Monday, January 24, 2005

Onsite Update :: from Lakshmi in Chennai

Dear All,

Lots of things have happened and are happening in Tsunami affected areas.

The continuous work from 26th December till 17th Jan, seemed to tell on me and the last few days have been work of consolidation, accounts, less of field work. Hence some gap in the updates.

SAF Efforts

On 16th afternoon the work of SAF saw a sudden stop at this address, after we volunteers working from 9/40 Damodarapuram, were mobbed by as many as 300 odd people many of them from the areas not even affected by the Tsunami. The previous two days saw so many people ask for support and we worked all day to get the needs addressed. Since 16th we are working through volunteers and friends and delivering material and money very quietly to the affected people after due diligence of course. The work has slowed down no doubt, yet we are continuing in spite of these odds. The volunteers of Sunmin who gave us their place are dealing with the people’s enquiries at the place very carefully, firmly and patiently. That they are the local people is helping us immensely. We are getting donations steadily for the SAF.

Support to School children through direct contact.

Trinity School in Atlanta (introduced through Asha Toronto volunteer) has in its first installment of donations, delivered through their contacts in Chennai Rs71449 for their child to child program of helping children affected by the Tsunami. The children of the school have raised money through various sales…Their principal Stephen Kennedy and their teacher Cessie White coordinating this programme are in touch. Our local contact is Dorothy Thomas , a lawyer working in Chemnai working through their law firm. This installment is being used to support 89 children in Nemmilikuppam as per the xls sheet attached. We will be giving the first gifts to 89 children at Nemilikuppam on Wednesday 26, Jan 2005 at around 12 noontime IST. The purchases have been made, individual packings have been done and all ready to go. On Wednesday, when we are there, we will get the details of the colours of the uniforms for the different schools and then get them made in a week or ten days time and sent over. Dorothy has been informed and she said she would be there to take the pictures and talk to the children and people of the village.

More support is coming from the same school for other areas and schools as well. The supervisor of Chennai Corporation schools of Zone 6 Ms. Mercy Joshua (along the coast in the Santhome to Triplicane area) will be submitting their requirements of the children in her zone who would need support in school similar to what we have done in Nemmilikuppam. (Rajaram and I have known Ms Joshua as a vibrant, enthusiastic and forward thinking supervisor in our earlier interactions as part of the Chennai Citizen’s Forum.) She will be sending across her list by tomorrow. She is also geeting for us the lists in the other zones where the children need support.

Schools in the region between Royapuram and Tiruvattiyur ( North Chennai) are being similarly supported by Paul Sundersingh of Karunalaya, a home from orphaned children on the 29th of Jan. This is Paul’s own initiative and he has found the necessary funding. He will be providing us the list and guidance for children of schools between Tiruvattiyur and Ennore by this weekend. We do have promises of more funding for this project from various organizations. The work will extend to early February.

Boats and fishing nets are being looked into and provided in some places in small numbers by NGOs and inviduals through support from corporates. Asha Chennai has been requested for support for 4 boats for Nemmilikuppam by individuals Sandhya and Anushka. Support to the inviduals has been approved, but the details of the costs will be submitted after Wednesday when we will get quotes from the fisherfolk from different firms for repair of their boats that are repairable. There are about 14 boats out of the 43 (both motorized and catamarans) that can be repaired.

Some other Updates

- The CBSE Board of exams has announced a postponement of its exams for Std 12 and 10 in the Tsunami affected areas.
- Efforts are on from Tulika to create workbooks for children that will help children to come to terms with their losses and fears through interesting and enjoyable activities. This is primarily done at the request from Dr. Aruna Ratnam coordinating UNICEF support activities in Kanniyakumari districts. Once the workbooks are ready, I feel, may be we at Asha Chennai can consider if we can send them to children and schools we are supporting, as part of our support and follow up of rehab for children.

I met Prasanna, Jeba, Satyapriya, Dhanalakshmi and Siddhamma for an hour in T58 A on Sunday morning of 223rd, when I thought the concall with the relief commissioner would happen. With me was a volunteer from Washington DC, Shaina, who had come to participate in the Tsunami work. We saw the pictures taken by the Asha Honor team and the volunteers from UP, that has visited the various places and done their surveys, held discussions with NAPM and local officers of the govt. We also shared the difficulties both teams have encountered in our Tsunami relief and rehab efforts.

Shaina is working in an accounts firm in DC and she helped me recheck accounts, besides assist with purchases for the children of Nemmillikuppam in the two days she was here.


Onsite Update :: from Sidhamma in Killai

Dear Friends,

It has been a while since I have been able to get through to Siddhamma. Since we spoke last Sidhamma had spent some time in Killai, Nagapattnam and few days in the hospital. She is feeling fine now.

Status of the funds sent to Bharathi Trust:
The wired funds had reached the OSB Bank, which had sent a draft to the SBI branch which Bharathi trust has the account with. The check had got delayed in mail and not arrived yet. She had the bank manager rework the info with the main branch and a promise that they would sort out the problem asap.

