SUBA UDE provides physical, creative and emotional projects for displaced persons living in welfare camps in Sri Lanka. We focus on psychosocial needs beyond food, shelter and medicine.

Monday, April 18, 2005

MonkBag launched in Monaco!

What's cute and helps people? Not a seeing-eye dog, not my orthodontist…but of course! a MonkBag! For the girl who has everything and nothing to carry it in- this bag is the new trucker hat (but not as cheesy) the new yellow Live Strong bangle (but not as useless), the new ugs (but not as trendy), the new pink ribbon (but not as pink). It's the bag that all the monks are carrying this season.

Download this bag flyer (pdf format):

The MonkBag is being launched this month in Monaco, London and Brighton.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Warning: Self Promotion Ahead

Our Sewing Centers get Rave Reviews!
And read about us.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Happy New Year's!!

Wanna and I are being shipped out.  In one week we will be deployed to
the east coast district of Ampara.  We will spend the next 1.5 months
there working in 16 camps with  6,000 displaced persons.  This
predominantly muslim area was completely leveled.  Four-months after
the tsunami, even basic infrastructure is scarce.
This is going to be a challenge.

But no worries today, as it's Sri Lanka's New Year's!!

Based on astrology, new year's marks the beginning of something to do
with the stars' alignment.  I got up at 5 to get to the home of our
translator at the auspicious time of 5:30 am.  We helped cook a
traditional new year's meal.  At 6:48 am on the auspicious dot, we lit
a lantern while facing north and wished each other a Suba Aluth
Aurudak Awewa, as the sound of bursting fireworks resonated around the
neighborhood.  The mom scooped up some milk rice and with her right
hand, fed us each our first bite of food in this new year.  We then
fed each other while reciting a personal blessing.

At the next auspicious moment, the father presented us each with money
wrapped in a leaf.  We then wrapped our money in a leaf and presented
it back to him (tradition) and gave the family new clothes-it's a new
year's custom to get a new piece of clothing.  We piled into the
family car, which the mom sprinkled with lotus water, and headed to
the temple in the town center.  After placing lotus flowers in front
of Lord Buddha, we drove to the new (half-finished) home of a local
school teacher.  It is custom that those less fortunate invite
"luckier" folks to their home to be their first guests in the new
year.  I think it's to rub off some lucky energy.

They stuffed us with more milk rice, oil cakes and dried fish and I
did my best to rub off some luck.

Back in the car, teetering along the coastline, passing new year's
celebrations in living rooms without walls and tents where living
rooms once stood... returned to our hotel and saw something for the
first time- something cosmic.  Splashing in the water, amidst the
rubble/coral, was a group of village kids.  Blocking out the debris, I
could see this tropical paradise as it once was- an endless beach
lined with coconut trees and filled with fearless children.

Happy New Year!!

Monday, April 11, 2005

New Photos!

Chamindalal, a Dondra camp resident, spackled and primed the preschools walls, and fixed the leaky roof.

Amidst the chaos of the building and rebuilding of shelter, Stephanie gets camp residents to hit a volleyball instead.

Mr. Amarasena paints outlines for the Dondra preschool mural. Through the SUBA UD In Camp Teaching program, Mr. Amarasena will be teaching weekly art classes in three I.O.M. camps. He has been teaching art for 30 years at the Matara Cultura Center and has annual national exhibits.

Sickness and Jetlag is no match for Michele Lott, Suba Ud's newest addition.

The mural begins.

Mr. Viraj leads the first music class on harmonium.Through the SUBA UD In Camp Teaching program, Mr. Viraj will be teaching weekly music classes in three I.O.M. camps.

Where there's music, there's a dance party!

Dondra camp kids make chalk drawings while puppeteers set up the stage outside.

The curtain rises on the second Suba Ud organized puppet show.

A show everyone can enjoy.

The sungoes down over another day's work.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Spring Break 2005, Matara!

