washingtonpost.com  > Metro > Maryland
Page 2 of 2  < Back  

Mission To Shelter Orphans Stymied

Other areas in Sri Lanka have seen the same phenomenon as relief groups pour into the country -- providing shelter, food and medical care, replacing possessions and rebuilding homes.

Since the tsunami, at least 200 humanitarian aid organizations have arrived, said David Evans, a representative of aid groups to Sri Lanka's disaster management agency, the Centre for National Operations. The exact count may be much higher because not all groups are registering with the CNO, he said.

During the tsunami, Dayalan Sanders, formerly of Gaithersburg, rescued 28 orphans in his care. He plans to build them a new home.

_____More From The Post_____
Fundraisers Aid Victims Of Tsunami (The Washington Post, Jan 13, 2005)
Saving the Orphans (The Washington Post, Jan 12, 2005)
Orphanage Destroyed by Tsunami Gets Boost (The Washington Post, Jan 9, 2005)
Sister Provides Her Own Tsunami Aid (The Washington Post, Jan 6, 2005)
Outracing The Sea, Orphans in His Care (The Washington Post, Dec 30, 2004)
Md. Woman Seeks Help Reviving Sibling's Dream (The Washington Post, Dec 30, 2004)

But aid groups say they aren't to blame for price escalation. They say businesses and real estate owners who increase prices when they see the groups coming are responsible. Aid agencies have seen this happen in other disaster areas where housing and other infrastructure is scarce, such as in Sudan, said Sid Balman Jr., a spokesman for InterAction, which represents U.S.-based international humanitarian organizations.

"We're as upset about it as anyone," Balman said. "I think it is a practice akin to ambulance-chasing."

Until Sanders finalizes a deal for a temporary home in Batticaloa, 16 of the orphanage's children; Sanders's wife, Kohila; and their 3-year-old daughter, Hadassah, are living in the small church in a residential district. The other orphans have been sent to relatives.

In contrast to their sunny cottages on the beach in Navaladi, they are crowded into a dark one-story building with crumbling cement walls and a dirt yard that springs a small stream when it rains. They share the facility -- and its sole bathtub and toilet -- with the pastor of the church and three church staff members.

Sanders' wife shook her head as she gestured toward the wood-burning stove in the kitchen -- a slab of cement protruding from the wall -- in the small, soot-streaked kitchen and the two-burner propane stove on a rickety stand. She misses the two kitchens of the orphanage.

Instead of living four to a room, all the girls heap their belongings in a small outbuilding and sleep on a floor of the common area at night. The boys get the porch.

Kohila Sanders said they take the children to the beach on weekends to help them cope with the loss of their sunny waterside home.

Dayalan Sanders and some of the older boys have gone out to the orphanage site to clean up before the heavy equipment moves in. To save on equipment-rental costs, they have broken up cement with pickaxes and carted away debris in wheelbarrows.

It hasn't been easy, Sanders said. He has lost much. The letters Winston Churchill wrote to his grandfather, an English barrister. His wedding photos. His laptop computer.

"My whole life is gone," said Sanders, heavy-eyed with fatigue during a trip to Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital and its largest city. While there, he purchased a 15-passenger van and a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle to replace the orphanage's two vehicles that were sucked into the sea. Next, he raced from one government office to another, trying to replace such documents as the children's birth certificates and the deed to his land.

The purchase of a new, larger boat, with a bigger engine, is also in the works, he said.

If the money is there, he would like to double the capacity of the orphanage, he said, because some parents who lost spouses in the tsunami have asked him to take their children. He would also like to build a vocational training center to train the orphans and other youths in the village in such skills as masonry, computer skills and sewing.

Maybe he could also add a study area and a dining hall for the children, he said.

"This time around, I want to build it nicely for them," he said. "We are going to rebuild as fast as we can."

< Back  1 2

© 2005 The Washington Post Company