Tsunami Reconstruction Nearing Completion

Dear Friend,

This month we mark the third anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that struck in the early morning the day after Christmas 2004. This unfathomable disaster took the lives of an estimated 200,000 people and left millions more without homes.

The horror of that day remains seared on our collective memory. I traveled to Sri Lanka soon after the tsunami, and I remember driving along the road, seeing village after village completely leveled. I spoke with a man on what remained of his house – little more than a concrete slab. And in the rubble of what was his home, my eye settled on a clock on what remained of a wall, its hands forever frozen at 9:26 — when the waves came crashing through.

But just as present are the memories of the international outpouring on behalf of the tsunami's victims and survivors. How the Catholic Relief Services website crashed because of the overwhelming response of people clamoring to donate. And once it was up again, how, over the course of several days, we began receiving $1 million a day in web donations, where before we had received $1 million a year. Just as moving were the heartfelt expressions of compassion on behalf of the tsunami's victims and the stories we heard of the sacrifices people made to help their brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.

Three years later, your acts of solidarity have achieved a great deal.

In the three countries hardest hit by the tsunami – India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka – our work of reconstruction and rehabilitation is in its final phases. CRS and our partners have built nearly 9,500 permanent houses, with hundreds more nearing completion.

In India, the formation of more than 1,800 Self-Help Groups has improved women's access to jobs, health care and education. And more than 800 communities have been trained in how to better prepare for natural disasters.

In Indonesia, where some of the greatest damage occurred, CRS and our partners mounted dozens of infrastructure projects. We have reconstructed or restored roads, bridges, piers, markets, community centers, schools and clinics.

In Sri Lanka, we have carried out our tsunami reconstruction amid the violence of civil war. As we rebuild homes and communities, we are also providing assistance to people who have been displaced by the conflict.

Looking back on the journey we have taken, I recall the words of a woman in Banda Aceh, Indonesia in the wake of this tragedy. Marwani “Anik” Halijah lost her home in the tsunami, but not her determination. “Nothing can steal my spirit,” she said, “not even the tsunami.” She went from being a tsunami survivor to a member of the CRS staff, helping her community recover and rebuild.

Three years on, it is clear to me that the spirit of hope and resilience is alive and well.

Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.

Ken Hackett

Share on Twitter

Leave a Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.