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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 February, 2005, 13:10 GMT
Teacher's return to tsunami zone
Janette Smith with Sri Lankan children
Despite the devastation, Janette finds the children can still smile
Scottish teacher Janette Smith has given up her job to help the Sri Lankan victims of the Asian tsunami.

Janette, who previously worked for 10 years as a volunteer in Sri Lanka, felt a strong calling to return to the country after the disaster.

Her story features in the Frontline Scotland programme After the Wave, to be shown on BBC One Scotland and online at 1900 GMT on Monday, 7 February.


I arrived in Sri Lanka three weeks ago and immediately met with my network of local and foreign friends and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who had got together to support tsunami-affected children in Sri Lanka.

Funds had been raised in Scotland, Denmark and the Netherlands and our task and responsibility was to ensure that all monies directly supported children in need.

Our initial meetings were very fruitful indeed and resulted in deciding on a name for our group, 'Child Support Sri Lanka'.

A Swedish NGO, SHIA, offered the use of one of their vehicles and the newly-retired coordinator of SHIA offered to coordinate our group.

The transport officer of SHIA offered his personal support as driver on weekends and the director of a local community-based NGO, Arthacharya Foundation, offered his expert advice as well as the support of his branch office staff in Hikkaduwa and Galle.

The BBC Scotland Frontline programme had taken an interest in my story in Scotland and filming continued during my first week in Sri Lanka.

Back in Scotland, the people of Arran, my home community, along with the local newspaper, the Arran Banner, have started backing our efforts in Sri Lanka in a very committed way

At that time we had only made an initial needs-assessment trip down to Galle and had identified Lovigahawatte, a small area of devastation that had not received much support.

Since then my Sri Lankan team and I have returned to find that the big NGOs have now moved in and are doing in a big way what we had intended to do in a small way.

That is great for the village and the poor children - they have now received the attention they need.

However, when we talked to school principals and people in the area we found some gaps in the support of the 'big NGOs', so we saw a niche for our relatively small amount of funding.

For example, school uniforms had been given out to the children but somehow the younger boys missed out on receiving shoes and underpants. School text books had been provided but not the study papers for 'A' level students.

We are now organising a project to fill these gaps and have started by commissioning the Arthacharya Foundation staff to carry out a survey of the additional needs of children in 31 schools in the area of Galle town.

Galle school
Many schools in Galle were destroyed in the tsunami

Before the tsunami, Arthacharya had set up a network of children's clubs in some of the communities in which they worked, so we have asked them to set up a Saturday Club for approximately 50 children in the Lovigahawatte area who are currently living in temporary shelter having lost their homes and members of their families 'when the great wave came'.

We have already provided Arthacharya with sports and games equipment to get the club started.

Meanwhile back in Scotland, the people of Arran, my home community, along with the local newspaper, the Arran Banner, have started backing our efforts in Sri Lanka in a very committed way.

Fundraising events have been taking place island-wide and our local fund 'Children of Sri Lanka' has been steadily growing.

In the Netherlands a professional fund raiser has also lent her expertise. This has meant we can broaden our horizons of support in Sri Lanka.

We can see that we should not concentrate all our efforts and funding on Galle because it is now a high-profile area and considerable international aid as well as the local 'tsunami tourists' are arriving in great numbers.

We personally know a survivor and he has told us that the 'tsunami circus' is passing Modera by in their hurry to get down south and the surviving people have received little or no support

The affected people of Galle are being quite well supported now. With additional funding now available to us, our gap-filling focus has widened to the forgotten areas of the tsunami-ravaged coast.

On the outskirts of Colombo, in the suburb of Moratuwa, there is/was an area of the coast, called Modera, where carpenters and other woodworkers lived and carried out their business.

Three quarters of this area was smashed by the waves and approximately 500 people have been left homeless. They are currently living in local temple refugee camps.

We personally know a survivor and he has told us that the 'tsunami circus' is passing Modera by in their hurry to get down south and the surviving people have received little or no support.

We have now asked him to make a survey of the needs of the children in his homeless community and we intend to support them in whatever way is required.

Aid arriving
Most areas are receiving aid but gaps remain

Payagala, a severely devastated area a few miles further down the coast, is also missing the concentration of aid and our contacts there are telling us there are many children in need.

In this area the wave actually travelled about three kilometres inland causing destruction as it went - the damage is shocking, yet most people pass by never knowing that there is so much support required inland.

Daily, as people hear about our way of supporting children, we are hearing of more and more gaps.

There is certainly a considerable amount of work still to be done in the relief effort in our small way.

I am so motivated and committed to the task. My heart has always been with the people of Sri Lanka, they helped me so much when I needed them in the difficult times during my early years as a volunteer in the country.

I now have the opportunity to help them by addressing the needs of their children with the support of the people of Arran and Scotland.




SEE ALSO:
Teacher's Sri Lanka mercy mission
06 Jan 05 |  Scotland


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