When the Tsunami hit in December an estimated number of 41,393 houses were completely destroyed while 36,168 homes were damaged . A vital part of the rehabilitation of the tidal wave survivors consists of providing them with houses they can call their own. The objective of Sarvodaya in the execution of its house-building program is not only to provide shelter to the Tsunami survivors, but to rebuild and reawaken their lives.
One of the first companies that came forward to support Sarvodaya in this housing scheme was Holcim. The company set up a special fund towards this, the Holcim Fund for Rebuilding Sri Lanka, and donated all the money from it towards building houses for Tsunami survivors with the project management of the Sarvodaya Economic Entrepreneurship Development Services (SEEDS.) The first part of the housing program was inaugurated on 2nd March, 2005 in the villages of Brahmanawatte and Mohottiwatte in Balapitiya in Galle district under the auspices of Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, the Hon. President of Sarvodaya, and Mr. Peter Spirig, the Chief Executive Officer of Holcim.
The houses are being built on land, which is owned by the affected people, or on land, which has been allocated to the survivors by the government. They are placed away from the 100 or 200 meter limit that is prescribed by the government and conform to specifications and plans that have been approved by the Urban Development Authority. A highlight of these housing projects has been their concentration on eco-friendliness. Sarvodaya decided to use tiles instead of asbestos sheets on the roofs of the houses and the required building material has been obtained from the local areas. This also gave employment opportunities to the people of these areas and ensured that the local people got involved in all aspects of the building process. This participation and involvement of the whole community was a vital aspect of the housing projects and will go a long way in not only helping those affected by the Tsunami recover from the trauma they suffered, but in creating village integration. It also ensured that the beneficiaries of the houses and the local people got the opportunity to express their opinions and formulate and implement development schemes by themselves. The local Sarvodaya Shramadana Societies provided the leadership for the housing scheme. Members of the local chapters rallied behind each other and worked hand in hand to build these houses as quickly as possible. They were greatly helped by Holcim engineers and management who continuously supervised the projects.
On 12th July 2005, 154 houses were handed over to the respective beneficiaries. Seventy-seven of these houses are in the villages of Balapitya, Brahmanawatte, and Mohottiwatte in Galle district while thirty-seven are in Randombe village in Ambalangoda. Forty houses were handed over in the villages of Kottegoda, Suduwella, and Batigama in Matara district. Mr. Peter Spirig, Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, the Matara District Secretary, Gamini Jayasekara, the SEEDS Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Emil Anthony, and Holcim staff members as well as Sarvodaya district coordinators and staffs were present at the handing over of houses in Matara.
At the ceremonies, a few symbolical houses were chosen and the chief guests cut ribbons and lit oil-lamps in these homes. The beneficiaries of the other houses were ceremoniously handed their keys. In addition to this, the beneficiaries as well as the other inhabitants of the villages were given kitchen utensils with the support of JTS of South Korea.
In Matara, the District Secretary spoke on how Sarvodaya had greatly assisted the government in the relief phase after the Tsunami. He also noted how the use of the Sarvodaya staff in building the houses had ensured that there was more output for the money invested and that the construction was completed efficiently, which might not have been the case had the building been given in contracts to outsiders. There were also speeches given by Mr. Spirig, Mr. Anthony, and Dr. A.T. as well as by representatives of the families that received house.
The second phase of the house-building program is now underway. Fifty houses in Kalmunai and twenty-five houses in Batticaloa will be handed over at the end of August.