Southeast Asia Tsunami

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Tsunami Relief Project

In the tsunami which occurred on December 26th 2004 many thousands of people in the Asia Pacific Region lost their lives, homes were destroyed, families were separated, children were orphaned, communities devastated and their essential health and education services ruined.

It seemed appropriate that a Regional Appeal should be opened, but because the Region is not a legally constituted body, this was not possible. On January 13, 2005, with the support of the World President, Selma Simonstein and the approval of members of the World Executive, OMEP launched a world wide appeal for donations which would be specifically directed towards creative solutions to the rebuilding of early childhood programs in affected countries after the immediate crisis had passed. OMEP members responded generously; donations were sent to the World Treasurer and held in a special fund.

UNICEF agreed to discuss a joint project. Joan Waters, who was the Regional Vice President at that time agreed to act as liaison. Jointly with Kate Kolchin, the then OMEP’s representative to UNICEF in New York, both prepared a draft plan. Their goals were:

  • To ensure that children affected by the Indian Ocean Crisis will be able to gain their self-confidence in caring, safe and protective environments e.g. Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDC).
  • Beyond the immediate emergency the ECDC will continue, perhaps in changed form, as permanent programs for young children.

OMEP’s plan used the following principles. Programs should be:

  • managed by local communities
  • of optimum quality
  • cost effective
  • sustainable over a long term
  • flexible, using diverse strategies
  • regularly monitored and evaluated

Many hours were spent in communication and consultation with UNICEF officers, but progress towards action was slow. Unfortunately, in August the OMEP plan was rejected by UNICEF, though some cooperative work may yet be possible. It had been agreed at World Assembly in Havana, July 2005 that Joan Waters and Kate Kolchin should continue to work on the joint proposal until 30 August. After that date, money would be allocated from the OMEP Tsunami fund on application to the affected countries.

In September 2005 the first installment of a grant was made to Sri Lanka for a rehabilitation program in the Matara District on the southern coast of the island. Progress reports from the monitoring and supervising sub committee (January 2006) show that 604 children have benefited from the program.

Twelve pre-schools which were devastated completely and eight pre-schools partly damaged were relocated about 400 meters away from the coast. All the children who attended were severely affected by tsunami, and many children lost at least one member of their family. Since the tsunami, they had been living in tents and were severely traumatised and physically unfit. The OMEP Sri Lanka group was able to continue its trauma healing program of dance, music, drama and painting with renewed vigor due to the OMEP assistance.

New furniture and equipment, made by local craftsmen for honoraria, was provided to the pre-schools. Educational equipment – drawing books, pastels, colored paper, boxes of clay – were also provided.

Twenty teachers and twenty caregivers were trained in theory and practice of early childhood education while in service. Two trainers seconded by the Ruhunu UNESCO Association conducted the in-service course which continued for two months, November and December, 2005 from 10 am to 4pm on each day of 8 weekends. The creative use of indigenous materials as play materials was stressed in the training course

Nutritious meals were prepared in the premises daily on voluntary basis by the parents and members of community based organisations. From 575 to 625 children were fed daily. After three months all the children now look healthy and physically and mentally fit. Locally grown cereals, fresh vegetables and fruit were purchased at the nearby gardens. Since the locations are fisher villages, fish was available at low prices. Dry foodstuffs and unpolished rice were supplied to parents to be used for dinner. The traditional herbal drink (Kola Kenda) and milk were served on three days a week.

Three mobile health clinics were conducted by doctors and nurses who are members of OMEP Sri Lanka group and of the Ruhunu UNESCO Association. The children with vitamin and iron deficiency were treated with supplements. Three additional health clinics were held during a 4-month period where medicine and nutritional supplements would be provided as prescribed. Meals was provided for this period, along with dry foodstuffs.

Further resources are needed. Services of teacher trainers, doctors, nurses and artists are needed to complete the project as scheduled. Continuation of the cooperation of parents, state officers, and community based organisations is needed for the successful implementation of the project and to realize its expected impact. The expected date of completion of the project was 20 April 2006.

