Sri Lankan Schools Rebuilt With Red Cross Assistance
by Stacey M. Winston
Tuesday, February 15, 2005 — Galle, Sri Lanka—At first glance, the Gintota School in the seaside village of Galle, Sri Lanka appears similar to many other schools on the island. But with a closer look, one can see the children have lost their classrooms, the library has no books and the computers are ruined. More important than physical structures, the children and teachers have suffered tremendous loss and distress. The American Red Cross is helping heal the shattered lives of children one school at a time.
When the furious tsunami battered the shores of Sri Lanka last December, the American Red Cross psychosocial support team based in India and led by disaster mental health expert, Dr. Joseph Prewitt-Diaz, quickly responded to the devastated South Asia region.
American Red Cross psychosocial team volunteer, Dr. Anita Ray-Chowdrury gives a school packet to a student in Galle. (Photo by S. Winston).
The schools situated along the vast ribbon of coastline have been hardest hit by the catastrophic tsunami. Thus, the American Red Cross, through the psychosocial support team with help from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent relief Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and the Sri Lankan Red Cross Society have identified 31 schools categorized by the Sri Lankan government as severely damaged in the Southern Province of the island.
“We will focus on the main areas that are affected,” said Dr. Satyabrata Dash, a mental health professional working with the psychosocial support team.
Recently, students in two of the affected schools experienced dramatic improvement in their daily educational routine, when the American Red Cross and Sri Lankan Red Cross paired to construct temporary classroom tents, provide school packets and teacher’s recreational kits.
The Sariputra School in the town of Matara received two temporary classroom tents to assist 500 displaced children, including 67 orphans.
“These [tents] will be very useful for the students, they will enjoy the creative and expressive activities,” said Binera Uyangoda, principal of the Sariputra School. In this school of 1400 students, nearly a third of the students lost their homes and 22 children perished in the tidal wave.
In the initial assessment the, psychosocial program is designed to provide security for the children through schools, thereby benefiting the families as a whole.
“We’re attempting to create a safe place where children can explore and express how and where they survived the wave,” said Prewitt-Diaz. “Through providing a safe place, kids can have an opportunity to rebound.”
School girls in Galle eagerly run to their newly built classroom, constructed by the American Red Cross. (Photo by S. Winston).
Opportunities for children to rebound became immediately apparent when five temporary tents were set up for the students of Gintota School in Galle to house 241 orphans. One thousand students received school packs with a drawing book, notebook, pencils, erasers, a sharpener, a ruler, watercolors, and crayons in a compact clear plastic bag. The teachers were each given one school recreational kit including marble boards, chess sets, soccer balls, tennis balls, scissors, paper, tape, white boards with markers and erasers.
With great anticipation students eagerly waited to receive their school packs. The contagious excitement spread through the classroom as they sat at the rickety weathered little school desks and opened their packs. The significance of giving these school packs extends beyond the usefulness of the school supplies, according to Antara Sen Dave of the American Red Cross psychosocial support team.
“Children who have been affected [by the tsunami] do not feel equal as the others—with this distribution, everyone is treated as equal--there is group bonding,” said Sen Dave. “By working on group bonding activities, the children will become a support system for each other.”
The psychosocial support team plans to follow up with the communities of the tsunami-ravaged schools through teacher training and psychological first aid to the children’s families. Prewitt-Diaz said, “The team will train a group of persons that are prepared in schools and communities to handle the distress signs that are present after a disaster, amd to move from a psychosocial support environment to a disaster preparedness mechanism.”
“The psychosocial support program provides a structure to children who have experienced great loss, so that they can recognize what resilience factors help them cope during and after disaster,” said Prewitt-Diaz. These psychosocial programs initiated by the American Red Cross team are planning to provide service to the children and their families for two to three years.
Before leaving Gintota School, the psychosocial support team had one more gift to give the seaside school on behalf of the American Red Cross—500 books for children of all ages to help rebuild the library that was ruined by the tsunami. The librarian is thrilled to have books to place on the barren shelves for the children to read.
“This is the donor dollar at work,” said Prewitt-Diaz.
