Fate determined that the seven members of Wilden de Silva’s family were to survive the tsunami of 26 December 2004.
With the first killer waves just one hour away, they set off from their home in Weligama on the Southern coast on a pilgrimage to Kataragama. They escaped the oncoming wave by driving inland – being among the survivors of a calamity that claimed nearly 40,000 lives in Sri Lanka alone. Their same fortune, however, did not befall their home – having borne the brunt of the tsunami, the de Silvas returned home to find one wall standing and everything washed away into the ocean.
Uprooted from their home and community, they were given a fresh lease on life when selected to be one of 100 recipients of homes built by the Galleon Tsunami Relief Fund at the Monrovia Estate, Rathgama. Monrovia is earmarked to be a 1000-unit housing scheme constructed by various companies and donor agencies. The Galleon project at Monrovia was coordinated by John Keells Holdings Limited on behalf of the Galleon Tsunami Relief Fund - established by Raj Rajaratnam for the purpose of rebuilding houses for the victims of the tsunami. Rajaratnam was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck and witnessed the widespread devastation. He has made a personal contribution of US $ five million to the fund. The fund is being administered in Sri Lanka by Hemas Holdings Limited, Singer (Sri Lanka) Limited and John Keells Holdings Limited. The recipients moved into their house as the country marked the first anniversary of the catastrophe – seven months later, the determination and resilience of the de Silva family, and that of their neighbours, is evident in the sheer normalcy that they have brought into their daily routines and lifestyles.
The residents of the Galleon housing scheme were drawn from several areas of the Southern Coastal belt -all of them forced by the tsunami to leave behind their neighbours, relatives and the houses in which they made homes for many years. Yet, new associations and liaisons have formed in the space of a few months – together in the tragedy, the people of Monrovia are today laying the foundations to a new plural community, based on a new set of shared values and beliefs.