Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Mohammed, teashop owner

Libby Kelly

Atchi Mohammed was a fisherman on the east coast of Sri Lanka. When the tsunami hit the small town where he lived on 26th December 2004 it swept away his fishing boat and all his nets and with it his livelihood.

One day Mohammed turned up at the Medair office in his home town of Addalaichenai. As the only NGO working in the area he had heard that they were giving out household items to victims of the tsunami and he wondered if they would be able to give him some cups and a kettle to start a teashop. Medair had already decided that there was a need in the area to use some of the 2500 temporary shelters that they were building for people who, just like Mohammed, had lost their livelihood through the tsunami. So not only did he receive his cups and a kettle, he was also given the teashop as well!

When we went to visit Mohammed a few weeks later he welcomed us with great enthusiasm to his new business. Chairs were quickly found and a table laid before us onto which Mohammed placed an enormous plate of home-made delicacies, including samosas and fried and battered goat's intestines! He then began to prepare us a fruit cordial, packed full of freshly grated pineapple, mango and lemon juice. Although we did not speak each other's language it was clear that here was a man who had looked tragedy in the face but now, thanks to Medair's help, has had his dignity restored and is so thrilled to have a new business that allows him to once again support his family.

What next?

Since the emergency and resettlement phase is now over and Medair has fully reached its objectives, mid-July the team will hand over their activities to partner organizations (ZOA refugee care -- who has been active for 9 years in Sri Lanka) and to the local authorities to maintain the water and sanitation facilities.

Medair remains committed to the survival needs of the tsunami affected populations. Therefore a team of experts is currently conducting an assessment in the north-east of the country (around Jaffna peninsula), which was not only hit by the wave, but has long been suffering a civil war. In the next 3 months, we will also consider ongoing needs in other tsunami affected countries.