Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Dispatch #13 - Tsunami Relief Project

Originally published
Sewing school

The sewing training was successfully completed. The 11 students who completed the training are:

1. K. Chithrankani

2. K. Nagaledcumi

3. A. Manchula

4. A. Thavapiriya

5. K. Kajenthini

6. S.Sinthuja

7. T.Sumithira

8. T.Vanajah

9. V. Tharshini

10. Lingeswary

11. V.Pamila

They can now stitch basic stitches and clothes for children and adult women on their own. They learnt the measurement and cutting techniques. In addition to the plan they also learnt to make painting in the clothes to make their products more attractive.

A discussion was held with students and it was decided that ten sewing machines will be purchased in the name of HHR and be handed over to them having obtained acknowledgments and an embroidery machine is to be purchased for Lingeswary. Vasanthan would organize the sale of garments stitched by Lingeswary. Besides, the sale of garments stitched by the other trainees can also be entrusted to Vasanthan, if they so desire. It was also decided to form a cooperative society having joined Lingeswary, Vasanthan and the others who want to, and to register the same.

In the afternoon of October 20th 10 sewing machines costing SLRs.144647.00 were issued to all and promissory notes were obtained. Their respective parents and guardians also placed their signatures and HHR took charge the service cards of those machines.

They said that they are now able to stitch their clothes and started getting a few orders from friends and relatives. Among the trainees Manchula and Pamila were requested to teach sewing in a class arranged by some Methodists priests in Arayampathy.


HHR staff raised the issue with the Municipal council and he was told that they would do the necessary requirements when they get the funds released. The rainy season has started and the channel is filled with water. We are worried that after some more rain their lands and roads would be flooded.


A letter was given to the Divisional Secretariat of Kaluwanchikudy informing the secretariat about HHR's work in Cheddipalayam, which are:

1. Provide free legal advice

2. Provide facilities for self-employment opportunities

3. Helping the workers engaged in fishing industry

4. Provide training in sewing for the females

Sewing school

Sewing training in Cheddipalayam was inaugurated on November 14, 2005 by the HHR Batticaloa staff. 30 students and 5 parents participated in the function. It was explained to them that the purpose of conducting this training is to provide income-generating skills for those 65 fishing labour family youth. The rules and regulations of the training were explained. Ms.Murugamoorthy the teacher who taught in Poonochchimunai agreed to train the students here also.

Selection of Students

The fishing labourer's society helped in getting the details of the women who wants to learn sewing. Initially 40 women gave their names for the sewing training. Later the teacher complained that more than 55 students are attending the classes and it was difficult for her to control the class. We decided not to have an interview as willingness to learn and the need are important. All the students are above the age of 18 years.

Sanathani and Parasuraman had a discussion with the students and the teacher. We explained HHR's objective of holding this training and advised the school going students and already working people not to come to these classes. We decided to give preference to those 11 students from the fishing labour families in Cheddipalayam. And then select the students who filled the questionnaire which we gave in the beginning and then to give preference to those who attended the classes regularly for the last one month. Finally 44 students were selected to the training and others also agreed to that.

The 44 women who were selected to the training are:













































Finding a place

When HHR inquired about the common buildings to conduct the training, it was said that almost all the common buildings are caught within the boundaries of the Army camps. Parasuraman went and inspected three places to hold the sewing classes and selected one place which seemed to be okay to accommodate about 40 students.

Problems with the owner of the house

Teacher said that there are some problems with the house. She said that, there are two sets of keys for the house. They used to open the room given to us. Besides, the teacher said that liquor is being sold openly in this house, which may sometimes lead to serious complications. HHR staff spoke to him and requested not to do such things when girls are coming to their house to learn. And they said that such things would not happen in future.


The students learnt the basic stitches of sewing. They maintain two books, one scrapbook and a note book. Teacher said that they are learning well and more quickly.


HHR staff handed over 5 sewing machines that were used by the Poonochchimunai sewing school to the Cheddipalayam sewing school. Some other items also were handed over from the Poonochchimunai sewing school:

Boxes of spanners-05


Chairs 6

Black board-01

Scissors- large -- 3

Pencils -2

Paint tins -38

Brush -38

Design book 2

Reals of thread 11


Broom stick 1

Measuring tape 2

Also during this period, 71 yards of poplin and needles for Rs.2754 were purchased and given to the teacher

The HHR staff visits the classes at least three times a week. The classes were held from 1.00 pm to 5.00 p.m. on week days.

