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Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Prem's Village Fund for Tsunami Relief

Photo: Prem presenting relief aid
Prem at Hambantota Rotary Club (EMI) Office

After the devastating Tsunami, many people who had met "Prem" while she studied at SCAT, Taunton; worked part time at Musgrove Park NHS Hospital; and stayed at Hemyock Castle wanted to help Mrs. Prem's home village of Godawaya near Hambantota on Sri Lanka's south east coast.

All around the world, people gave very generously to large organizations and NGOs. However, many people wanted to give more direct help to Prem's area.

Prem's Village Fund was set up under the wing of Hambantota Rotary Club (EMI). Under Prem's guidance, it uses local experience from the very successful Janashakthi self-help development organization to identify how best to give help. Where possible, it works with other organizations and agencies.

The fund uses the local knowledge and field experience of its volunteers to identify the way to help applicants to restart their lives. It aims to give rapid help so distributes all donations as quickly as possible.

So far, there have been three high profile presentation events: February, April and June 2005. Grants have also been given out individually. So far, almost 200 families and individuals have been helped to restart their lives and businesses. Many of these people had received no help from government aid or from NGOs.

Many more need help when funds become available: About 2000 people have registered for help. Hambantota Rotary Club (EMI) is continuing to seek other sources of help and to improve co-operation with other agencies.

Some of Our Videos:

Photo of Mrs. Prem presenting a piece of new fishing net to a Sri Lankan Tsunami widow

Mrs. Prem: Janashakthi

Specific Needs

Apart from further donations, there are three specific needs:

Status of Hambantota District

Much has been achieved but there is naturally much still to do.

Some Good Points:

Most items are now available locally in Sri Lanka so donations of money are now more useful than donation of objects: Even small amounts of money can produce dramatic benefits. Local organizers and local people have the clearest idea of local needs: Buying items locally helps rebuild the Sri Lankan economy

Some Problems:

Some city based planners view the coastal area as the "poverty belt." However, many local people are anxious to resume their former lives as quickly as possible: They cannot wait for a long term solution; they fear being moved away from their traditional lands and their traditional work.

Note. Many activities in Hambantota area are organized in a co-operative basis. For example, each catch of fish is shared between the group of people who own the boat, own sections of the nets, help on shore or help beach the boat. Agencies providing aid need to be careful not to destroy the ways that the local culture works.

Prem's Village Fund: Progress So Far

Projects have included:

Update 19th September 2005

In February and March 2005, Prem's Village Fund helped about 80 families and individuals. They are all doing well:


The Tsunami destroyed all but 3 of the 49 fishing boats. By March 2005, there were 15 working boats – many fishing using the new nets provided by Prem's Village Fund. By July, there were 29 boats.

Although the Monsoon season has made the sea rougher, the fishermen have continued to fish in order to recoup their losses: The resulting income has helped the local economy to recover. The mobile phones provided in February have been a useful safety measure for fishermen venturing into these stormy seas.

Small Shops

The new and restarted shops have thrived: The two former garden cleaners at the wrecked 5-star hotel have earned enough through their new shop to have electricity installed in their family home. One other shop was burnt by a criminal, but has managed to restart and recover.

Sewing Machines

The sewing businesses provided with new sewing machines by Prem's Village Fund were ready to provide the new clothes traditionally bought for Sri Lanka's New Year (April 14th). There is a steady demand for new clothes.

Several UK people have donated sewing machines and these are badly needed in Sri Lanka. We are seeking a low-cost way to send them to Sri Lanka.

Water Taps

Families with the new water taps have been able to grow and sell extra vegetables, as well as making much better use of their time – rather than having to fetch and carry water.

Weekly Tsunami Market
The Weekly Tsunami Market

Market Stalls and other Businesses

The market stalls and businesses helped by Prem's Village Fund are doing well. In addition to the busy "official" local markets, Prem helped the Hambantota Rotary Club (EMI) to set up a weekly "Tsunami" market in the grounds of its temporary office. This provided a useful outlet for members' produce and a reassuring first step for new traders or those who had taken over dead relatives' businesses.

Traders at Hambantota's "official" market became concerned that the success of the "Tsunami" market might threaten their trade. Prem helped to convince them that there was more than enough potential business and that the Tsunami survivors deserved some extra help to rebuild their lives.

The beneficial effect of these coastal markets helped a wider area: Much of the produce comes from inland farmers – they had been badly affected by the Tsunami and some had lost family members but most had received no official aid.

The Sri Lankan government has now reclaimed this temporary office, so its grounds are no longer available for the market: Prem and her organisation have found another site: The Tsunami market has successfully moved to its new site.

Weekly Tsunami Market
Fresh Produce at the Tsunami Market

New Donations

In June and July 2005, the new donations from St. Mary's Church Hemyock, Combe Florey and Amnesty International, Shoreham and others were used to help a further 70 families and individuals chosen by the Sri Lankan committee from their list of over 2000 families needing help.

Many of these people have received no help from government Tsunami aid or from other agencies.

Sonya's Ice Cream Day

The money raised recently by Sonya's "Ice Cream Day" at Madford has helped 10 more families.

The Future

Only governments and very large organizations can provide the major infrastructure and large relief projects, but local organizations like Prem's Village Fund have been very successful at providing rapid relief to help people restart their lives and avoid becoming dependent on long term aid.

Prem's Village Fund has distributed all of its donations but there are still about 2000 registered applicants awaiting help. Hambantota Rotary Club (EMI) is seeking other sources of funds and is trying to improve co-operation with other agencies.

Prem's organization continues to place great importance on its field work: For example, applicants are visited so that their needs can be better understood.

New initiatives like the new weekly Tsunami Market are proving very effective.

They are also seeking ways of exporting some of their local products.

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