The second grant has been allocated to Indonesia for the project, ‘OMEP Post Tsunami ECEC Teacher Training Program for Children from birth to 3 years.’

The program began on December 19, 2005 and finished in March 2006. The aim was to train 20 participants to enlarge their competence and increase the problem solving and coping abilities of children from birth to 3 years by appropriate early childhood education and care (ECEC). Previously, OMEP has made approaches to existing Aceh tsunami programs seeking assistance for children aged 0-3 years but until now all programs have been for school age children only. It is important that the community provide resources and services for younger children so that later, more costly interventions are not needed. The trainers are OMEP members, graduates in Social Work, who have been volunteering in Aceh since January 2005 and have experience in field work. The project team organised activities for younger children; organised supplementary nutrition services; and organised meetings and campaigns to give information to mothers. Local community support and participation were encouraged. The project has been monitored by OMEP Indonesia, and the coordinator will submit progress reports.

Allocation of the remainder funds was decided by the OMEP World Assembly in Tromsø (Norway, August 2006).

Joan Waters visited Sri Lanka and Indonesia in early June 2006 to monitor in situ the implementation of the project. Her presentation to the World Assembly has been uploaded as a Power Point document (pdf).

More detailed and updated information is to be added soon.

Additionally, it is worthy to note that effective August 2006, OMEP Sri Lanka rejoined the organization as a Preparatory Committee.
Download Presentation of Joan Waters, August 2006


Pic 1 Boy in wreckage. No captions

Pic 2 Map
In January 2005, when many countries around the Indian Ocean were severely damaged by the tsunami, OMEP appealed to its members in over 60 countries to donate to a fund for projects which would have long term benefits for young children and their families after the immediate crisis had passed.

* January 2005 OMEP Appeal opened
* Grants made

Projects in Sri Lanka and Indonesia were established by our National Committees in those countries, and grants given from our fund. I was appointed to co-ordinate them and receive regular reports of progress.

In June, at the request of the World President and the OMEP Executive I visited both countries to assess progress of the projects

* Houses, waterways, and fishing villages wrecked

Pic 3 I was not prepared for the scale of the damage pic 4 and the conditions in which families are still living. Pic 5

* Reconstruction

pic 6 Reconstruction is visible everywhere, but due to the enormity of the devastation, logistical issues and damaged infrastructure, progress is slow. pic 7 Much of the housing reconstruction work I saw is being done by local people using a mix of traditional methods and partial prefabricated structures, pic 8 with funding coming from many international organisations, governments and individuals.

* Project in Matara District Sri Lanka

Pic 9 In the coastal district of Matara, south west of Colombo Sri Lanka, 20 small preschool centres were either partially damaged or totally destroyed. Pic 10. With much local help, 12 of the preschool centres were repaired and re-opened, and two others were re-established in undamaged premises. Pic 11 Two UNESCO trainers conducted an intensive in-service course for the teachers working with traumatized children. Our grant was used for re-equipping the centres and providing resources for the training. pic 12

* Project in Banda Aceh, Indonesia

pic 13 In Indonesia, the special territory of Aceh on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra was the closest point of land to the epicenter of the earthquake which triggered the tsunami. Our project here is the first ever for mothers and their babies, toddlers and three year-old children. pic 14 Six OMEP members from the staff of a Bandung University Education faculty travelled to Banda Aceh and conducted training for 20 people selected by the Territory’s Department of Social Welfare. pic 15 These trainees now run daily playgroups in the camps, using pavilion type buildings belonging to the army. Pic 16

* OMEP’s Projects are commended

In both places I was enormously impressed by the commitment of the workers, their daily efforts to provide some normality for the children, and their sheer resilience in the face of their own losses. pic 17 Though daily life in southern Sri Lanka and Banda Aceh is far from back to normal, it is good to know that children and mothers have clean, safe places to meet; for mothers to talk about their experiences, and to see their children developing with trained guidance; and for children to have the opportunity for play and learning .pic 18

It is also good to know that money donated to local organisations is being used wisely, that our small investment will yield good dividends in the future life of these communities.

* OMEP’s grants are an investment in the future. pic 19

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