When the waves of the 2004 Tsunami finally receded, Upali, 52, was found clinging to a coconut tree - barely alive. He had suffered a stroke a month before the 2004 tsunami and was just recovering when the tidal wave struck. Upali, his wife Rupawathie, 45, and his four children live in Peraliya, Galle district - a coastal village in the south of Sri Lanka.
Although Upali and his family survived, to this day, Upali suffers from the effects of the tidal wave. Not only did he have to be hospitalized for a month afterwards, his leg was left partially paralysed and his hearing is now permanently impaired. Their house was completely destroyed and all their furniture washed away.
Today, five years after the tsunami, Upali and Rupawathie have a very different story to tell. Their house has now been reconstructed by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society with the support of the Spanish Red Cross - and they have moved back after living in a temporary shelter.
Before the tsunami, Upali and Rupawathie earned a living by selling dried fish door-to-door from a cart but after his stroke, Upali was unable to work and had to rely solely on Rupawathie to earn a living and needed her help to communicate with others due to his hearing impediment. Their lives changed dramatically - they could not continue their livelihood and had very little money to survive on.
With the support of the livelihood grants given by the Red Cross Upali and his wife have opened a little wooden shop, a few kilometres away from their house, just off the main road. With the Rs 30,000 grant they purchased stocks of dry fish from wholesalers, set up the shop and have managed to earn a stable income selling dry fish to families in the area.
Upali and Rupawathie make a monthly profit of about Rs 12,000-15,000 a month which, according to both of them is sufficient for their needs. "It was a miracle that Upali survived the tsunami despite his poor health condition and the serious injuries he suffered" says Rupawathie who adds, "We have a lot to be thankful for the Red Cross for - not only are we now financially better off that before, we also have a brand new house".
Upali and Rupawathie are two of 99 beneficiaries in southern Godagama GN Division in Galle district to receive livelihood grants from the Red Cross and many beneficiaries have used their grants to set up a variety of income generating activities. The Spanish Red Cross continues to be active in the entire district, providing their livelihood beneficiaries comprising 346 businessmen and women with management training programmes and technical guidance.