There was an unmistakable air of excitement in the village of Nalla Vadu as the official ceremony of handing over newly repaired boats got under way just before dusk.
It started with a special service in the village temple and a short parade to the beach. Children jumped up and down, and played tag in the sand; the women of the village kept a watchful eye on the children in case their excitement got the best of them. And the men of the village put the final touches on their boats ... getting them ready to go out the next morning for what would be their first fishing trip since December 26.
Everyone clapped as a pole with a green flag -- the village's fishing colors -- was passed from Christian Children's Fund's staff members to the owners of each of the repaired fishing boats.
CCF-India has been helping repair or replace these fiberglass boats so that men could get back out on the sea and begin earning a living for their families once again.
In this village, CCF repaired 25 fishing boats. One boat provides a living for six families. Everyone is involved in the venture. The women help by processing the fish and taking them to the marketplace. The children help their fathers launch the boats and bring them in.
As the boats returned to shore the following morning, the village turned out again. You could see the village come to life, as men and young boys helped pull in the newly repaired boats. Women gathered around as nets were brought in and fish were retrieved. The women began sorting the fish and cleaning them, preparing them to go to market. Bicycles stood by ready to take the first catch to the market.
CCF-India has taken the lead in providing livelihood restoration for many of those affected by the tsunami. This includes a wide range of interventions:
- repairing fiberglass boats and replacing "catamarans" (the five-log fishing rafts that many fishermen use)
- providing large ice boxes so that fishermen can stay out on the water longer
- replacing nets
- providing women with new scales and fish-cleaning and -processing tools
- providing women with sewing machines so they can work out of their homes
- repairing and cleaning irrigation canals, so farmers can begin replanting their fields
- helping families open small village businesses (such as a corner eatery that is now teaching youth motor repair)
These families are used to being self-sufficient. They are used to hard work. Commercial fishing is a way of life for whole villages and is passed down from generation to generation.
And so, as the boats were handed over and as they came in with their first catch, it was easy to understand the excitement in the air. It was the excitement of knowing that the village of Nalla Vadu had taken one more step in recovering from the tsunami.
It was the excitement of knowing that life is returning to normal.