Updates from Killai, Cuddalore -
Affected villages need to primarily work on the land issue. Helping ppl with the legal work in Killai. Only a percent of the ppl have been able to receive compensation 130/230.
Immd relief has been provided of (40 kg Rice + 2 kg Dal)/family:
MGRnagar - 173 Irula families
Kalingar nagar - 130 families
Agaram Pudhunagar - 44 families
Pitchapura - 37 families
Shanmuga nagar - 64 families
Samilyar nagar - 103 families
Sangalikuppam - 63 families

Q: What is the status of Killai, Cuddalore.
A: Immd food is not an issue. Govt is delaying in giving boat and net. Amt in the present plan is Rs. 20,000. However, even to have a small boat the requirement is Rs. 30,000 + Rs. 10,000 even for a small net. The number of boats lost in this region is 230 boats and only 130 ppl are covered by the govt scheme. The ppl are showing solidarity and saying that all folks should be reimbursed. Instead they want to find another way to survive till the full extent of the damage is covered. Medha had explored other options with the ppl and the short term solution is having small nets to fish in the the lake. With the fish and the rice they can survive.

The other issue of many villages here is the land. The govt is not buying land and instead has opened it up for NGOs. One of the foreign funded NGO has jumped in with the cash to purchase the land. This would be fine, but for the fact that the land and the building will be owned by the NGOs and not the ppl themselves.

Q: Did this not get resolved by Medha and Geeta?
A: Only in one village so far, MGR Tittu. The Chennai Waterboard has bought the land and has adopted the village. There is some hope of this being transferred to the ppl, so it is sorta resolved. The rest of the villages still need to be resolved. Volunteers from the unorganized workers union, Geeta, Medha contributed to the funds for rice in Nagapattham and Vellurpuram. All in all, 30 tonnes of rice was collected with donations's and Asha's funds.

Update from Patai (around Puligat lake):
Q: What is the status of the Puligat area which we started working with first?
A: Working for immd requirements of the 4 Irula villages:
Rajaratnanagar, Pettai, Sengaiamna Nagar, Kolathumadu

Additionally, immediate requirements of small villages were needed:
Chanavarur - - 11 families
Thambureddy Palia - 10 families
Tsumanbukulam - Isula village
Nandiambakam - 60 families. Rice has been distributed.

The issue here is that Govt doesn't want to give compensation to the Irula's as they are not part of the society. About 5 yrs back the fishery dept froze addition of any new members to the society and only the old societies registered will get compensation of Rs. 20,000. The new ppl get nothing.

May need to do something similar like the Killai area here too. The lake is not too deep and you can wade in the lake and fish. Presently, we were only looking for immd survival since another NGO (Jiva Jothi) is representing all 30 fisher villages and talking to the govt in this area and many other villages have similar issues. Jiva Jothi has also worked with the bonded laborer issue in the other communities and have a good idea of the ppl's dependence on fishing so we are letting them handle this area and focussing on Killai (Cuddalore).

Q: What about the other occupations apart from fishing?
A: Not in this area, everything here depends on fishing.

Q: Are you planning to bring these issues to the relief comissioner tomorrow?
A: Yes, I have a big list of these and some other issues and will be at the Asha Chennai home tomorrow morning. (Unfortunately, the meeting was postponed, and she is now in Killai so we will miss the fireworks on the conf call.)

Q: What is on the list?
A: There are many ppl who were living around the beach, but were not fishermen. E.g. in Chennai there are all the small beach sellers who have carts which were washed away, tailors and rikshaw pullers, daily laborers. Ppl with these other occupations are not even being considered for compensation. So far the schemes are only for boats and nets of the fishermen and these ppl also need to be accounted for. We have made a list of what the livelyhood of the ppl in different areas are and what they
will need to get back to their lives.

Q: Can I get this list?
A: She will ask Nerandran to send it to you, but it will take time.

Q: I still haven't got the survey of the Irula villages.
A: We sent it to Sivapriya, but heard that she only got the name of the villages. We will send it to her again and cc you.

Q: Do you have any feedback on the toys and games that you got forsome children?
A: The response was just amazing. The frisbees were hard to find when I was in Chidambram, only got 2. I took Checkers, carromboard and balls to MGR Nagar. I can only describe it as having pumped back life into the children. The Irula children were seeing a carrom board for the first time.

This is the only way to get these children back. There is a SOS center in Killai, but only 5-6 children go there. You need to take the time and take personal interest with the children. This time around I'm going to go with color pencils/pens and let the children express themselves through drawing. I will send you the pics so you get an idea yourself. It would be great to have more of these kits. I let her know that we had approved 50 kits, but the fuding is stillpending. Her reaction was , really! That is wonderful. I told her that the funds have probably not been realized yet and she said that she will borrow the money as long as it can be returned sometime.

She felt that what needs to be done is to get hold of vols who want to help to just spend time with the children and build relatioship with them. Spend a few months with them and get them back to the regular life.

The officials just come to the village find kids with no parents, put them in a van and take them to the orphanage. while the child is protesting and crying all along the way. These children have already lost their parents and are at least in their own communities. I know they mean well, but in many of these communities the ppl are willing to take care of the children of their own communities. It's not enough to give the children money and food, they need love.


Saturday, January 15, 2005

Onsite Update :: from Lakshmi in Chennai

Dear All,

Much as I would have liked to write an update everyday, I have been very busy physically as also some of our other volunteers who are email savvy.


We have been able to meet 107 families till 15th January. We have fully supported 78 families with money for rent advance/materials for restarting livelihood small businesses. The others will be coming back today.

We have had to issue tokens with the time and date as yesterday we had a huge crowd of people coming together to us requesting support. We have staggered them till Friday 21st.

