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« Still work to be done for Sri Lanka's children | Main | Orphanage needs help in Sri Lanka »

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Comments

Ruani (Ru) Freeman

Hi - I'm looking for groups/communities to partner with us within the US. The idea - neither new nor old I guess - is that we will connect communities in Maine (and elsewhere), with communities in Sri Lanka post-reconstruction. We are well into the work, and are seeking new partners.

The goal of the Sahana Project (www.sahanaproject.org), is to transform the events of 12/26 into something positive that outlives the tragedy. We want therefore to create a partnership between people here who want to help with those needing help, that goes beyond simply putting up walls and buying boats. While we will, indeed, be doing those things, the underlying focus is on forging connections between human beings, rather than large scale fundraising for unidentifiable goals! As such, there is a strong educational component to the Sahana Project - we do presentations on Sri Lanka to groups around the state - whereby people here can learn more about the country and the culture of Sri Lanka.

The Sahana Project's educational component is designed to avoid painting a sad story and playing to people's feelings of sympathy. It is primarily about learning that there are positive things we can gain from one another no matter how destitute we might appear to be - in fact, we "lost " a couple of people who stormed out of one of the presentations saying "well, this clearly isn't a third world country we are dealing with they are obviously smart enough to know what they need," quite as though one had to be ignorant and miserable and have no knowledge of what ones needs might be in order to have the support of people half a world away!

One of the ways in which we want to organize the Sahana Project is to have groups of people around Maine and elsewhere to engage in small-scale fundraisers that would go towards the rebuilding of a single village. The total cost of rebuilding the village of Kalamitiya which abuts the Kumana birdlife sanctuary - including 31 homes, a community center, restoration of livelihoods, youth skills programming and a revolving loan fund for women - is approximately $200,000. While it is entirely possible to raise that money through big donations, we are actively seeking to limit our work to dollar campaigns and grassroots fundraisers - soup/bread lunches, handmade crafts etc. - because we want people to invest more than their money in the cause. We combine those efforts with the presentations so people can learn about the people they are being asked to help. Eventually, we will be translating the information on our donor communities to Sinhala on the website so the people of Kalamitiya can learn about those who helped them and how they did it. (Yes, this IS all about world peace!)

Our partner in Sri Lanka is the Disaster Management & Information Program of the Green Movement of Sri Lanka, a small team of 8 staff and hundreds of volunteers who have been at the forefront of the relief effort from the beginning. Their expertise in disaster management and their commitment to sustainable and non-exploitative processes works well with our own goals.

It would be great to have a representative group from each state - currently we have people in IL, CA, WA, NJ, VT and MA exploring ways to connect with our efforts. You could support the building of a single home or any other part of the reconstruction project. Please email me at rfreeman@colby.edu if you are interested

- Cheers, Ru

p.s. Rebuilding has begun in Kalamitiya, we have breakdown of cost estimate, the names of the families, floor plans etc.

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