One Person Making a Difference to Thousands
The 2004 Tsunami
On 26 December 2004, over 200,000 lives were lost and thousands of people were left homeless. ISB teacher, Sujeewa Fernando, was visiting her family in Sri Lanka at the time and was so deeply touched by the disaster that she immediately got involved in the relief work. She worked day and night in the centres to help provide basic needs for the refugees and saw to their welfare until she returned to Switzerland.
Tsunami-HANDAID was Founded
Soon after, Sujeewa founded the Swiss based non-profit organisation, Tsunami-HANDAID. Tsunami-HANDAID provides school facilities for education, as well as housing, to children and families who have been affected by disasters in various communities across the world. The organization also provides these services to those who live in severely disadvantaged areas. With the support of dedicated and motivated friends, Sujeewa has come a long way with this growing organization.
Organising project work was not always an easy task, especially with regards to obtaining land and other official requests. Yet, Sujeewa persevered through all the hardships and difficulties.
Tsunami-HANDAID volunteers built 62 houses, 2 pre-schools and a dairy farm to help 10 families to be sustainable with their income. In 2012, Tsunami-HANDAID expanded its activities to the north of Sri Lanka. In the following years, Tsunami-HANDAID completed at least one building project, involving volunteer work, per year. After many years of civil war, the Jaffna peninsula became accessible again. With the help of volunteers and local workers, Tsunami-HANDAID provided spacious classrooms and a library to an existing school on the outskirts of Jaffna town. In April 2014, Tsunami-HANDAID rebuilt several buildings in two schools in Burauen, Leyte in the Philippines’ aftermath of the Typhoon Haian. Tsunami-Handaid built a preschool and spacious classrooms in Kavrepalanchowk in Nepal aftermath of the earthquake in April 2015.
Most recently, in October 2017, a group of 13 dedicated volunteers made up of local professionals as well as ISBasel parents and students went to a village in Sri Lanka, to construct a library building and also to renovate the science lab for the Hunnelembuwa school in Kuliyapitiya. Sujeewa continues her dedication and hard work to this day. She is organizing another volunteer trip in April 2018 in Sri Lanka. https://spark.adobe.com/page/0EbdFOCo4cQcD/
Sujeewa also had a great opportunity to meet Nobel Peace Prize winner for year 2006, Dr. Muhammad Yunus. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. Sujeewa got inspired by his concept and with his help she started the dairy farm for ten families(who received a house from Tsunami-HANDAID) and up to date, these three families are able to have 3 meals a day.
“To see the smiles on the faces of the people we work with fills me with happiness. I feel that we are so privileged to have what we have. What we are doing to help the less privileged is just a drop in a huge ocean. It is also a great pleasure to see what the volunteers gain from this experience.”
To learn more about the project and how you can help to raise funds or participate as a volunteer in projects, please visit http://tsunami-handaid.ch/.