3/4 volunteers from UP come to help with relief work are helping in our work with helping with crowd control, photography. They are with us everyday from the time they have come in.

The highlight of SAF is that draws on the strengths and knowledge of the youth in the affected areas, supporting with information, weeding out people who have received support and coming for it again, adding the people who are weak and helpless, and also giving so much of their time.

A couple of Asha volunteers from US have been and are participating in this effort.


Poorna Vidya families affected very badly by the Tsunami were helped by the State bank of India with the following – 3 mats, 3 bedsheets, 3 pillows per family, I saree, one dhoti, 5kg rice and a school bag for each of 109 children in the school. I was invited to their formal distribution near the Indira Nagar branch Chennai-20, where I met the Relief Commissioner Mr. Santhanam who said he would certainly meet me or anybody else in his office to share our experiences on what works, especially with regard to distribution mechanism.

The Theosophical Order of Service has supported with funding and technology support for a fresh from sea water plant at Akkarapettai in Nagapattinam. The Hindu of Jan 8th carries a report on page 6.

OMHS is back to normal. The school authorities are considering supporting the affected families through the school. A careful scrutiny by a committee of teachers is in the process. The last four days of govt. holidays have slowed the work as children were not in school. We would be able to extend help to the affected families that need our support.

Yesterday Asha Chennai focus group on Tsunami relief and the individuals working with us met formally and shared and took stock of our work. The concrete plans of Asha Chennai work and involvement and projects to support became concrete. After a formal round for approval today at our meeting in another hour we will write out the details.

We found that the village folks away from the city in a few Kuppams we have personal knowledge of are quite united in their approach and very practical as well. The city people are trying to get their villagers into some semblance of sharing and caring with just a wee bit of success. However some positive changes are happening thanks to the focus of the village youth.

Funding support also was discussed and will be added to our formal report after today’s meeting.


Monday, January 10, 2005

Onsite Update :: from Lakshmi in Chennai

Dear All,

Volunteers from Kanpur –students of the IIT reached Chennai on 9th morning, helped with the Bhoomika Trust and then have gone to Nagapattinam for further work. Felt their commitment and willingness to be part of all kind of work.

The Pattinapakkam survey of the Pennurimai Iyakkam mentioned in my previous update is far from complete. The survey has covered only a hundred houses. The work is continuing. The complexities and the vastness of the area are problems the group is facing. They are doing it diligently and with care.

We are trying to arrange a sizable quantity of stoves from Mumbai. We have been able to procure 15 stoves yesterday and disbursed to the waiting families. We have booked for another 15 for today.

We urgently need sarees and babies and children’s clothes. We have enough and more of bedsheets and men’s clothes and do not want them for now. Please contact me/ my mother at 55187138 before delivering the material

Our tally of families who have contacted us till 10th night is 47. We have supported 31 of them fully and have provided basic support for clothes, provisions, school bags, for all the others while they are looking for new rented places or looking at support for restarting their livelihoods on the beach. The website updates will happen ASAP.

The enquiries for livelihood rehab from the beach and roadside vendors and shopkeepers have started increasing. This would need support from anything between Rs5000 to Rs20000. We will be discussing this area amongst our volunteers at Chennai and to see what would be the quantum of support and how we must do it. Feels so good and relieved to have our volunteers back from Varanasi back in Chennai.

We are paying very special to families where the women are running the show- widows, women deserted by their husbands, as also the old and infirm grandmothers looking after their orphaned grandchildren. We have received at least two concrete offers for support lifelong to such children who are orphans. Will take some time to put these people together.

Students at OMHS who have been affected by the Tsunami and have returned to school have received all requirements for school including school bags. We are happy that the children have been able to return to schoolwork quickly. We are also ready for children who will be returning to school after some days. We are hearing similar reports from Urur Kuppam school. Poorna Vidya children are also nearly completely taken care of. We find other schools around us also into returning to normalcy.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Onsite Update :: from Lakshmi in Chennai

Dear All,

Asha Chennai website has a page for the Support A Family – Tsunami Relief

As of 9th evening we have 45 families that have come to us and disbursement has happened to 28.

There are three families of fisher folk of Odaikuppam who require money to restart their businesses.

SBI is willing to consider providing loans.

The SAF families are coming back for small amounts of support like tube lights, bulbs, some provisions, clothes, sheets, school bags for their children (not given by the govt.) and utensils now they have a place to live in. They do not aspire for too much at all but take just the basic requirements for their homes. Kerosene stoves are difficult to get with the sudden increase in demand.

Many have settled into their old routine.

The Pennurimai Iyakkam have conducted a survey with some members of IIT, KFI school and Olcott Memorial high School (similar to the Urur survey, at Pattinapakkam where they were able to distribute one plastic pot for water. A similar survey needs to be done at Odaikuppam as well.

A group of citizens including a lawyer and persons concerned with the unfair and inequitable distribution are trying to bring this into focus through a petition. Details of Asha Chennai SAF programme have been very useful to get their petition drafted.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Onsite Update :: from Lakshmi in Killai

Dear all,

Support a Family (SAF)

35 families have so far been able to contact us. 21 families have received rent advance Amount Rs 63500 as per the rent advance needs + Rs1565 as support with household items. The other families will be coming in for support once they locate the houses for rent. The families picked up clothes and utensils they could use from our collection.


We are in the process of distributing books and notebooks and uniforms. We have ordered out the school bags and expect to be able to give them from Monday for Poorna Vidya and OMHS.

