On September 26th of this year we had the dedication ceremony of the Triple Gem Village. Twenty-four happy families received the keys to their new homes on that day. What a joyful event it was! There was an all-night chanting ceremony the night before to bless the homes. The next day a simple ceremony with a few invited guests and Buddhists monks was held to hand over the keys to the families.
Recently the world has been affected by many natural disasters. Our world will always be full of turmoil and catastrophes because of the nature of our planet Earth and the forces that govern it. We cannot stop natural disasters from happening and we will always have to deal with them. When Nature’s course brings death and damage, first we must feel the pain and suffering of those who are affected and then share the responsibilities in assisting them to heal the pain and rebuild their lives. By responding to the suffering of others with compassion and care, we ourselves can find a sense of peace and heal our own heartache and the sorrow that we feel for them.
Working to build the Triple Gem Village for tsunami victims is a good example of that. Building housing for families who have lost their homes and some of their family members has not only changed their lives but also the lives of those of us who work so hard to help them.
After tirelessly working for five months to address immediate needs including temporary housing for the survivors, I began to think of their long term well being and how to build permanent homes for them. The Triple Gem Village is the biggest and most expensive single project we have undertaken. After finding the land I signed a contract to build fifty homes. Although we had only $30,000 in our Humanitarian Fund at the time I was confident that we could complete the project somehow.
With the generous support of my friends and students we were able to complete 35 homes in three and one-half months. This was in no way a simple or easy task. Several professional architects, engineers, and several contractors were involved in planning and building our village. You might know how hard it is to get a bathroom repaired! This was a challenging task. The 35 homes we have completed so far are built with brick walls and tile roofs. Each house has a shower room, separate toilet and septic tank, electricity, and water. Roads are prepared but need to be paved eventually.
There are so many people who worked day and night to complete this project. From the beginning, while I was traveling and doing other things, I was able to be in constant contact with several people who managed and supervised the work. I feel so lucky to work with the dedicated, hardworking team of people in Sri Lanka.
There were two monks, Ven. Uparatana and Ven. Pemaratana, who worked as my right and left hands updating me regularly and solving day to day problems. Mr. Nimal Wanigaseekara is a childhood friend of mine and a civil engineer. He supervised the project as an independent engineer representing Triple Gem Society. The team of architects, engineers, and contractors were led by Mr. Patmasiri as our main contractor. Mr. Patmasiri, I would say, is a very pleasant and friendly person to work with and we had no problems whatsoever. I appreciate his professionalism.
Then there are those who provided me financial assistance and moral support. One special person took away the heavy financial burden from me by sponsoring twenty homes. When I was trying to raise money, I had a discussion with Mr. Anura Perera of the Phylnormel Foundation who has been the major supporter of Triple Gem Society and its humanitarian projects. At the end of our conversation, when he promised to sponsor twenty homes, I was relieved and happy because I was planning to go on a lecture tour to raise money and I was not sure how long it might take to find all the sponsors.
Six other individuals sponsored six houses and the rest of the cost was paid from the Triple Gem Humanitarian Fund. The other six sponsors who paid for one house each are Stephen Arnsorff of Lookout Mt. TN, Anita La Placa of Durham NC, Niven Padachy of Heath TX, David and Laurie Schovela of Cambridge MA, Egnath Weerasekara of Toronto Canada, and Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston NJ.
The sponsors paid only for the actual house and their contributions did not include the cost for the land, roads, water and electricity connection and ground preparation. Except for the land, all the extra costs were paid for by our Humanitarian Fund.
As you already might know, we still have 152 families in our Triple Gem refugee camps. I know most of the families personally. It bothers me so much to see them still in temporary housing and still in limbo. Ten months after the tsunami, the government promises have not come to that area. As always I am disappointed with the slowness and carelessness of the government.
We cannot solve all of their problems. But we are looking to build permanent homes for thirty of those families. Our engineers have already visited several potential sights and chosen a location. They are preparing the permits and plans. If all goes well, they will be ready in two weeks and we will start Triple Gem Village #2. Our hope is to finish it in four months.
If you have any fundraising ideas or are interested in sponsoring a home, please let us know. I would like you to know that 95% of the money will go directly to the people.
At times I feel helpless and cannot find enough words to thank those who help us. Together we are making a difference in the lives of thousands of people. My heartfelt gratitude and thanks to all of you.
May you all be blessed with good health and inner peace.