Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Post-tsunami development helps "Baby Tsunami" start school

News and Press Release
Originally published
Little Tsunami sits on a rock by the sea, watching the boats that sail in the distance. A wave splashes close to the rock where she is sitting and she stands up in a flash and runs to her mother.

"She loves the beach and the sea. Everytime her father goes to the market, she goes with him just to get on the rocks and look at the sea, but she is terrified of the waves," says Sarojini, Tsunami's mother.

"We have taken her many times to the beach to play, but unlike other children her age, she would keep away from the water and would not let a single wave wet her feet," she says, "I guess it is because I experienced the tsunami while I was pregnant with her and the fear I went through has affected her," she says.

It's been five years since the December 2004 tsunami, but Sarojini and Lucky her husband, talk about the day as if it was yesterday.

"We couldn't imagine what it was," says Sarojini, who was due for her baby anytime, "It was such a massive disaster. I kept getting pains due to all the fears I went through but the baby wouldn't come out. My husband wanted to admit me to the hospital but I didn't want to be alone. I told him if we all must die, let's die together."

Sarojini, Lucky and their two daughters (then ages 11 and 6) fled the area and found safe refuge at a relative's home.

Little Tsunami was born just a few days later and received her name - Sumathra Tsunami Tharanga (waves) from her father. "I was very upset when I learnt that he had named our little daughter Tsunami," says Sarojini, the mother, "I didn't speak to him for days."

But Lucky had an explanation.

"I didn't give her that name in memory of the disaster, but to remember that big life changing experience we had," he says. "The tsunami challenged the dreams, the longings and selfishness of people. I saw how people with palace like houses had to abandon them and from all their possessions, carry only a few clothes in a small shopping bag. We were made to reorganise our priorities."

"People who take their neighbours to court over a water drainage that overflowed into their territory could not take the sea to court for throwing mud and sand into their houses," he says.

The little girl is known as Tsunami Baba (baby Tsunami) by her relations and as Sumathra by her friends. She will turn five this year. She completed preschool last week from the World Vision Pipena Kusum (blooming flowers) preschool and is getting ready to start school in January.

Just like her sisters, Sumathra is sponsored and is supported by the World Vision Taiwan's Mangrove Area Development Programme (ADP).

"Sponsorship has been such a big relief to us as it provides the children with all that is necessary to continue schooling. They also benefit from the annual health clinic. But most of all, the World Vision Child Society has had a tremendous impact on my two elder daughters. It has helped them discover their talents and improve them. I want Sumathra also to be a part of the child society from next year," says Sarojini.

The little girl carefully jumps from one rock to another running along the wall of rocks, that spells limit and boundary for the sea. In complete contrast to the disaster, Sumathra has brought much joy and hope to her family.

In Sri Lanka, World Vision's tsunami relief projects are now complete. Many affected children benefit from sponsorship in World Vision's Area Development Programmes. An Area Rehabilitation Programme - a transitional operational model between relief to rehabilitation is also underway and communities are benefiting from water, sanitation and health interventions. World Vision continues to assist internally displaced people in the tsunami-affected areas of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. In addition, there is an ongoing child protection project focused around youth development and vocational training, as we as a mental health project in the south of the country. World Vision has initiated community-based disaster mitigation activities in tsunami-affected areas including the formation of village and divisional disaster management committees.