Other Happenings
More individuals are coming in to support our local efforts volunteering time and money support. 10 young people from Kanpur will be in Chennai on Monday the 10th. They will be helping AID and Asha Chennai.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Projects Update :: Various (Lakshmi)

Dear All,

Things that have happened in the last 24 hours with us


We have received the donation promised for the school students’ relief.

Spoke to the HM just now. She has received most of the requirements of books and notebooks from the corporation as also uniforms. She says after checking she will let us know about further uniform requirements. School bags are an immediate requirement. We can arrange for the same.

The number of identified affected students has increased as more children are coming back to school and info is pouring in.

State Bank of India Besant Nagar Branch is organizing 300 mats and bedsheets / blankets and utensils for the affected students and their families. These will be distributed to the school through the headmistress.

Spoke to Mrs Margaret just now. She has received all her requirements for her students from the govt. She is really shocked at the happenings inside the village. Each of the owner families have received large sums of money from the govt. The ones who are not really affected by the Tsunami have gained enormously. The tenant families have received next to nothing. She says that the children in her school have spoken the truth and told her how much money each of the many families has received. She has applauded the children who are honest and told them they should speak the truth and lead honest lives.

For the children of the tenants she has detained them in school after school hours under the pretext of cleaning up school, helping with one thing or the other and sent materials she has been collecting inside their school bags. She is reaching home only around 9pm everyday the last few days but she is doing her bit to ensure that help goes to the really needy. Margaret tried to enter the village and talk to people but she was rudely admonished. The village leaders came to her saying that whatever she gets be given to them and they would take charge of the distribution. Maragaret has told them as a headmistress she can only help children with what the govt. Provides and that she does not get support from anyone else. It is said to have issued the orders that the accounts of any NGO that enters Urur village will be frozen and that they themselves would deal with the place. May be true may be not but we do not need to help the village owners at all. Our support if any should certainly go quietly to the tenants of the village.

50% of the textbook requirements have been received from the govt. Some notebooks also have been received. As the material was brought in around 6pm last evening we will be doing the stock checking in the morning. The govt. authorities have asked us to collect the remaining books and notebooks later. As we are a private school for the underprivileged, we receive material last. The school management and donations from well wishers of the school will ensure that all shortfalls are met.

Children in Arignar Anna school, Avvai Home school, Rani Meyyammai School, Kumara Raja Muthiah School and Raja Muthiah School are also schools that have been affected as they come from the Kuppams. They are govt./ govt. aided schools and have received help as at Urur School.


Father Barnard, priest of the Velankanni church came to meet me. With me was Vijaykumar who is the focus person for the Porna Vidya project from the donor’s side, and Mukund of Asha Phoenix. We shared the info we had on schools, owner families and tenants and the Kuppam dynamics. There was no difference in the pattern in the OdaiKuppam. The church sisters are compiling a list of requirements of students other than what the govt. has given from the 8 schools mentioned above. He liked our idea of SAF. The nuns are working from a house in Vannanthurai like how we are working from 9/40 Damodarapuram. It reinforced our conviction that we are on the right track.

The Madras Diocese has compliled/ is compiling lists of affected schools from Marina down South along the East Coast Road just short of Cuddalore.This data will be available to us as well.
Shanmuga has left for field work with medical aid. Will get back in a couple of days. I look at his 'Tamil Nadu Tsunami Relief Initiative' as the focus point for medical aid. I request all volunteers who want to help in this area to contact Anita or him on and

Have discovered yesterday that Malavika Chakraborthy my friend’s daughter has been in the TNSF work outside Chennai. She is willing to guide people who wish to volunteer on what is being done and what needs to be done in the areas outside of Chennai. Her contact telephone number is 09841101712. She has returned to Chennai after the week’s work outside to do her exam. Please contact her if you would like to volunteer outside Chennai.

Notebook suppliers, school bag suppliers, have been contacted and rates discussed and finalized. We can place bulk orders if required anytime with them for any approved requirements. We will be getting the quotes from uniform suppliers.


We have disbursed money and paid house rent advances to 18 families till 9pm yesterday. We have not been to type out and get the web page ready. Hopefully we will get the same ready today/ tomorrow. 8 families are in the process of looking for houses on rent.

One family who are very poor owners of a hut at Odaikuppam have received Rs 4,000 govt. support. They have requested for Rs5000 for rebuilding the hut as according to them it takes Rs 10,000 get it completed. We are doing a visit and disbursing Rs 2,000 first and more as and when the construction requires. This is an attempt to help the poor fisher folk unlike most of the owners in Urur Kuppam.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Projects Update :: Various (Lakshmi)

Dear All,

Reports from schools.

POORNA VIDYA- School Strength 282. Usual attendance before Tsunami 75%

Poorna Vidya on the Odaikuppam beach opposite ashta lakshmi temple is one asha chennai projects. Hindu page 3 of Jan 4 carried a report on the trauma of the children in this school. The Headmistress Mrs Annamma, Dhanalakshmi and Amuda- asha teacher facilitators have made an assessment on 3rd and 4th and compiled the needs of the children from those that attended school on these two days. 56 children of the who attended school require support with school related items- books, notebooks, uniforms, bags, pencils ,pens…These will be provided through school ASAP. The list will be expanded later when more students return to school. The attendance on 3rd the first day of reopening of school was 46% against the normal 75% average attendance.

