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Putting people back to work: Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia

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In the immediate aftermath of the December 26 tsunami, the death tolls, and the accompanying shock, left people stunned. Numbers crawled across the bottom of television screens. Graphic images blipped frame by frame. The havoc was immeasurable.

Six months later, there is still nothing as overpowering as these first scenes, but the destruction is slowly being replaced with rehabilitation.

To restore jobs essential to family survival and self sufficiency, CCF initiated cash-for-work programs to clear debris and rebuild municipal infrastructure, repair and building of fishing boats to put fisherman back on the water, well rebuilding to help communities return to daily life and has instituted other programs to put farmers back to work.

Sri Lanka: Clearing the Fields

Although the effects of the tsunami were indeed more pronounced and catastrophic along the coastline, inland villages were also impacted.

"Debris came from behind those trees," said villager, S.W. Gamini, pointing across the 50-acre rice paddy, which was worked by 400 farmers. "It was covered with coir, TVs, radios, furniture, plastic ... all sorts of rubbish. There were even bodies in the field."

"The entire village of 120 families was living off of that rice paddy. After the tsunami, they had no livelihood."

Gamini, a father of two, worked as a rice farmer in Matara, a district in which more than 124,000 people lost their ability to make a living after the tsunami struck. Gamini's village hosted people from other communities made homeless by the tsunami. Although most households had a reserve of rice, the surplus lasted only a few days because of the influx of people.

"CCF came here and helped us clear all the debris from the land," Gamini said. "We are all very happy about this."

The cash-for-work program gave Gamini and his neighbors the ability to earn income while clearing their field of debris. The next step is the clearing of weeds by tractor before seeds are sown this summer.

Buying Daily Food

Colorful, floral dresses and thin white shirts dot the road in Division Welingama, Matara, where women and men are hard at work clearing road-sides and the drainage system of debris. With the monsoon season nearing, it was increasingly pressing and necessary to ensure that stopped drainage ditches were unblocked.

In Matara, a total of 228 men and women are clearing roadsides and drainage systems. The workers clean weeds and other debris from drains and consolidate the debris into piles to be taken away in tractors. The men and women and those who drive the tractors are employed through CCF's cash-for-work program.

Tears well up in A. Chandrani's eyes when she reflects upon her loss and the overwhelming impact the tsunami has had on her life. A native of Sri Lanka, Chandrani was working as a housemaid in Lebanon when the tsunami engulfed her mother-in-law's home and killed her 11-year-old twin sons. As is common practice for women in Sri Lanka, Chandrani moved abroad to earn a higher income. In Lebanon, she had been making 10,000 rupees or about $100 a month.

However, her efforts to secure a better future were halted, and even reversed, by the tsunami. Chandrani was not only faced with the loss of her mother-in-law and children, but was also forced to repay the loan she took out to pay for her earlier ticket to Lebanon.

Now, Chandrani, 35, and her husband, A.H.T Nihal Santha, formerly a fisherman, are living in a camp for those displaced by the tsunami. The two are slowly but surely saving their wages earned through the cash-for-work program, so Santha can buy a boat and return to his fishing job.

"I never expected to work on the road, but in order to live, we need to," she says. "We hope to get a boat, but for now, we use this money to buy our own food."

India: Keeping a Family Together

When a disaster strikes, it often robs people of the jobs which keep them self-sufficient and their families together.

K.G. Kamrunathlke, 42, who lost his home, belongings and business to the tsunami, is one of five cash-for-work participants working at a high school in Matara.

Although once able to accommodate all of the attending students, the high school is now overcrowded due to the inpouring of students whose original schools were destroyed. Kamrunathlke helps clean the overcrowded school.

Until he can rebuild his fish-selling business, Kamrunathlke is relying on wages from the cash-for-work program to support his family and rebuild his house. Kamrunathlke estimates that he needs to work 50 days in order to make the complete payment to the carpenter who will build his house. The father of three has also been able to buy his daughter a birthday present to mark her upcoming birthday.

A Home of Their Own

Dayani, 27, lived with her husband and two sons in her mother's house near the sea. The young couple was building their own home when, with the speed of rolling thunder, the tsunami washed away half of her mother's house.

Although fortunate to survive, she and her husband were left without income. A former lace maker, Dayani's sewing machine and other equipment were swept away in the waters. Her husband, a fisherman, could not return to the work either.

However, all was not lost.

Dayani now participates in a cash-for-work program, packaging food items for food distribution by the government. This job pays for the overall cost of living and schooling, but her eldest son needs special medical treatment for his an injured leg.

The family continues to live with Dayani's mother. However, two rooms of their own and new home had been built and they continue earning and saving toward its completion.