Matara (the town we are working in ) is not exactly a haven for
dance-party lovers.  Perhaps the tsunami swept away the discos,
bouncers and (god willing) those loser guys who stand on the edge of
the dance floor and don't dance.  You know who I'm talking about. We
hate those guys.  Anyway, with the beautiful beach as a backdrop, I
think Matara could do some bang-up business around spring break,
perhaps it did before December 26.  But today, there's nothing to do
here.  When we return home (to our beach hotel) at night, our
activities are pretty much limited to scrubbing the 3rd world glop and
grit off our bodies, drinking Lion Lager (or Sprite for our resident
jewish-mormon) and strategizing for tomorrow.

Oh, but then came Thursday night.

The head of the cultural center invited us to his home for a "little
music show," which is Sinhala for "lets make the unassuming foreigners
dance for our own entertainment."  And so we did.  In a house packed
with locals, we learned how to dance the Sri Lankan two-step with the
tabla and harmonium providing the  back beat.  The harmonium is a
cross pollination of the accordion and the piano.  It makes for a
rather breathy, Polish rendition of "Piano Man."  FYI, Billy Joel is
not the international super-rock star i thought he was when I was

At first I couldn't tell if my "dance teacher" was kidding around.
Like teaching a foreigner profanities or better yet teaching a Sri
Lankan to say "you da' man!" and "i'm da' mac daddy," the dance she
was teaching me must have been for her own entertainment. Her
movements looked like those of a tone-deaf drunken uncle with a touch
of innocent country-bumpkin topped off with lovely traditional Indian
hand gestures.  Ever the foolish competitor, I tried my best to match
my dance teacher's body and eye movements amidst the hooting and
cackling from the audience.  I know I kicked her ass with my head
isolations.  After enough prodding, Ms. Wanna got her ass up and
ripped through the floor with her West African moves.  The room lifted
itself into the air howling with delight.

Then came dinner.  Imagine inviting a Mexican to dinner and serving
him nachos. As much as we appreciated the cooked veggies and
mound of white breadand butter, we found this menu a little curious.  
We asked our host if this is what they eat every night.  His reply-
"Oh no, we eat rice and curry."

We finished up the night with a little "American" dancing, took a bow,
hopped in a tuk-tuk (three-wheel taxi) and left our new fans begging
for more.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Art in the Camps!

As our one month with IOM draws to a close, it has become crucial to implement and solidify these self-sufficient programs that we've worked so hard to develop, and pass them on to those who will live here much longer than us. Our thanks to Rio, Brett, and Joe Ballarini- with your kind donations and collaboration with instructors from the Ruhunu Cultural Center in Matara, we've been able to place our In Camp Arts Education Program in three of the I.O.M. camps. With your help, we've covered instructor salaries, instrument rentals (dolki, harmonium, upcountry drums), and art supplies for 250 students.

This program will last 3 months, beginning with the first art class on Monday in Devinuwara camp. Courses in Art, Music, Dance, and English will be held weekly in each of the camps during the afternoons. The first session is 1 hour 15 minutes long, for 5-10 year olds. The second session is 1 hour 45 minutes, for 10-17 year olds. Interested 17-29 year olds may act as apprentices to the instructor for vocational training, and enhance their future career opportunities (most camp residents in this age group are either unemployed or take unskilled labor jobs, and few attend university). Most importantly...there's art in the camps!

Additionally, camp residents who are skilled in any of the subjects (we've found musicians and artisans) will study with the instructor for the first month, and take over the rest of course instruction, in hopes to strengthen the pool of talent as well as income within the community.

So every week, up to 250 people can spend 4 afternoons less staring at an image of their lost loved ones in a waterlogged broken picture frame, sitting in their windowless sweltering tent. Every week, they can spend 4 afternoons more, learning a song or an instrument, laughing at each other learning a sily dance, drawing a picture for their mom, or learning a new language so they can more easily communicate and access resources available to them. This is a program that could be renewed in 3 months, but should collaborative tsunami relief efforts be sucessful, they would not be living in these camps three months from now. Yet, the way things are moving with the Sri Lankan Government, they may still be, and the best we can do is alleviate their suffering with what we have to work with today. With so much loss in the last months, we hope this program will inspire idle hands and help them to heal through creativity. They've seen enough destruction, now is the time for creation.