The assessment has included the family details of loss as well, their original place of residence before the Sunami, their present place of stay and what the family has lost in the Tsunami. 40 families have lost all, homes and possessions. These include tenants and fisher folk owners of their huts on the beach. 7 families have lost utensils and other essential household items. The headmistress has directed the 47 families to Asha Chennai SAF with a note with each family duly signed and stamped. On 3rd and 4th , 9 families have contacted us.
We have provided immediate relief through ration and money for kerosene and a big container to store their supplies. We have asked the affected owners who lived in their own huts to meet us with the details of their plans of housing. Since fishing their occupation cannot continue for at least two months we will encourage some temporary occupation if they can find it. We will also help with SAF if the family choses to go to any alternate choice of residence.

For the folks not dependant on the sea we have suggested looking for houses on rent under SAF.

All the school related needs will be supplied through school for which the project sponsors are making available in the next couple of days through Asha Chennai as part of the project.

OLCOTT MEMORIAL SCHOOL- Project Bridge School Strength 751. Usual attendance before Tsunami 90%

1. 75% of the children have returned to school. Only Class 1 has low attendance of the order of 50% . The first survey has identified 119 children affected by loss of school related material. The Theosophical Order of Service will provide the necessary support. Local support is pouring in which the school is diverting to needy children in the nearby schools through the school students “help your neighbour” activity as part of the IYAP Programme.

2. As in Poorna Vidya family support is being extended to the very affected families who have contacted us. We expect some 20 odd families will need support right away.

3. The Theosophical Order of service may support other schools once the OMHS needs are taken care of


Details from the Headmistress Margaret are awaited. She had promised to get back on 3rd evening but has not yet done so. Will follow up this morning. There is money in asha Chennai account for this project which can be used for requirements of the children of the school. This has been communicated personally to Mrs. Margaret on the morning of the 3rd within I hour of school reopening.
Some of the families of the school who have siblings on Odaikuppam and OMHS have come for support to SAF children in the school have approached us and support has been provided. The families affected will be supported through SAF if they approach us.

URUR KUPPAM Balwadi- Project pride

The children are very young and are slowly trickling in. Will get detailed updates in a couple of days. Shanthi, Revathy and Umamaheswari are at the work of doing the detailed survey of the affected. These children will get one set of new uniforms as part of Pongal. These are being stitched through volunteer Arjun and were ordered out in mid December before the Tsunami.

The families affected will be supported through SAF if they approach us.


This is working from 9/40 New street Damodarapuram, Adyar where friends are allowing their one room house for meeting the affected and making disbursement. We are doing this in the locality which is chiefly less affluent because of the need for quiet and low publicity so that we meet only the genuine people. On the 2nd Sunday we worked from 11am to 9pm to get this going. On 3rd and 4th we worked from 6pm to 8pm and we will continue to keep this schedule.

So far 30 families have approached us. 12 families have found alternate accommodation and have received the benefits of support a family. 3 families have been given dry ration support for a week.

We are expecting a steady stream of affected people. So far we have spent about Rs 40,000. We have received specific Indian Rupee donations of Rs19,000 cash and will receive a Rs 22000 cheque donation and some more cash donations today. More enquiries and promises for this work are coming.

Independent non Asha volunteers Namita, Sudha and Latha are there to meet the people coming in and help in the decision making.

Support to work by individuals working at Nemmilli Kuppam is being discussed. This will need to go through the approval process after our volunteers return from the Rajatalab conference.

Medicine Support through Tamil Nadu Tsunami Relief Initiative

Shanmuga and Anita Satish are coordinating this effort. They have collected large quantities from doctors clinincs where free samples are available as also contacted the distributors who supply in bulk at low rates. Request volunteers to get in touch with them at and


Money has been distributed by TN Govt. to the affected yester evening. A sum of Rs4000 has been released so far per family. Those who received Rs2000 in the first disbursement received Rs2000 yesterday while others who did not recive any money in the first round received Rs4000.
Most of the owners of houses have received the money. Very few of the tenants have received anything and 50%- 100% whatever has been received have been given to the owners on their aggressive demands or a few case in the hope if their huts being rebuilt and their prospects of return!
Departments of Social work have closed their theory work for a month and put their students on the practical field work. Workshops are being conducted for school teachers and others actively involved with children and women by The Stella Maris college. 4 of asha Chennai Project teachers will be attending on 6th and 7th of Jan.
Rajaraman our Asha Chennai coordinator is in Rajatalab. It is difficult to reply immediately to all who write to me. Please bear with me for delays.
Volunteers from IIT Kanpur who got in touch very early have been told what they can do to help.
Kathik (through Sandeep) is in Chennai and will be meeting with me today about rehab of fisherman in some other parts of the state. While I do not know how much I will be of use I shall certainly see what I can do to see if know people who will support such requests
AID has said that it would require volunteers who can spare at least a couple of weeks to help them Their office numbers are- 91 44 28350403 and 91 44 55615629
Lots to report not much time.

Some journalists (from BBC and Wall Street Journal) have been conducting telephone interviews with me. I have been telling them only info that I am really personally aware of. Hope they represent things exactly as I told them.


Onsite Update :: from Siddhamma in Killai

Dear friends,

There may be no updates for the next 2-3 days from Siddhamma since she might not be near a phone in this time. The call was somewhat chaotic so I apologize if the notes are incoherent.