Ms.Achcha was elected as the leader of the group of trainees. The teacher said that she won't be able to teach the whole part for 45 students in 6 months so it might take nine months to complete the training. She also requested for a maternity leave for two weeks in January or in February.

Tea stall of Mr.Gopalapillai

HHR agreed to support Mr.Gopalapillai to restart his tea stall. Before the tsunami he had a stall on the beach. He has five children. He wanted help to restart his tea stall in the main road. He wanted HHR to provide 2 tables, 6 chairs, 2 benches and 6 rice plates. In addition, 10 pairs of cups and saucers, 1 rack, 1 show case etc. at a cost of about Rs.15 000 and a further sum of Rs.10,000 were needed to purchase sundry items. He further said that he can derive an income of 500/- per day. HHR has given him Rs.15000 to purchase the above said items.

Need assessment report of fishing labourers

HHR requested Mr. .A. Sornalingam to write a need assessment report on the fishing laborers of Cheddipalayam. HHR staff collected the necessary information and handed over to Mr.A.Sornalingam. He wants to have a discussion with the people writing the final report.

Discrimination in rebuilding

The fishing labourer families complained to HHR that the temporary shelters provided to them are leaking during the rain and they can't live there anymore. They reported that only the people of Cheddipalayam North are suffering from leaking. HHR has sent letters to the Government Agent and to the Divisional Secretariat of Kaluwanchikudy regarding this problem.


HHR staff collected personal information of the Manalchenai people. From the information we received there are 97 families inhabited in this small village. They came from different districts such as:

- 17 families from Moneragala

- 02 families from up country

- 17 families from Tissamaharamaya

- 3 families from Lunugala

- 3 families from Lunugala

- 1 family from Matara

- 38 families from Komari

- 5 families from Ampara

- 3 families from Thandiyadi

- 2 famiies from Kommathurai

- 1 family from India

- 2 families from Thambiluvil

- 2 families from Akkaraipattu

- 40 of the 97 families came from Hill Country estates.

Building two common wells

The places to dig two common wells were selected in consultation with the villagers. These wells are to be erected near the houses of Thamilchelvan and Sinnathamby. Both the places are in the middle of the families and can be utilized easily. It was decided that the owner of the lands where the common wells are to be built should erect their fence leaving aside that portion of lands. No plantation should be done within that portion.

Building 10 Toilets

And it was decided to build toilets for the families according to their needs such as:

1. Families having more children, specially more girls

2. Families having crippled or disabled

3. Families having sickly persons

4. Any other exceptional matters would also be taken in to consideration, like common toilets in places where many families living closer to each other

The people have selected the families who need toilets. It was discussed with the people that as it is raining and digging the wells and toilet pits would be a problem- as the water level will be high. There for it was suggested we build the toilets and the wells in June 2006, when the under water level goes down.

Sewing school

26 students have given their names to be selected to study the sewing, four of them are males:

Nagamany Prathipkumary

Nagamany Vasanthakumary

Ganesamoorthy Kausalathevy

Kasilingam Susila

Thuraisamy Vanitha

Pasupathy Shunthalathevy

Sellaiah Jeeva

Ariyanayagam Suhanthy

Pasupathy Jeyarany

Nathapillai Yuhenthiny

Thinakaran Kasthuri

Shanmugam Ratha

Paramasivam Theepajothy

Velu Punithavathy

Arumugam Komathy

Ralaniyappan Santhikumari

Murugesu Yogarani

Ganesh Rajeswary

Thavarasa Kuventini

Nathapillai Mahaledchumi

Vijayakumar Subajini

Thangarajah Kamaleswary

Arumugam Shanmugarajah

Nagamany Sivakumar

Selliah Thamilselvan

Thavarajah Sbaharan

They wanted to learn sewing because they wanted to improve their financial situation. This will help many learn new sewing techniques help them save money through stitching their own clothes. The people said that they can use the community building in Manalcenai to conduct the classes. Nathapillai Mahaledchumi came forward to give the training but later she said that she is unable to conduct the classes as she is not amenable to the conditions imposed and also that there is nobody at home to look after her children. However Selliah Arulamma and her two daughters Subajini and Nishanthini are willing to give training. After Arulamma's husband had gone missing due to army activities, their family was dependent on the income they derived from tailoring alone.

