Sarvodaya has many years of experience responding to natural disasters like floods, droughts and landslides as well as man made disasters. Sarvodaya has the infrastructure to deal with disasters of this nature although nothing of this magnitude has been seen in Sri Lanka before. With its unique structure of district and divisional coordinators it is very well connected to the grass roots and Sarvodaya’s reputation in the community made it a trusted partner in its outreach activities. Sarvodaya Founder President and Leader Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne personally visited all affected districts in the South, North and East with a team of senior staff members to assess the situation first hand.
Within hours Sarvodaya started receiving a significant amount of support from ordinary Sri Lankan citizens, the private sector and its international supporters, including the Sarvodaya branches from U.S.A., Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany and other key resource partners such as the Novartis Foundation of Switzerland and the Arigatou Foundation of Japan. Thousands of compassionate minds from around the world donated through web based payment gateways. Sarvodaya is deeply moved by this heart felt generosity and is committed to acknowledging them by way of putting this money into good use.
Sarvodaya, with its previous experience in disaster management, emphasized was on providing RELIEF to the affected people located throughout the country. The RELIEF effort provided the following:
- Cooked food, followed by dry rations
- Clean drinking water
- Clothes for men, women & children
- First aid, medical supplies and care which included teams of doctors
- Tents and tarpaulins to provide temporary shelter
- Temporary sanitary facilities
The above services and supplies reached all 14 affected districts and benefited approximately 40,000 displaced families.
Within a few days following the disaster, Sarvodaya made a rapid, qualitative assessment of the camp management status and a report was circulated to relief organizations, including the UN agencies. This report became an important reference document in the entire tsunami relief operation. Sarvodaya leader Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne visited all affected districts including Jaffna and Mullaitivu and met with the LTTE leadership to discuss rehabilitation measures. The Executive Director Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne participated in discussions with the Secretary General of United Nations, Mr. Koffi Annan and the President of the World Bank Mr. James Wolfenson.
While the immediate relief services described above were provided within one to three days, action was also taken to ensure the following to many of the displaced / affected people:
- Re-constituting family units,
- Providing counseling by trained personnel to deal with trauma
- Providing continuous medical care, specially to pregnant mothers and children
- Cleaning wells
- Disinfecting places of temporary residence
- Organising programmes for pre-school and school children
- Meaningful work for adults for food / cash
Sarvodaya made a special announcement, on the night of 26th December night itself through the Independent Television Network and later through news papers and radio, that, should the need arise, it will take care of all displaced orphaned children of primary school age with immediate effect, provided the affected children are referred to it by the authorized state agency – the Department of Child Care and Probation Services.
Action was also taken to start collecting data about the displaced people in camps to be managed by Sarvodaya. Data by families with respect to loss of life, loss of income-earners, damage to property, loss of documents etc were fed into a system managed with the help of professional volunteers. Similar action was also taken to collect data from affected Sarvodaya villages.
A very young group of bloggers at Sarvodaya HQ, USA and in the UK worked around the clock feeding information to the World Wide Web as and when they received first hand information through Sarvodaya District coordinators in action at all affected districts. www.sarvodaya.org became a Tsunami information gateway to the world with hundreds of popular websites like Google, Apple, Nortel and U2 linking the site with millions of concerned sympathizers around the globe. Sarvodaya was in prime focus in almost all international media coverage including CNN, BBC, ABC, NBC etc. Sarvodaya’s commitment, volunteer contribution, relief collection and distribution plan was discussed with much praise.
The relief work will continue for as long as it is needed. However, the distribution of relief supplies will be more systematic with needy families being identified and issued with some means of identification. After the 3rd week relief supplies are now being sent only to Sarvodaya field centers for distribution to selected camps and families as needed.