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Sri Lanka: Post-Tsunami Housing Renews Hope for Often-Forgotten Minority

Murugesh's new home helps him cope with his physical disabilities more effectively; it also represents the hope restored to thousands of families whose lives were shattered in the tsunami's aftermath.

November 2007

Ten-year-old Murugesh (center) enjoys the playground outside his apartment complex with his mother and brother. After the 2004 tsunami that killed Murugesh's father, destroyed the family's old house, and battered Sri Lanka's coastline, World Vision constructed this 40-unit complex and playground to help accommodate families whose lives were torn apart by the disaster. © 2007 Pamela Sitko/World Vision
For families who have lost their homes to natural disasters, World Vision is convinced that everyone's needs matter — especially those who bear the burden of additional challenges.

This belief is well illustrated in the Hambantota district of southern Sri Lanka. Here, World Vision has constructed 40 apartment-style homes to meet the special needs of children who have physical disabilities, including Murugesh, 10, who is confined to a wheelchair.

When the tsunami struck in December 2004, Murugesh's father was killed and the family home was destroyed. Since then, the boy's mother, Saraswathi, has struggled to meet the basic needs of her four children.

Now, the family has a home in a new 40-unit apartment complex World Vision has built. A ramp leads to Murugesh's front door. Inside, the bathroom differs from most rural Sri Lankan homes — a commode replaces the typical squat latrine.

'A Basic Human Right'

Thanks to the generous response of donors to the needs of hundreds of thousands of children and families devastated by the deadly tsunami, World Vision was able to build more than 2,035 permanent homes in tsunami-battered Sri Lanka alone, including the 40-unit complex where Murugesh now lives.

"Shelter is a basic human right," affirms Andrew Lanyon, World Vision's tsunami response operations director in Sri Lanka. "Where possible, it is important that people's lives return to a pre-tsunami state. A house provides the foundation for people to pursue other needs — economic, social, and community."

Economic needs in Sri Lanka following the tsunami were of additional concern. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 275,000 people across the island nation's devastated coastline — or nine out of 10 adults — lost their livelihoods to the disaster.

'It Means Everything to Me'

Murugesh is shown here with his mother and brother outside the apartment complex that World Vision constructed after the 2004 tsunami. The complex is specially designed to meet the physical challenges of the 10-year-old boy.
Murugesh is shown here with his mother and brother outside the apartment complex that World Vision constructed after the 2004 tsunami. The complex is specially designed to meet the physical challenges of the 10-year-old boy. © 2007 Pamela Sitko/World Vision

After her husband's death, Saraswathi earned an income cooking and cleaning for others in her neighborhood. Because of her new home, however, she now is saving up to purchase a pushcart to sell her baked goods near the school her children attend.

"I have a kitchen now," she says proudly. "I have the freedom to do a lot more; it means everything to me that we have this house."

In addition to the new apartment complex, World Vision also has built a playground just outside Murugesh's front door. Like other children, Murugesh loves to spin on the merry-go-round and play games with his brothers and sisters. Previously, the family had to plan a monthly, all-day outing to a playground farther away.

"Now I can watch Murugesh play with his brothers and sisters from my front door," says Saraswathi, smiling contentedly.

Learn More

>> Read a recent update about World Vision's rebuilding efforts in Thailand in the aftermath of the deadly 2004 tsunami.
>> Watch videos depicting World Vision's efforts following the Asia tsunami.

Two Ways You Can Help

>> Thank God for the renewed hope Murugesh and his family have because of generous donors' gifts that have enabled us to help rebuild thousands of homes in tsunami-devastated communities across Sri Lanka and throughout the Indian Ocean region. Pray also for tsunami-affected families as they continue to rebuild their lives nearly three years later.
>> Donate to help provide emergency aid to survivors of disasters similar to the deadly 2004 Asia tsunami. Your gift can help create good news for families in places like Sri Lanka.

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