family members in the sea surge disaster.