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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Monday, December 19, 2005

Shock therapy for Sri Lanka's tsunami-hit children

WebIndia: 10/12/2005"

When the sea suddenly rose and the water came into their home during last year's tsunami, Santina lost her home and two sisters. A year later, the 15-year-old was brought back to the same place to get over the worst nightmare of her life. It was a traumatic experience for Santina but the shock of confronting the sea again was meant to help her heal after the Dec 26 tsunami of last year.

Lacking other methods to ease the children's nightmares, the nurses resorted to shock therapy by taking Santina and others back to the place they once called home.

"I was afraid when the aunts recently took us back to visit the seaside for the first time," the girl said, referring to her children home's nurses.

Santina and her three sisters were dropped off by their mentally ill mother at the children's home long before the devastating tsunami swept the Sri Lankan coast, killing 35,000 people there and 191,000 more in 11 other countries.

Not only did the tsunami take with it two of Santina's sisters it also claimed 121 of the 175 children who lived in the home and the building itself.

The surge threw many children into the barbed wire fence that surrounded the building. Only 30 bodies were recovered, the rest were swept out to sea.

Mullaittivu on Sri Lanka's northeastern coast lost 3,000 of its 15,000 inhabitants and most of its structures.

Along the ocean front not a single house was left standing, only the facade and the steeple of the village church withstood the powerful wave.

"It looks like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb explosion," remarked a shocked relief worker shortly after the catastrophe.

Relief workers have since cleared away the debris in the town 280 km northeast of Colombo - the baby bottles, toys, photos and all the other silent witnesses of the drama that unfolded and lay littering the area weeks after the disaster.

A new children's home is nearly completed for the survivors in Devipuram, deep in Sri Lanka's interior and far away from the sea.

For the past year, the children have been living together with their nurses in cramped sheds christened 'Senthalir', the Tamil name for a toddler.

The toddlers themselves don't lead easy lives, despite the affection given to them by their nurses.

The survivors were soon joined by 51 more children orphaned by the tsunami, all having to share the restricted space, sleeping snuggled one against the other on mattresses laid out on the floor.

Just recently, an impoverished father added another resident when he dropped off his child at the shelter, sheepishly asking whether the nurses could care for the kid.

For Santina, leaving the home is an unlikely possibility. Her mother's condition deteriorated upon hearing that two of her daughters died in the tsunami. She is now confined to a psychiatric asylum.

But Santina and her 10-year-old sister are bravely accepting their fate.

"When I think about my dead sisters, it is hard," she said, "but I am still grateful that I have the opportunity to live here at the home."

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