What Is The Red Cross Doing?
View The $400 Million Plan - Facts at a glance
The American Red Cross assistance plan calls for relief in two phases: the emergency phase to meet immediate needs and the longer-term phase meeting needs over several years. The plan covers these main areas of assistance: food and safe water; healthcare and disease prevention; immediate family supplies; mental health counseling; and disaster preparedness and prevention measures,
including family reunification capacity building.
To provide the most effective aid possible in the wake of one of the worst natural disasters in the world’s history, the American Red Cross estimates that it will require $400 million to provide emergency relief and to respond to long-ranging needs that will emerge over months and even years to come.
Our immediate response stage includes working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and partner agencies to distribute food, to vaccinate up to 22 million children against diseases, to distribute supplies like tents to the millions of people and to ensure safe drinking water and waste disposal systems.
The long-term response from the American Red Cross includes mental health services and continued programs for food distribution, healthcare, and water and sanitation system rehabilitation. Additionally, the American Red Cross will work to train and inform affected communities in prevention methods in order to reduce the loss of life, livelihoods and property from future natural disasters. This plan addresses the need as identified at this time.
The American Red Cross is heartened by the enthusiastic and spontaneous generosity that Americans have shown for the tsunami relief efforts. The public trusts the American Red Cross and knows we will tell them when enough funds have been raised and how the money is being used.
>>To provide assistance to tsunami victims, we estimate our plan will require approximately $400 million.
In keeping with our commitment to financial accountability, once the Red Cross has received donations totaling this amount, we will inform the American public and our donors. Should we need additional resources to help the tsunami victims, we have no doubt the generous American public will step up and provide us with those funds.
As of January 13th, a generous American public, along with corporations and foundations, has pledged $210 million to the American Red Cross tsunami relief effort.
>> The American Red Cross is committed to turning our donors’ concern into effective action and ensuring that we are transparent in how these donations are spent.
>> Top charity watchdog groups have recognized the American Red Cross for being one of the best stewards of the donated dollar. The American Institute of Philanthropy has just named the American Red Cross as one of two top-rated charities currently providing relief for tsunami victims. Of 23 charities listed, the AIP gave an A+ rating to the American Red Cross for its proven ability to get quick relief to disaster victims while using every dollar wisely. Charity Navigator
also designated the American Red Cross a four-star charity – their highest rating.
This is a catastrophic disaster that occurred half a world away, and the American Red Cross recognizes the challenges in delivering aid.
>> There is no question that assistance will get to those who need it – that’s our commitment.
>> A major challenge that all relief providers are facing in responding to this disaster is an overwhelmed infrastructure, including transportation blockages, massive power outages, downed communication systems and more.
The American Red Cross role in responding to an international disaster is very different from our response to a disaster in the United States. We will be working in a coordinated manner with many global partners, taking into consideration how the American Red Cross can provide unique, specialized assistance in the areas
where we can best help.
As of January 6, 2005, the American Red Cross has received $140 million in pledged donations and has already collected $79 million of that in cash. We have sent $40 million in food and $5 million for hygiene kits, family kits, tents and kitchen kits and personnel from here and abroad to help deliver it.
Family kits: 10,000 family kits have been delivered. Each kit allows a family of 6 to set up a temporary household with plastic sheeting for shelter, sleeping mats and blankets, mosquito netting, 20 liter portable water containers, kitchen sets and a lantern.
Teams of American Red Cross relief workers who are on the ground in Asia include experts in highly-specialized areas such as supply distribution and water sanitation. The American Red Cross has also sent highly-trained psychosocial experts to the region to help survivors deal with the tremendous emotional trauma the tsuami left in its wake.
The American Red Cross is working side by side with Red Cross and Red Crescent staff from the immediate region and many other countries. We are working with officials from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva to determine the exact kind of help that the international community needs from us.
Locally, the Raven’s organization and their fans gave a combined total of $79,200 at last Sunday’s game, a local church collected $15,000 for Red Cross and people all over Maryland are contributing from $5 to $55,000 to disaster relief. Many are now choosing to donate to the general disaster relief fund in honor of the victims, because funding the mission in Asia is nearly complete.
