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 Post subject: Embodying a Message of Love and Compassion
 Post Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 9:45 pm 
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Embodying a Message of Love and Compassion


By Amy O'Toole, CARE


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Young Ketheeshwary restores meaning and joy in the lives her mother and grandmother following the family’s tsunami losses. (Photos © 2005 CARE/Josh Estey)

VAHARAI, Sri Lanka - Her purple t-shirt reads: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” Attributed to the Dalai Lama, this saying is particularly fitting for many of the world’s poorest communities, where close ties to loved ones are what make life not only bearable, but rich. Surenthira, 20, is a good example of someone for whom love and compassion are sustenance.

Surenthira became a very young widow five months ago when her fisherman husband died from a snakebite. Left alone to raise their 1-year-old daughter, Ketheeshwary, she moved back home with her parents. Having never worked before, Surenthira began preparing and selling cadjan leaves, which are used to construct roofs. Her father toiled in the paddy fields while her mother took care of the baby.

After a couple of months, Surenthira became part of a CARE project that, among other things, offers training and guidance on home gardening and poultry rearing to improve the nutrition and income of families. Through the project, Surenthira acquired 10 chickens and learned to use fertilizer to grow chilies, tomatoes and eggplant.

While rearing the chickens and planting her garden, Surenthira continued to prepare cadjan leaves and was at home doing so on the morning of December 26. Her father had gone out to buy fish along the shore.

“I saw the sea coming. People were running so I carried my daughter, and my mother and I ran.”

The radiant smile that reaches her eyes and lights up her entire face briefly disappears. Her father did not survive the onslaught of rushing water.

“We lost our house and my garden plot was destroyed.”


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Surenthira is grateful both for having a way to keep herself busy during the day and for the income she earns to help support her family

Now living with her mother and daughter in a cluster of tents with other tsunami survivors, Surenthira is employed by CARE to clear the land of debris in order to build more comfortable temporary shelters.

“I want to earn money and do something other than sit in the tent all day,” she explains. “I want to give money to my mother to look after my daughter and buy clothes for my daughter.”

When pressed, she laughs and then demurely admits that it would also be nice to have a house and a well for clean water and to be able to replace the radio, bike and kitchen utensils that she lost.

“We used the radio for songs and news. But after my husband died, there was no one to buy batteries. There’s no electricity here and batteries are expensive.”

Surenthira doesn't know it yet, but CARE will soon be distributing a radio and extra supply of batteries to every household in her camp and several others where CARE is assisting people affected by the tsunami. The radios will bring a much-needed diversion to the restless residents of the camp, and news programs will connect them to the rest of their country and the world...

Long term, what Surenthira most wants is to be able to send her daughter to school so she will be educated. And a bigger garden wouldn’t be bad either. Even though she gets most of her sustenance from the love of her mother and daughter.


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