Sri Lanka

Fowza: from victims to volunteers in Sri Lanka

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Over 120,000 houses along Sri Lanka's coastline were destroyed, and over 516,000 people were displaced, while over 30,000 drowned in the 2004 tsunami. In its aftermath, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) worked tirelessly to help the victims and clear up the devastated areas throughout the island. A number of victims of the tidal wave are now volunteers for the SLRCS themselves and many work in the worst affected areas - like Ampara district in the east coast.

This is the first of three stories about three victims who are now active volunteers in the coastal villages of Ninthavur and Sainthamarathu about 35 kms away from Ampara town.

Fowza, 35 has been a volunteer for the SLRCS for four years. She lives in Ninthavur - a coastal village devastated by the tidal wave.

Her house was partially destroyed and it was Red Cross volunteers that helped clear the debris and rubble from her home. "I need to give something back to the community and being a Red Cross volunteer has given me the opportunity to help others who were in the same situation I was in," says Fowza.

She and her family are also beneficiaries of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and UN Habitat-led Community Recovery and Reconstruction Partnership (CRRP) owner-driven housing programme and so she feels that the very least she can do is spend what spare free time she has helping the Red Cross.

Fowza was not merely 'lucky' to have survived the tsunami herself. On the day tidal wave the struck, her two sons were in pre-school. All 44 children at the school - including the teacher - drowned that day, the only two to survive were her sons who managed to escape by being the first to run to higher ground.

As a volunteer, Fowza works among her community, coordinating weekly community meetings, helping organise the women's' banking society and arranging and coordinating community-based health (CBH) meetings and activities in the area.