A BIG THANK YOU from Sarvodaya and the People of Sri Lanka to all the Compassionate Hearts!
h1. Continuing Waves of Compassion
It is now 3 months since the Tsunami hit the shores of Sri Lanka – taking the lives of 40,000 countrymen, injuring another 6000, and leaving nearly a million people homeless. This was a profoundly human tragedy. No monetary value can be attached to the human loss – the suffering, the pain, the anguish and the trauma of the ones who survived this world calamity.
Within 2 hours of the disaster, Sarvodaya got to work. We joined the *First Wave of Compassion* -ordinary Sri Lankan citizens who led the immediate emergency relief operation throughout the country. In the thousands they went in search of survivors, rescuing them whereever possible, giving them shelter, protection, love and care. People found refuge in Schools, Temples, Churches Mosques and Kovils. Sarvodaya went those places and set up camps, putting up temporary shelter, feeding thousands, and mobilizing volunteer doctors. There were no barriers of ethnicity, religion, socio-economic class. We were all equal at the feet of the mother nature. For once we thought, we are all united.
Then came the *Second Wave of Compassion* – organized relief efforts, the concerned public, the private sector, and our international friends joined our efforts. Sarvodaya’s friends include both institutions and individuals and include thousands of volunteers who have visited Sri Lanka, who have been a part of Sarvodaya village development, and for whom the tragedy was more just the numbers. As one friend of Sarvodaya said, “We know these people, we know their faces.”
In order to adapt its management to the crisis, Sarvodaya convened a inter-disciplinary National Awakening Council (NAC) to guide the Sarvodaya 5R programme. Accountability and transparency procedures based on a voluntary disclosure policy were adopted from early on with information been regularly updated on the Sarvodaya website. Contacts were established with the Presidential Secretariat, the Prime Ministers Office, Ministries of Social Welfare, Health, Finance, the Centre for National Operations (CNO) and the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN).
h1. The 2nd Month – Transition from Relief to Medium Term Actions Towards Recovery
After extensively involved in emergency relief for over a month, while continuing the same, we entered the long term recovery phase with a systematic needs assessment focusing primarily on the 226 Sarvodaya villages. Sarvodaya then made a commitment to take the primary responsibility for total reconstruction of these 226 and came up with a 12 point integrated programme of action (Tsunami to Deshodaya Planning Document).
One key priority area was housing and resettlement. Sarvodaya was able to identify several resource partners to embark on a large scale housing reconstruction programme. Holcim, a leading Cement Manufacturing Company in the world, partnered with Sarvodaya on a major housing programme and the foundation stone for the first house was laid early in March.
h1. The 3rd Month – March Towards Long Term Recovery
By end February 2005, based on the community surveys conducted, Sarvodaya was in a position to develop specific projects and action plans for support by development partners and donors. We are currently working on over 10 different projects (Project Plan PDF).
Formal Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the government have been signed to reconstruct over 300 houses in the districts of Batticoloa, Trincomallee and Kalutara. All 3 villages will be built using ecological sustainability and disaster risk reduction principles. The new village in Kalutara, Lagoswatta, has been designed with the technical advice and guidance of world renowned Australian permaculture experts Max Lindegger and Lloyd Williams who are affiliated to Ecological Solutions Inc. and Global Ecovillage Network (GEN).
New technical staff including civil engineers were recruited both at the field and headquarters level for infrastructure development projects. We envisage a long term recovery programme of 3-5 years, therfore a careful systems analysis to manage the entire operation was undertaken. Transaid – a British NGO which specializes in transport management with prior experience with Sarvodaya – offered immediate assistance to review the transport needs of the Tsunami relief operation and help plan a strategy. As a result, two British expert volunteers, Ms.Carolyn Barber and Mr.Sandy Hughen from Wincanton PLC visited Sarvodaya on 13th – 24th March. They completed a comprehensive assessment on transport needs of Sarvodaya Tsunami relief operation, visiting a sample of villages and meeting with field staff. The findings and recommendations were then discussed with the senior management of Sarvodaya and they are being now implemented.
Policy level involvement of Sarvodaya in the Tsunami Relief and Long Term Recovery
While working solidly on the ground in the emergency relief and long term reconstruction work, Sarvodaya was also in the forefront of policy debate on vital issues related to the Tsunami recovery process.
The Sarvodaya leader Dr.A.T. Ariyaratne, Executive Director Dr.Vinya Ariyaratne and other officials of Sarvodaya appeared regularly on national media and also participated in various high level discussions with the government, UN agencies, bi-lateral and bilateral agencies.
Dr.Vinya Ariyaratne attended a meeting with the President of the World Bank Mr.James Wolfenson and also attended the civil society representative meeting with Mr.Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General. The Executive Director was appointed as a member of the Steering Committee on the Multilateral Agency Needs Assessment Exercise.
Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne and Dr.Vinya Ariyaratne met with the President for a closed door meeting on 4th February 2004 to discuss Sarvodaya’s involvement in the national Tsunami recovery effort.
Dr.Vinya Ariyaratne attended The UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) which was held from 18 to 22 January 2005 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. The Conference provided a unique opportunity to promote a strategic and systematic approach to reducing vulnerabilities and risks to hazards. It underscored the need for, and identified ways of, building the resilience of nations and communities to disaster. Dr. Ariyaratne made a presentation on the Sarvodaya Tsunami Relief Operation at the session organized by the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) of Japan.
Mr.Saman Algoda, the Finance Director, represented Sarvodaya at the NGO Summit of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Environment Ministers Meeting held in Nairobi Kenya from 19-20 February 2005. (FD PHOTO with UNEP ED)
Mrs.Udani Mendis, Deputy Executive Director –Technological Programmes attended the UNEP/UN-HABITAT Regional Expert Group Meeting on Eco-Housing & Cities during from 21- 23, March 2005 at the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok.
h1. Where are we now?
After 90 days, can we be satisfied with what we have achieved? Yes and no. Yes, when we look at the length and breath of Sarvodaya’s outreach to the affected communities and the foundation that has now been laid for long term recovery work. However, as a nation we cannot be happy about what we have been able to achieve thus far. A large number of people are still in temporary settlements without knowing when and where they are going to be finally resettled. Due to the 100/200 meter buffer zone and the limited availability of alternative land for resettlement, people are left with no hope for the future. They are being re-traumatized. While we are rebuilding houses for those who are not affected by the buffer zone, in the process the communities can get divided. New social disparities and new pockets of poverty can be created. Sarvodaya is extremely conscious on these phenomena and its holistic approach is addressing this to a great extent. Sarvodaya continues to have faith in our people – their resiliency, their own capacity to recover, to re-awaken with the waves of compassion from all of you that brought us to this point.
_Executive Director – Sarvodaya_