Sewing class postponed to January 2006

The students requested HHR to postpone the classes to January. The reasons are:

The common building is being utilized by the ZOA organization to store their agricultural items such as seed paddy, fertilizer, pesticides, etc, and in addition World Vision has stored their bags of cement there. The building will become free only in January, 2006.

Most of the students are engaged in home gardening and would be busy with that until the end of the rainy season in January 2006.

Regrets of Manalchenai people

The people said that others have used their sufferings to get help and they were given nothing. One man called Pasupathy Thevaraj said that there was a meeting last Friday arranged by Mr.Tharmalingam. In the meeting they were to offer houses to Manalchenai people but Komari people were there and they told them only after they get their houses the Manalchenai people can be given houses. All the Manalchenai people were present in the meeting but only 6 persons were there from Komary. The people were disappointed and decided not to attend any meetings in future.

HHR staff assured them that HHR is going to help only the families who had come to live here from other districts, due to conflict that they will also be made to participate in social activities and that they will be provided legal advice.

HHR is also collecting information and taking necessary actions to get the deeds of the lands of the Manalchenai people.


Women's Society

HHR had a discussion with the women of Nasivantheevu about the formation of a women's society. HHR was told that one had existed before, formed in 1979 by the name "Valarpirai mathar rural development society" with S..Marimuthtu as president and Velathai as secretary. This was registered with the rural development officer at the divisional secretariat. As the president fell ill after three years, Velaththai was appointed as president in 1985 and continued to function. As almost all the people were displaced in the year 1990 due to riots, the society had ceased to be active. About 100 women had held membership in this society. It has had two bank accounts- one savings account and the other a current account. There had been a balance of Rs.12,000 in the savings account with operating the accounts till the 1991 and the pass books were handed over to the rural development officer of the divisional secretariat.

According to what they said further, the products centre at Nasivantivu had been built under a contract signed by the women's society. During the disturbances in 1997, the bus service was stopped. After members of the women's society spoke up, arrangements were made for the restoration of the bus service forthwith. They were giving loans to some women with the help of NGOs. Velathai the president of the old society and some of the committee members told us that they can function well if we help them to restart the Society. They said that they hope to do something much better having collected all the women who were in many small groups.

Restarting the women's society

On 03.11.05 the reorganization meeting of the Women's Development Society was held. S.Vinoraj of the Rural Development Officer who is in charge of the societies under the Divisional secretariat, and S.Varatharajan the Grama Niladari were present. About 75 women were present at the meeting. The former president Mrs.Murugan Velathai presided and the rural development officer conducted the meeting.

The new women's development society was formed and accordingly the following were elected to the respective positions:

- Ms.Velathai Murugan was unanimously elected as the President.

- Ms. Arumugam Disananthy was unanimously elected as the secretary.

- Ms.Saraswathy Krishnamoorthy was unanimously elected as the treasurer.

- Ms.Mniarasam Nallathamby was unanimously elected as the vice president.

- Ms.Shanthy Chandirasegaram was unanimously elected as the assistant secretary.

- Other eight women were unanimously elected as committee members

- The Grama Sewaga will be the patron.

- Ms.Yogeswary Sabapathy was unanimously elected as the Auditor.

The Rural development officer explained the constitution of the women's society.

1. All the women above the age of 18 years are eligible to hold membership

2. All those become members should pay Rs.24/- per annum as subscription at the rate of Rs.2.00 per month.

3. The president should distribute the resources available locally and the resources received from outside, properly among the members

4. The annual general meeting should be held at the beginning of the year. Committee meetings should be held fortnightly. Besides, special meetings, if any, to be held, it should be notified by affixing notices signed by president and the secretary 14 days prior to the date of such meeting. RDO should also be informed of this.

5. If matters relating to any plan of programme are to be discussed, all members of the committee should meet together and take a decision. The decision arrived at should be recorded in the minutes book of the committee. A separate book must be maintained for the purpose of recording the minutes of the General Meeting. The signatures of all those attended the said two meeting should compulsorily be obtained.

6. If the president or the secretary or the treasurer or any of the committee members wishes to resign, she or they should show sufficient cause for their resignation at a special meeting convened for the purpose. Only there after the substitutes must be elected in their place. The RDO or the GS must be present at such meetings. Minutes of all such meetings should be forwarded to the divisional secretary. Besides, all the information with regard to the village should be genuine, true and correct.