The American Institute of Philanthropy has given the America Red Cross a grade of A+ for fundraising efficiency [one of only two organizations to recieve that grade]. Our organization is so efficient, 89% of every dollar donated goes directly to disaster relief.
Please consider sending a donation in honor of these victims to help provide disaster relief for people who've lost a home, their life savings or, even a loved one in a catastrophe that didn't make the news. They, too, are hurting, often desperate, and equally in need.
Red Cross Societies in Southern Asia Work Tirelessly to Aid Tsunami Victims
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Linnea Anderson 410-624-2081
As the death toll from December's tsunami races past 150,000, aid workers on the ground in the southern Asia are concentrating almost solely on helping survivors maintain their health and rebuild their lives, as hopes for the missing continue to fade. Many villages in the region are still entirely cut off from assistance because the scale of the devastation is so immense.
Relief workers, however, are determined to bring in desperately needed supplies-- using boats, helicopters, elephants and any other mode of transportation available. They are in a tight race against time to get vital supplies and medicine out to these areas to prevent the outbreak of disease and the possibility of epidemic.
International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in south Asia have adequate staff and volunteers on-site in the affected areas to assist with the immediate needs. Emergency assessment and first-aid teams are currently sufficient to handle the situation. Currently, we do not anticipate needing additional volunteers.
Donations of clothing/ material goods/food are not being collected because of the extreme cost of transportation (a 24-hour flight). Those items can be much more economically purchased in southern Asia. A financial donation is the best way to send immediate help.
Raven's Sponsor Tsunami Relief Fundraiser This Sunday (Jan. 2)
Red Cross and Ravens volunteers will be outfront of Raven's stadium before their last game with a brigade of buckets to collect your donations and loose change. Over 40 volunteers will be stationed at all 4 gates and the smaller adjoining gates where suiteholders enter, collecting donations for the massive and long-term relief effort.
The American Red Cross is working with our partner organizations in the southern Asia and eastern Africa regions to provide disaster relief to the victims of the tsunami and to help them rebuild their lives including long-term help with infrastructure and health issues.
South East Asia Devastated by Earthquake Driven Tsunami
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Linnea Anderson 410-624-2081
The largest earthquake to strike the globe since 1964 has caused devastating tsunami waves that have killed over 122,000 in south Asia. The 8.9-magnitude quake December 26, triggering massive deadly waves that continue to impact the region.
International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in south Asia have mobilized adequate staff and volunteers to affected areas to assist with the immediate needs. Emergency assessment and first-aid teams have already working in the affected areas.
“The situation is catastrophic...with so many people affected in so many areas of southern Asia...it is likely that relief teams will be there for many weeks helping to put the lives of the survivors back together,” said Matthew Parry of the International Disaster Response Unit at the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross is in constant contact with its partners on the ground in southern Asia and eastern Africa and is supporting operations there with relief supplies, financial assistance and personnel as needed.
You can help those affected by this crisis and countless others around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, first aid, technical assistance, and other support to those in need. Donate securely on https://redcross-cmd.org/Chapter/donateform.html, or call 1-800-HELP NOW. Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter at 4800 Mt. Hope Drive, Baltimore MD 21215.
Volunteers are Not Needed to go to S. E. Asia. Many of you have generously offered to help the Red Cross respond to the large scale disaster in southern Asia by traveling there to work on site. However, the American Red Cross has an adequate response capacity with bilingual, internationally-experiences relief wowrkers, and does not anticipate requiring further assistance from volunteers for this disaster.
You can help those afffected by this crisis by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund. Contributions may be sent to the Red Cross of Central Maryland, 4800 Mt. Hope Drive, Baltimore, MD 21215. Internet users can make an online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.
We appreciate you willingness to help at this time. The Central Maryland Chapter, your local chapter, is always looking for people to volunteer with us at the local level now and in the future. We hold monthly volunteer orientations. Our next orientation is on January 24, 2005 at 1:00 P.M. and at 5:30 P.M. You can go to http://redcrosscmd.org/Chapter/Volunteer/index.html to review our list of volunteer opportunities.