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South Asia: Five years after the tsunami

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By Arnold R. Grahl

Five years after a powerful tsunami devastated communities along the coast of the Indian Ocean, Rotary projects continue to contribute to long-term recovery.

Shortly after the tsunami hit on 26 December 2004, The Rotary Foundation established a Solidarity in South Asia fund, coordinating US$5.9 million in donations toward recovery efforts throughout the region. The Foundation also awarded more than $480,000 in humanitarian grants in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Many individual Rotary club and district foundations also contributed from their own funds.

RI President John Kenny visited Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in late November to inaugurate one result of those recovery projects: a health center that is part of a larger $1.9 million youth complex on about an acre of donated land.

"The work you have done here in Indonesia is a vivid example of how Rotary comes together to achieve so much," Kenny said. "In the first hours and days after the tsunami, Rotary volunteers were among the first to respond on-site. In the days, weeks, and months to follow, Rotarians the world over rallied to send all manner of assistance.

"One thing that impresses me, over and over, is how these programs focus not on short-term satisfaction, or reward for the giver, or recognition," Kenny said. "The best Rotary programs and projects focus on helping build for the future -- and making lives better for generations."

The two-story health center occupies 5,860 square yards of land in the nearby village of Khaju, set aside by government officials who were impressed by the mobilization of Rotarian volunteers in the days after the tsunami. The facility joins an orphanage that opened three years ago, dedicated to child survivors of the disaster. A two-story dormitory for university students is under construction. Water purification and treatment systems serve the entire complex.

Rotary's impact extends from Indonesia to India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, where projects have rebuilt schools, provided classroom supplies, secured boats and fishing equipment to restore local economies, and helped construct and furnish hospitals and shelters for the homeless.

Here are a few of the ongoing projects:

- Two buses have been converted into mobile classrooms in the Aceh Province of Indonesia, bringing primary and secondary education to students across the region. Each bus stops at designated locations a few hours a day, giving students free access to a librarian, books, and multimedia materials. The project is supported by the Solidarity in South Asia fund and the SIKIB, an organization made up of the wives of ministers in the Indonesian government.

- In India, the Solidarity in South Asia relief committee approved $30,000 to send a team of fishermen to Vietnam for advanced training in fishing, sea farming, fish processing, and marketing.

- District 3220 raised more than $12 million to build 25 schools in Sri Lanka to replace ones that were destroyed by the tsunami. As the project nears its end, 22 schools are back in service, providing education for about 12,000 children. Read more. Get this story in the latest RVM: The Rotarian Video Magazine.

- The Solidarity in South Asia fund supported a rehabilitation center for tsunami victims in the Khlong Nakha Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand, providing food, lodging, education, and counseling for those who lost loved ones or whose homes were damaged or destroyed.

Your donations to The Rotary Foundation help make recovery projects like these possible.