Siddhamma was on her way to Killai when I called her. Information from Killai that one person has got diarrhea. He has been admitted in the hospital. But, we are worried that this may be pointing towards Cholera. One group of volunteers already travelled to Cuddalore overnight to reaffirm treatment of drinking water with the ppl there.

Q: How long does it take to travel to Cuddalore?
A: Around 4 hrs travel in bus. They must have reached there. There are no cellphone towers in the area and communication is a little difficult.

Q: Who are the volunteers who left?
A: Krishnan and some other members of the unorganized workers group.

Medha Patkar a volunteer from NAPM has also arranged for a group of doctors to come to Killai. She will also be coming to understand the situation of the land. She has experience in the area of land displacement and this would help.

The other development is that they have now got an appointment with the Collectors office to try to explain the situation of the land to the govt for tomorrow. We are also hoping to meet all the villages to confirm what needs to be conveyed.

One large issue in Pillainedu is still that the bodies of ppl have not been found. The villagers are putting a lot of effort to find them and have put in much of their funds too. . It is possible that the bodies are stuck in the muddy/marshy areas and hence have not floated up. We are working on trying to shake the mud and hoping that the bodies would float up. Namita has suggested that she can help with arranging for construction companies to help with this.

The other bigger issue of communities being divided is becoming very clear in the distribution of relief. The prawn farming owners are being very smart and talking to the village heads of some communities and continuing to pit villages against each other. Especially the communities that are supported by prawn farming owners and
those who are not. This needs to be handled very carefully. There was already a divide between the communities as far as prawn farming was concerned. This was slowly starting to fade out in the face of the natural disaster and ppl were starting to talk to each other. However, now with the relief materials coming up some of the stronger/supported communities are hoarding the resources and not
letting it reach to the other villages. There are many outside charity organizations, drug companies, volunteer groups who want to help, but have no clue of the local situation who just bring lorry loads of items to a central village, in this case MGR Viddal. The village ppl tell them that they will take care of distribution, but don't.

Only ppl who have already been working with communities and know of their presence are able to get through to them. The excess AID is actually hurting the ppl rather than helping them.

The anger is starting to build up between the communities. These ppl are a little rough and we really need to be careful to ensure that there are no clashes in these area.

Q: How are you doing?
A: This is very draining on us. We are used to talking and handling difficult situations, but we are starting having difficulty in talking we are starting to choke up or even break down in tears. This has never happened to me before. I think I'm not as strong as I though I was. Geetha just got back from these villages and trying to council the ppl and is in the same state.

I'm happy I have had you to talk to everyday and put out some of my burden on you. I'm also very proud to be associated with Asha in which the volunteers are so easy to work communite to and who actually want to know the issues of ppl and not just blindly do charity work.

This is not the first time that Asha has helped the ppl. Last year when over 1000 bonded laborers were released there was such a large need for immediate relief and rehab efforts. SKI had then helped out to take care of them immediately and also worked on the rehab requirements.
[Note to Asha vols: It's great that we have responded in times of need, etc and some of the info many of us may also not be aware of, but I included this info to somehow point out that over the last 4 yrs of my limited contact and the last few days of calls with Siddhamma I've never heard her so emotional.]

She then gave an example of an acquaintance who have formed an NGOs committee for relief. They are all service mided, but not grassroot organizations. They called her yesterday and asked her to attend their meeting. She dropped in briefly. They wanted her to tie up with them in providing relief since they did not have penetration and said that the villagers don't use what they bought. The NGOs committe had applied and got a grant of 1 crore in materials. However, instead of consulting the ppl
on what their requirements are they have gone ahead put what they think is important in the proposal but this is not useable by the ppl.

Q: Can you give me specific examples?
A: The two primary things bought were clothes and tents.
- There are many piles of clothes that have been donated by ppl and this is
not a requirement.
- The issue of housing is not of tents, but where the ppl are to put up these
tents and stay. i.e. that of land.

Q: How about food? You could have used food.
A: This is the problem. They did not include any food in their budget.

Q: Can't you guide the orgs?
A: It's not like they really want to listen to us, they want us to distribute what they had on their budget and it just becomes an argument. There are too many issues of the ppl to deal with and I don't have the bandwidth for this.

Q: Maybe we do. Can you give us a list of orgs in different areas. Some of them might have US counterparts and we can try to see if can help them understand the needs.
A: This would be great. We are also worried about all the efforts that are going waste in the name of relief. They do not revel the sources of funding, but I will try to find out.

Q: What are the relief and rehab efforts you are looking at.
A: For relief we are giving 50 kg of rice for 2 weeks for each family. There are 300 families. The rehab should really come from the govt and we would like this to happen. It is our govts responsibility and we do not want them to shirk it. We are collecting information of what is needed in terms of rehab and will be presenting it to the govt in the coming weeks.

Q: Has the govt plan of land become any more clearer?
A: Yes, they don't want to build a seashore estate. They have decided to rebuild
the houses in an area 10 km from the sea shore. The villagers have found land 2-3 km off the coast which was not touched by the Tsunami and would like that used instead.

Q: I just wanted to remind you to send me info of the survey of villages in Pulligat.
A: I know I need to do this, but it has been very difficult for me to get around to doing this. There is no one to work on the computer. Can you help me with finding someone for the same?

Q: How about Satyapriya?
A: Yes, I forgot. I will get in touch with her.
[Followup: Confirmed with Satyapriya she said she will send the info once Siddhamma comes back from Cuddalore in 2-3 days.]

