Date: 23 Sep 2005
By Gina Wilkinson
The tsunami swept away the hard work of many of Sri Lanka's talented craftspeople, but with help from IOM valuable traditions and skills are being restored and protected for the next generation.
Ondachchimadam, Sri Lanka, September 23, 2005 - When the tsunami hit Kandapan Velmurrhu's town on Sri Lanka's east coast, it swept away his well-respected business built up by generations of master brass-smiths.
"In the first few days after the tsunami I was in complete despair because not only had I lost my home but also my brass workshop, which meant I could no longer provide for my family," said Velmurrhu.
However IOM stepped in to provide Velmurrhu with tools and stocks of brass so that he could resume his traditional way of life – making everything from ornate brass statues for local Hindu temples to humble but effective rice cleaning bowls.
"My grandfather and father were both brass-smiths and I began studying the trade under them 50 years ago," said Velmurrhu, adding that he's confident that IOM's assistance will help him to earn enough to support his family.
An estimated 400,000 Sri Lankans like Velmurrhu lost their source of income to the devastating waves that battered two-thirds of the island's coastline last December.
With funding from Greece, the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO), and USAID, IOM has helped more than 1,800 tsunami-affected families in Sri Lanka rebuild their businesses or develop new sources of income.
Getting back to work not only allows tsunami survivors to make a living and meet their basic needs, it also helps restore a sense of normality on their lives as they deal with the psychological impact of the disaster.
"Now that I'm busy again I don't have time to sit around and worry, and I feel much more confident that we can recover," said Velmurrhu, as some of his many grandchildren gathered close to watch him polish a brass tray to a gleaming shine.
"Despite what we suffered in the tsunami, I am hopeful that at least one of my grandchildren will continue the traditions that we've built up over generations and my family will be able to prosper in the future."