Sunday, January 02, 2005

One story among many - the Sambodhi shelter

Disabled children were helpless tsunami victims
GALLE, SRI LANKA ... Some desperate children gripped the rafters as the water level rose inside the one-story Sambodhi shelter, while others on mattresses floated away to their deaths, witnesses said. Just 41 of the 102 residents of the home [for disabled children] survived, caretaker Kumar Deshapriya said Saturday...

Deshapriya, who uses a wheelchair because he has muscular dystrophy, said it began after he returned from placing orders for fish, grain and vegetables at the market...

...Shelter employee Saroja Senivirathna said that she and a few others climbed onto the roof to escape the waves but that the cries of trapped children below were so unbearable that they descended to try to save as many as they could.

"While I was on the roof, I thought the whole place was going to collapse," Senivirathna said. "While these children were screaming, I decided it would be better to all die together rather than save my life alone. That's why I got down."

...Deshapriya is determined to rebuild the shelter, which has received money over the years from Mormons in the United States, a Dutch charity, Galle municipal authorities and Sri Lankan air force veterans.

Had the waves hit 100 years ago, the population of the shorelines would have been quite small. Had they come 20 years from now, warning systems would have been in place. The waves came at the worst of times.

This is only one story among thousands, but there is a human need to create monuments to memory. Perhaps a restored Sambodhi shelter will be one monument. They will not lack now for funds, though, sadly, we will not lack for fraudulent charities claiming their name. Our family donates to CARE ( and the Red Cross (most recently via Amazon's home page), but I'll make an exception for the Sambodhi shelter if I can find a legitimate charity sponsoring them.

PS. More Swedes died on the beaches of Thailand than Americans died in our most recent catastrophe -- the destruction of the World Trade Center.

No comments: