Sri Lanka, 2006
SURF RELIEF UK & CHRISTIAN SURFERS UK
ARUGAM BAY, SRI LANKA -16 MONTHS ON - THE RECOVERY CONTINUES
A team of 6 surfers from the UK representing Surf Relief UK and Christian Surfers UK have just returned from another visit to Arugam Bay on the East Coast of Sri Lanka.
The purpose of the visit was to check the progress of the projects currently sponsored by Surf Relief UK and Christian Surfers UK and to ensure that the money donated by the generosity of surfers throughout the UK has been well spent, and also to do some additional community work in the area.
The team were kept very busy during the week they were in Arugam Bay. They visited the 6 houses being built with funds and a 7th funded by a school in Jersey. It was great to see the construction of these very nearly completed and at a very high standard of building. We met the families and shared a meal with them which they had prepared as a small thank you.
The organisations had also sponsored 10 teachers. Unfortunately the team were unable to meet with them due to the schools being on holiday at the time of the visit. However, the building of a small 16ft extension work at the small Montessori school is nearing completion and the team were able to get practical here by completely sanding down, painting and varnishing the desks for the children, before they returned to school after their break. One concrete pillar remains before the roof can be tiled - but it is hoped the extension will be finished within the next couple of weeks.
One of the other major projects visited was the orphanage pioneered by Friends From Europe. This is around 1 ½ hours North of Arugam Bay in Tambiluvil. Both Christian Surfers UK and Surf Relief UK have put money into the extension of this orphanage in order to build staff quarters. This is part of phase 2 of the Orphanage project. It was brilliant to visit what is a real haven for the young girls who are all victims of the Tsunami. The second phase is about to start and once this is completed a further 10 girls may be housed here.
Unfortunately during the visit the tensions between the Tamils and the Government took a turn for the worse with suicide bombing by the Tamils in Colombo followed by retaliatory air strikes into the heart of the Tamil areas and casualties on both sides. This is a major concern for all the people in Arugam Bay as it could severely affect their recovery, especially with regard to tourism.
The team was also able to undertake some training with the local surfers of Arugam Bay and Phil Williams led the first Surf Judging Course ever run there. 18 surfers aged 10-22 attended the Course, which was followed up with a practical session based on surf footage taken during the morning. The following day saw a surf contest, which the team organised for the locals and it was brilliant to see around 18 local surfers compete in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 50-100 who kept out of the water for the competition.
Prizes were donated by Oakland Imports, Christian Surfers UK and Paddle for Relief. One of the really encouraging things to see since our initial visit in February 2005 was the confidence shown by the locals as they return to the water. This was highlighted when the team took around 20 youngsters aged 6-12 into the water for swimming lessons using the floats provided on a previous visit. It was great fun and a real encouragement as we witnessed first hand the confidence of the youngsters getting into the water.
The desire to complete a surf club house (Funded by Surf Relief UK) still remains as a high priority, and following meeting between Phil and the A bay foundation, it is hoped progress on finding the right peace of land will be found.
Surf Relief UK and Christian Surfers UK, along with Paddle For Relief, have raised approximately £50,000 - mainly to invest in the community of Arugam Bay with which there have been many contacts made since the Tsunami. The locals are very grateful for all that has been achieved using these funds and each time Christian Surfers UK have sent teams to the area they have been warmly received. It has been a real encouragement and a huge thanks must go to all the surfers and surf organisations within the UK who have donated towards this fund.
Much has changed since Phil’s first visit to the area just after the Tsunami, and in this time aid agencies have been invaluable to the partial repair of the structures. The emotional scars however will continue to fill the minds of the affected areas for many years to come. The people of the area have shown real strength as well as friendship to the NGO’s and visitors alike.
The challenge now for Sri Lanka is to avoid going back into civil war. This would clearly be a huge disaster for the recovery of the country, we hope and pray that the sides can find an amicable solution.