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, May 02, 2005

Wisdumb of Lonley Planet

Lonley Planet instructs travelers to Sri Lanka to not get "stuck in
Ampara." Coming here on our second post with IOM, we were expecting
dire conditions: no internet, no packaged food, no paved roads, no
a/c, no discos. While our expectations have proved accurate, we have
found Ampara to be oh-so-genial.

We have 6-weeks to pump some life into 20 camps. We will be
constructing community shelters, sewing centers/women's spaces, tea
centers for men, playgrounds and child friendly spaces. We will
provide mucho sports equipment, produce a bunch of marionette shows
and hire displaced bicycle owners to deliver newspapers to all of the

Ampara was definitely the hardest hit area of Sri Lanka. Over 14,000
people perished and it looks as if every structure standing within 200
meters of the water, was leveled. There are loads of aid workers
here, they seem to out number the locals. That said, the relief
effort is far behind Matara (our last post). People are still living
in tents, waiting day in and day out for a tin shack and a fishing
net. While agencies have the funds to build and give, doing so is a
very long tedious process. If they don't thoroughly assess,
research,verify, double check and interview each and every displaced
person, they might end up throwing their money away. We found a
perfect example of this last night.

We were in "town" and spotted a mass of men surrounding a guy. He was
standing atop a huge pile of mosquito nets, cooking pots, bars of soap
and water. Curious, I pushed my way to the middle of this swarm to
face off with the "entrepreneur," who I now noticed looked like a
sneering pirate. I demanded to know where he bought his inventory,
"from NGO, you got?" He confirmed. The pirate bought his supplies
from people in the camps who were given excessive aid. Intent on
exposing this thug, I threw my camera in his face, but then came to my
senses and pushed my way back out to the street.