Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Visit's End

I am due to go back to New York in two days. By the time, I got here, the needs for food, water and shelter finally seemed to be be addressed by the community groups. The critical need was the lack of organization, information and coordination – there were more funds promised and collected on behalf of the victims. Now the compelling need is to ensure transparency, equity and combating the inevitable problems associated with money.

I tried to help community and student groups whose instinctive response had been to throw all resources into the urgent problems in the first week and that could leverage other resources – financial, scientific, personel, office skills and were handicapped by small amounts of funds.

The affected areas are the Northern Province, Eastern Province and the Southern Province. I was not able to go to the North due to lack of time and difficulty of access – Western Province is relatively well taken care of given its proximity to Colombo. I worked out of the Center of the Island in Kandy – made contacts in the East, South-East and South-West and in the Western Province and Southern Province.

The community and University groups that I have related to are are a good network to work with from New York.

Eastern University,
Kalmunai - Human Care Foundation, ,
South-Eastern University,
University of Peradeniya,
University of Ruhuna
Coir Products Manufacturers Association
Akurana Womens Welfare Association

They span the affected area, know the terrain, are already active and are reliable. Whats been done here is to help clear some bottlenecks and open up lines of communication. I wished I stayed here longer so that I could go to the Trincomalee, Mullaitivu, and Jaffna in the North. The needs there shall be different in all likelihood given the excesses of war.
According to http://www.recoverlanka.net/ the highest mortality from the Tsunami is in the sparsely populated Mullativu districts.

It has been an exhausting schedule – one accomplishes only a small fraction of what one wants to. 75% of Sri Lanka’s coasts and 14 districts were affected but I only visited four districts. I wanted to meet with a variety of people in Colombo but I fared poorly at that - having misplaced my notebook temporarily on the other side of the island. The game in Colombo had changed with the big money coming in. The folks of interest were now being courted by more powerful and persuasive interests.

I need to return too. Things are piling up and I should not be on “vacation” for too long from work – its been 3 weeks after the Xmas break and I had already been in Sri Lanka for a month in November. So I take the plane out tomorrow and shall have to rethink about how to carry on with this while doing my regular work. This visit shall help me contribute to the relief, rehabiltation and reconstruction work while being grounded.