This was Michel’s 7th and my 12th trip to Sri Lanka since January 2000, a testament to our affinity and passion for this country and its people.
From the gorgeous beaches to the highlands with the 2,500 meter high Mt Pidurutalugala, from the rain forest to the dry zone, Sri Lanka has an inexhaustible variety of flora and fauna. More than 2,000 years of eventful history has given this country a deep cultural heritage with colorful traditions. Sri Lanka is 1.5 times the size of Switzerland. (Sri Lanka – 65,610 sq.kms; Switzerland – 41,290 sq. kms.)
Unfortunately, Sri Lanka is also a country of extreme poverty, with unimaginable corruption and bureaucracy. Following a long lasting conflict after gaining independence in 1948, a civil war broke out in 1983, lasting through to May, 2009. Open fighting was only in the northern part of the country, the homeland to the Sri Lankan Tamil people.
Nearly 70% of the people live without running water and most of the 100,000 houses destroyed by the tsunami would not deserve this name by our standards.
We tried to help in the past. Unfortunately, a couple of times we fell for tourist traps like many other well-meaning people.
In 2002, I met a Sri Lankan lady, Faye through the internet. She was around my age, in a similar family situation and I found in her a true sister in soul. The friendship which she and her family offered to us opened many doors to their country and its people, which would have remained closed to us as tourists.
They live in Colombo, close to the sea, and thankfully were not affected in any way by the tsunami. Their complete (very big) family lives in Galle, a coastal town which was very badly hit. In a lucky coincidence, all the family was on the way to Colombo to attend a wedding, early on the morning of the tsunami.
A blessing that for Faye and Humaid nor any of their extended family there was no personal loss, only some damage to homes and possessions.
After the tsunami of December 26th, 2004, we wanted to intensify our help, and soon were overwhelmed by the support of relatives, acquaintances and friends that knew of our relationship to Sri Lanka. We were also very proud of the trust they put in us and a little bit scared of the responsibility that came with it.
We have spent every rupee to the best of our knowledge and belief, and have paid all travel costs and expenses out of our own pockets.
It’s not so easy to help!!