On the 12th of April, 26 homeless families moved into their 130 square feet private homes. For over three months they have lived in a crowded school near Baticaloa. They had no Privacy and slept on floor mats with 20 other families in a crowed hall. The school located in the village of Kalladi near Baticaloa still has 20 families and we hope to build transitory housing scheme #2 and move them out soon. We are waiting for the government to give us the land. They don’t seem to be in a hurry and I should not lose my patience because I am a monk! I will keep it a secret how many times I wanted to go and scream at some of the government officials.
One of my monk collogues, Rev. Uparatana, is in charge of our Transitory Housing Scheme and I appreciate all his hard work. He has faced many challenges and has kept a lot of headaches out of my sight so that I can attend to other things. We were in a risky and dangerous area and we knew it form the beginning. Some warned me not to go, the police advised me to be cautious, and the military provided us their support. For example when had lunch at a house the police and military were outside the home and they followed me around a lot. During construction two police men were present at the site every day and the day of the opening there were 14 armed solders and two policemen until I left the scene. They were not there for show. It shows how dangerous it could be where I have to go.
This time our temporary homes are a little different than the previous ones because we built them separately in land that the families will eventually own and build their permanent homes. Round three of our temporary housing projects for the tsunami victims is on the way and 26 more families have moved into our new homes. As you might know previously we had moved 89 families into our temporary homes and with the current 26 a total of 115 families now live in our shelters. We now have triple camp # 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and Triple Gem Transitory housing scheme # 1. This is truly a remarkable achievement for our small organization.
After the tsunami, the government has prohibited the construction of new homes or any other structures within 100 meters of the shore. In some areas almost all the homes within the 100 meter limit were destroyed by the tsunami. The surviving families who lived in the 100 meter area not only lost their belongings, homes, and some family members, they also have lost their land to the government. Many are waiting in camps until the government or somebody else can help them.
Recently we worked with the government agents and obtained land beyond the 100 meter limit to build the 26 transitory homes. Although they have divided the land and given a piece to each family, we were allowed to build only temporary homes and not allowed to build permanent ones. In our discussions as we questioned the government officials they said that the plans and other guidelines are not ready and they could not tell us when anybody will be allowed to build permanent homes in the Baticaloa area.
In Kalmunai in Ampara district we are currently building a 20 family unit which will be called triple gem camp #6 and before I leave on the 24th we will give the families the keys. I will also have finalized plans to build 50 new permanent homes. This is a huge undertaking that we hope to complete in 3 to 4 months. Some people think that I am joking when I say we can complete them in 4 months, I am quite serious and will see.
The tsunami is one of the worst disasters of recent history. As you might understand we can not solve all the complex problems that have arisen. We simply try to continue our efforts with the best intensions and help as many families as we can so that they can have a decent and normal life again. Without the support of all of you we will not have been able to achieve such great results within such a short period of time.
Thank you so much.