Q: Also wanted to remind you of info of ppl effected by bribes, etc by govt officials.
A: Geetha has the info and is collating it. Pls get in touch with her.
[Followup: I missed her in transit yesterday and couldn't get through in the morning. Will follow up on 4 jan 05.]

Q: Did Geetha convey any info from Naggapattam?
A: Based on her experiences Geetha has made 15 suggestions/observations to what the government of what can be done for the ppl there. One need for the ppl in Naggi district in Naggapattnam is is alternative accomodation. Ppl don't want to stay
in the immediate area of the large number of mass burrials. Ppl are emotionally broken, they have stopped crying or taliing and need councling. Not sure if the need is for professional psychiatrist. Just need understanding human-beings who can be with them. Even after four days they just wanted Geetha to just be there with them and not leave them.

Plan of the govt is that they are distributed rice, but they had not utensils to keep them. 2500 ppl were not identified. Some families have not been claimed. Mass burial. Youth have been very helpful. Local ppl idenfiy areas where there were houses from blueprints and the youth come with machines and dig to find the bodies.

Q: Are these pukka or kachha houses?
A: Kachha houses were completely washed off. The Pukka houses have collapsed with ppl burried inside.
[I need to follow up with Geetha tomorrow.]

Monday, January 03, 2005

Onsite Update :: from Jeba Durai in Chennai

Hi All,

I spoke to Jeba Durai today. Here are the brief updates from him.

- Siddama is coming to Chennai today and around noon will get together with satyapriya to type up a prelimnary proposal.
- jeba has been in touch with OxFam - an org. working in the nagapattinam area.
- he worked in the urur kuppam area with the village youth.

Immediate relief is available in these areas. The next step is to provide rehab. for ppl who are no longer being taken care of under the relief scheme of the govt. Jebba and DP are making a survey of the region to determine the requirements and work towards a detailed proposal for funding.

- Suyam trust(contact: uma) is working in some villages in the cuddalore region and also in the ennore region.
- TRY (contact: chandravel) is working in the ayodhya kuppam region.

Jebba has been in touch with these orgs too and they have requested time to write up a proposal. Jebba and DP are constantly trying to identify other orgs that are involved in the right way and have a demonstrated need of funds.

w.r.t to gvmt action and effectiveness:

In the urur kupam region families abandoned by the tsunami (ppl who have lost everything) are given Rs. 2000 if they show their ration cards. But, as observed in most cases this Rs. 2000 is also taken up by house owners and not the tenants who lost everything.

In the ayodhya kuppam region , however, the govt had been constructive in that, they had distributed vessels, clothes and other necessities. Also, in the wake of a tsunami warning, the govt made plans and took due care to move the ppl to a safer region.

Jebba will be in Varnasi for the Asha India conference on 4th, 5th and 6th. he said he might have email access and will surely update us with any news flowing in. He also mentioned that they are making efforts to send us detailed reports/proposals.

The conference is also an effort to document the best practices and efforts on providing livelihood which will be a large part of rehab.


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Onsite Update :: from Siddhamma in Killai

Dear Friends,

Here is a short update from Siddhamma today.

Geetha Ramakrishnan from NAPM who is working with the women's groups in Nagapattnam amd Kanyakumari has joined Siddhamma today in her work with Killai. The policy discussions with the govt continued. The govt wants to create the temp homes for the villages which were completely destroyed in a completely different area.

Q: What is the reason for the govt proposal?
A: They are saying that there is the risk factor of putting the homes near the sea. There is, however, plenty of land available further from the sea a few km from the beach where the homes can be built. The issue is that something similar happened in Chennai a little while back when the ppl near the beach were displaced to an area very far away from the beach and it made their livelyhood very difficult. The same is unfortunately happening here.

Q: How far away is the homes for the existing proposal?
A: It is not completely clear, but it is even beyond the Killai area.

Q: I'm not sure I understand why?
A: The govt wanted to have a clean beach so they could increase tourism. The only difference is that ppl here actually own the land and are not tenants as in the earlier case. Legally, the land can't be claimed by the govt in this case. The villagers are hoping that they can get land from the govt instead. There is also a group of activist lawyers who are looking at two things:

- If a body has not been traced the Govt is not giving any compensation.
- Those villages who have not lost homes are currently not under a compensation scheme. She is now in touch with the TNSF efforts with other villages in the Killaiarea. The issue for the villagers at this point is that they can't immediately go to work and require food.

Q: I wanted to remind you that you need to send me the specific cases of ppl affected by bribes to specific govt officials so we can take some action.
A: Geeta is actually working on this and I should be able to send this info soon.

Q: I need a detailed survey of the villages you are working with.
A: Everyone here has been out on the field and we haven't had the timeto do this at this time. Will do this whenever it is possible.

Q: What is the situation near Pulligat lake?
A: Namita visited Nandiamdakkam and Sunnabikudam with the supplies. When she was there the MLA Sudarshan from Gummdaipundi came and promised Sunnabikudam that they would receive Rs. 3000 for each family and 15 kg of rice.

Q: When will they receive it?
A: Not sure, it was supposed to come today. Need to find more information tomorrow and check if they received it.

Project Update :: SEED (Sundar)

Project Update : SEED, Sriperumbudur, Chennai

I talked to SEED this morning. SEED is not affected by the tsunami as the centers are far from the coast.

