Travel Reports



The first widow we visited was 26 year old Sifaya.  Before the tsunami, they had a good life. She had been married for eight years, mother of six year old Nasreen and two and a half year old Nasmila.

Her husband working as an electrician had built them a small house on the land belonging to an uncle.  A home with running water and, not surprisingly ,electricity.

From witnesses, she knows that her husband survived the first wave.  He was caught by the second, on his way home to look for his wife and daughters.  Sifaya was able to hold on to her younger daughter and lost sight of the six year old.  On December 27th at 11 a.m. she found Nasreen.  The child was able to hold on to the remains of a concrete staircase till she was rescued by some neighbors right after the second wave.  Sifaya was convinced she had lost her older daughter too, until they were reunited more than 24 hours later.

It is unthinkable what Sifaya went through while Nasreen was missing.  Consider the horror experienced when a child goes “missing” for a couple of minutes in a department store?  Yet she was luckier than so many others.

We came across Sifaya with her daughters and her Mother in a small mud hut with a palm leaf roof that would hardly stand a monsoon.  The hut stood on the ground of her relatives.  Their home had been washed away to the foundation plate, and without her husband alive, there was no one to financially support the re-build.  

Sifaya could not move closer to her Mother, or she would lose any claim for compensation or the possibility of a new house from the government.  With the death of her husband, caring for the girls and the necessity to stay in her home for 140 days, her Mother moved to be with them. 

A gorgeous human being, alert and intelligent and as poor as the hut was, the floor was very clean and the few possessions were arranged so accurately that it almost looked grotesque.

Die Tchter von SifayaNasreen und Nasmila

Die Hütte von Sifaya

Sifaya’s biggest concern was to be able to send her girls to school and it was not the only thing that made her special.  There was something about her and that feeling became stronger throughout the day, as we visited many more widows.  We simply had to go back to her in the evening.

To make a long story short:  Michel and I will send her the money she needs to make a living with the two girls and they will go to school.  It is not much more than the amount for a carton of cigarettes back home to cover her basic monthly needs and the tuk-tuk to send the girls to school.  Roy was able to open an account in her name, despite the fact that she normally would have had to show up in person at the bank.

It was such a joy to hand the bank book to her on our second visit to Hambantota and watch her signing it.  After the 140 days of widowhood, when she was free to leave her home, Roy went with her to the bank and showed her how to handle her account.  She will be the only person that can withdraw money from that account.

Das Bankbüchlein von SifayaDas Bankbüchlein von Sifaya


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