The RDO further informed that the minutes of this meeting and a copy of the manuscripts must be brought to the divisional secretariat signed by the president, secretary and the treasurer and that the said minutes have to be sent to the provincial council.

HHR told them that it will give nine rupees in the name of each member to the society. HHR staff also told them that it will financially help the society to improve self employments of the women who have become widows due to war, provide legal advice when necessary, conducting seminars and workshops etc.

HHR helped them to regain Rs.12, 000 which is the balance of their former society from the bank. The president of the society told HHR that many of them don't posses identity cards and Parasuraman requested their details so we can help them to get identity cards. The president said that they need to have their own seal and register books for the association.

Tractor driving and boat mechanism Training for youth

HHR Helped the GTZ to organize an introductory session on the vocational training in Nasivantheevu. In this session, duration of training, conditions and how to produce marketable items with the resources locally available were explained to the youth of Nasivantheevu who wanted to undergo a vocational training. GTZ has selected 8 students for the training but they did not go, due to security problems.

Risks of the people

HHR was informed that the people who went fishing on the night of Saturday 22.10.05 were suspected to have been apprehended and detained by the EPDP, the army of Valaichenai and the Karuna group. The people here are living in fear as a result, that the people are beaten and tortured at random and that they all are frightened not knowing what to do.


1. A letter was given to the Divisional Secretariat of Kaluwanchikudy informing the secretariat about HHR's work in Thuraineelavani that are:

2. Provide free legal advice

3. Help women who lost their husbands

4. Putting them in touch with other organizations

Widows association

During this period HHR collected particulars of the women who have lost their husbands. There were 274 in all. 249 of them lost their husbands due to war and the tsunami. They wanted help to sell rice, run small scale business, run fowl pens, buy sewing machines, etc. They also wanted wells and toilets. The women agreed that if they work together they can get much assistance for their development and it will give them an extra strength.

The girl who helped HHR staff in collecting this information has committed suicide due to problems in her house.

Cleaning the lagoon

HHR requested that Mr .A.Sornalingam write a report regarding the cleaning of the lagoon in Thuraineelavanai. HHR staff collected the necessary information and handed over this issue to Mr.A.Sornalingam. He obtained details regarding the lagoon from the Fisheries department. He wants to have a discussion with the people before writing the final report.

Sanathani spoke to Mr. Hugo Karlsson -- representative of UNOCHA who asked to send the reports to him and he would help finding assistance to clean the lagoon.


Psychosocial support

Obtained the particulars of 42 families in which they have lost the children, husbands and relatives, and are suffering as a result. In total, 72 persons have died in those 42 families in the tsunami. It is to be noted that all of them were the people affected by the war as well as the tsunami.

HHR has consulted the local psychiatrist regarding the work of HHR in Periyaneelavanai and he agreed that they would provide the necessary training to the staff to do the work.

On 13 October 2005, Mr.Parasuraman and Sanathani, an HHR staff member, went to Palamunai hospital and attended the fortnight meeting held for the psychosocial support groups functioning in Ampara district. The aim of this meeting is to analyze the information related to psycho-social activities, to collect the updated details regarding the psycho-social programs which are underway, and to improve coordination of all psycho-social related activities within Ampara district in order to restore and improve the services for the people of Ampara district. Organisations present were: Islamic Relief, IOM, CAM, DRC, Forut, Shadow, UNICEF, And RDF.

From the issues they discussed we realized that:

1. They don't have regular sub committee meetings in their areas

2. Most of them are giving training on their own without any coordination

3. Merci Malaysia is giving livelihood training also

4. Rural Development Foundation (RDF) is working in Periyaneelavanai but they are not aware about these 42 families at all.

5. They concentrate only about the transition camps.

As the funds to do the program are not sufficient to cover costs, HHR is requesting financial assistance from other organizations. Mr. Xavier, the HHR director, has already written a letter to the Sri Lankan psychiatric Consultants Association for support.

Deteriorating Situation in the East

The project staff could not do the activities as planned as the situation changes every hour in Batticalao and Ampara. When there were disturbances in Trincomalee in October it was reflected in Batticaloa, Ampara area. There were increased hartals, killings, arrests and disappearances reported in Batticalao Ampara districts.

When Sanathani went to visit the project areas in November she could not go to Manalchenai as there was hartal and tense situation in Akkaraipattu due to the killings of muslims in a Mosque in Akkaraipattu.

Then again in the first week the programe had to be cancelled as there were continuous hartals and killings.