I have always travelled to Sri Lanka my home country, every year, and every year I have discovered something new and special about Sri Lanka. The tsunami disaster has brought me back home again, but this time to discover human tragedy at an indescribable level. When the tsunami disaster occurred my only wish was to do something for my country, but more so because I believe those who can do, should do. Thus I am volunteering with Sarvodaya for the next three months, in whatever way and capacity possible.
Driving down to Galle on 12 February with Dr. Ariyaratne and others, I thought I was prepared to witness the mass devastation. However when we stopped the vehicle to look at the coast, I got out and the first thing in front of my feet was a baby ‘s rattle. How do you prepare yourself for this?
On either side of Galle Road, for miles there is mostly nothing but debris, weary palm trees battered by the tsunami and people searching amongst the mess for their belongings, for their memories and for their lives.
We drove along Galle Road, stopping first at a Sarvodaya camp in Ambalangoda (Arukana). Dr Ariyaratne attended the village meeting where the needs and problems were being addressed. The people were all very alert and eager to hear what Dr Ariyaratne was saying. One lady stood out to me as she approached Dr. Ariyaratne, she told him that they would like a road going through their village. If they had had a road before more people would have been able to escape when the tsunami came. The concept of ‘participation’ and ‘people-to-people’ stands out in interactions such as this.
The next stop was the Shanthi Sena camp to Parahliya, where a Sarvodaya Society meeting was taking place. Despite the loss of two of her children, the president of the society was actively participating in the meeting. All around them major efforts were being made to clear away debris, repair buildings and a nearby medical camp was bustling with people.
At the many Sarvodaya camps I noticed how young the Sarvodaya volunteers were and was amazed to find out that they were teenagers who had travelled all the way from the interior districts, such as Polonaruwa and Kurunegala, to offer their services. This demonstrates that the ability and capacity to help does not lie in your age or your knowledge, but in your compassion for the fellow human being and it is reassuring that these teenagers are tomorrow’s leaders.
When the tsunami disaster occurred, I met people abroad who have either lived in-, travelled to- or worked in Sri Lanka and they all resonated one same opinion about Sri Lankans. They said ‘They are survivors’. From my trip to Galle this was more than evident; people are getting up and facing the immense challenges that lie ahead, but simultaneously the Sri Lankan spirit has re-awakened and both those affected and unaffected will rise up and work together to put this country back together again.