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World Vision CEO sees Tsunami aid first hand

World Vision CEO sees Tsunami aid first hand

World Vision's CEO Helen Green has just returned from India where she saw the tremendous work that has been done on the tsunami-wrecked coast. But she says it's the poignant stories behind the headlines that are heart-wrenching.

"I was stunned by some of the things I heard from the tsunami victims," says Mrs Green. "For example, some of the women who were near the beach had their saris ripped off them by the force of the first wave, and of course, naked, many of them were too shamed to run for safety, so they were caught and drowned by the second wave. Some of the survivors who had run from the beach told me about this and the shame of their nakedness still haunts them. They pointed out the clothing that's still being washed ashore, caught in fishing lines."

She spoke to fishermen who'd gone out fishing in the morning, didn't notice anything unusual out at sea, and returned home to find the jetties and wharves gone, their homes destroyed, their families missing, and bodies everywhere.

"Some of them are still terrified," she says.

However, she was heartened by the work World Vision is doing in India, and was present for the distribution of hundreds of new treadle sewing machines to women who had lost theirs, and their livelihood, in the waves.

"I was very impressed with the emergency housing that World Vision has built, with concrete floors, power, ventilation, filtered potable water and enclosed drains. And they have safe, colourful child friendly spaces that are a real haven for the kids. Although the housing is very basic and not intended to be permanent, it's a big step up from some of the relief camps I visited with cardboard housing and open sewers. I saw several little toddlers fall into these open drains, and get pulled out and wiped off by their mothers. It's a desperately unhealthy situation."

Mrs Green spent a few days travelling around the tsunami affected area with New Zealander Judy Moore who headed up World Vision's relief operations in Cuddalore and Nagappattinam. Her work has now been taken over by another New Zealander, Alex Snary, who formerly worked for World Vision in Nepal.

The rehabilitation phase which began in February includes new business ventures funded by donations from New Zealand. "They're training young people from low-income areas for future employment, and giving financial grants for small business and community-based initiatives as well as a cash for work programme for needy families. Construction tools were given to 2500 families," says Mrs Green.

"With work, and resources, these survivors can regain some dignity and the ability to support themselves and their families."


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