SEED is planning to assess the tsunami situation in two weeks and will decide if it can take the kids affected by the tsunami. If they decide to take in the kids affected by tsunami, they will be looking for additional financial help from Asha.

Currently, SEED educates children of prisoners, terminally-ill patients, murder victims, and prostitutes. SEED provides board, lodging, clothing and education of 300 children in ages 3-18 years. They provide both standard education and vocational training.

Sundar Swaminathan
Project Coordinator

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Onsite Update :: from Siddhamma in Pulligat

Siddhamma was very satisfied with the efforts today. Namita and she went to Pulligat with the food packets. The villagers from Pettai, Sengaiamna Nagar Rajaratna Nagar, Kolathumadu had all come together since it was little later in the afternoon before
they reached there. The villagers were most concerned about their future. Not sure if they can have fishing as their main occupation. It would cost at least 14-15 lakhs. The villagers have also started a debate with the govt.

The present package of the government is only for ppl who have lost everything. There is no package for ppl who have lost just the boat and nets.

Q: What is the package the government is offering?
A: Housing free+loan without interest for boat and net. 1 lakh for ppl who have died.

Most of the ppl in Rajaratna Nagar, Kolathumadu have lost their catamarans and nets and are not going to be covered. She also found out that some homes in Pettai were also not damaged so they will also not be covered under the scheme.

The second issue is the fear of parents for their youth to go back to the sea. There are many youth in the village who have completed their +12, and have been continuing fishing with their families after that.

There was a discussion of the possibilities and the villages and the following suggestions came forward:
1) They are 15 km from the National Highway 5. The highway starts from Bombay. If the youth are trained at an ITI with they could have a lubrication center on the highway to take care of the lorries. This involves a lot of assumptions, but this is not a new proposal. They just reminded of this proposal that came up last year.
2) SIPCOT - Youth get 1 yr training in English and computers and work with the SIPCOT industries. These are their alternatives to get out of the crisis.
3) Siddhamma put forward her suggestion of the women getting some training to make fish-nets since there is a large requirement for it not just for them but also for other ppl.
Women: (suggestion by Siddhamma).
Making fish-nets - shops and training and capital for the same.

The youth of the villages are finding out about the possibilities and they will find out the info for 3 days and will be talking about the fishery department. One youth who is supported by Asha is completing his B.L. (in 3 months). He is coordinating the
efforts of the youth in the village. He has been with the ppl all through these days.

4) Background on organized fishing:
There was a boat accident a few yrs back in which a few youth had died and the Govt had officially imposed licenses that they would only provide if you had resources. However, some of the fishermen communities took this as an opportunity to come together to forced other communities not to be able to fish.

Last year there were a large number of jelly fish in this area and these were caught in large numbers by the fishermen communities. These communities also caught some of the fishes near the coast and made some livelihood out of it. Anticipating the same kind of fish this year Asha supported a fishing boat (SKI has more info). The boat is
well built and can help 10 fishermen. However, they were unable to use it since there were no jelly fish this year. The boat had been stored in the village of Kolathumadu and is the only boat that survived the disaster.

It is not clear if the natural disaster would allow the communities to work together, but maybe in time with the blessing of other villages they will be able to use if for touring tourists. (Namita suggestion). However, when there will tourism in this area is a big question.

This is the present situation.

Q: Are you aware of Balaji's (AID India) work around Pulligat the same area?
A: No, there are almost 16-20 villages in this area that are effected. Unfortunately there are no NGOs working with the trials. [I gave her all the phone numbers so that she can get in touch with them and see if they can work with her to get the resources.]

Apart from these villages there are another few Irula villages in the right side which have also been effected. We thought that other NGOs are working with them. But, some of them also came to the meeting to tell us the problem. Nandiamdakkam (60 families), Sunnabikudam (60 families) other small hamlets of around 5 families each has the same issue.
- There is also an Asha school in this area. Tomorrow Namita is going to this area and will give more reports.

Q: Just wanted to check if Namita asked about how much rice is consumed by organizations. Sorry for being a pest asking uncomfortable questions.
A: She asked and understands it now. We have increased 7 kg to 10 kg for
a week.

Q: I asked her about the all organization meet tomorrow and asked her to go to it.
A: She said that DP contacted her about it.

Update from Killai

Youth have made a list of requirements, but couldn't convey them by phone. I will be there on monday and work with them and the govt for a few days.

Project Update:: FORWORD (Arvind)

An update on project FORWORD's relief and rehabilation efforts can be found here:

Arvind Kumar
Asha for Education
University of Florida Chapter

Projects Update :: AP, Kerala & TN (Sanjeev)

Dear Friends,

- 43 Asha projects in Tamil Nadu have been contacted. Only Irula and Anawim have been affected. The projects that have not been contacted do not have up-to-date contact info. We no longer need volunteers who want to help contacting projects.

- Andhra Pradesh: 7 projects that are coastal have been contacted. All other projects are schools in Hyderabad or the interior of Andhra. It is safe to conclude that none of the projects have been affected either.

- In Kerala, 4 projects have been contacted. The rest of the projects are in north Kerala. These projects are too far to have been affected or to be involved in relief and rehab.

Project coordinators: please take a look at the lists and see if any project you know or have worked with are listed in red. In that case, please let me know their status. I think it is time to start looking at projects that are working on relief and rehab over time.

More info soon.