April 1

Friday, Luke’s 21st birthday

This is our last work day in Sri Lanka. It’s a bittersweet day. Today I went with the teachers, they had 100+ bags of gifts to deliver to families outside of the village, tsunami victims that we haven't been able to assist and nobody else has either. Because this area wasn't hit as hard as the east and south coasts there has not been other NGO (non government organizations) assisting. We only had blankets, toothbrushes and paste, a few toys, nothing big, but we had to find a way to deliver without causing a riot. For those of you that are familiar with mardi gras, people just go crazy for free stuff. Mauling and mobbing, pushing and grabbing. The 1st village we went to wasn't too bad, we had a list of names and called them out and people came up to get their bags. Of course their were families from other areas who received nothing. That is a very hard situation to handle. We had three armed guards assisting us. Then we went to another area across the tracks from "the village", that was chaos, people grabbing, no thank you's totally disorganized.
In retrospect we would not collect material objects at home to bring here. We would just bring money, assess needs and buy what is needed. But this is a grassroots organization learning from experiences.

The later afternoon was better, in fact it was great. We went to a refugee camp, all 72 families lost their homes and are living in an old school we visited these earlier. They have lost all of their families photos to the tsunami. Today we came with our polaroid cameras, to take family photos. When we got there the families had cleaned up and were waiting for us. 3 of us took pictures. They were organized and grateful. Now that was rewarding. There were old toothless couples, children alone, big families, men in sarees, just a lot of different families. Very special.

When we got back to the farm it was time for a birthday party, one of the yellow shirts turned 58 years old today (that is about the average age of this group). We had a local singer come and all the children from the orphanage and farm workers, the cooks, drivers and orphanage workers. It was so very special to see the children having fun. We all dance with them. All of the children are 7+yrs. Prior to our arrival they had very, very simple lives. They just love us. I fear how it will be for them when we aren't here.

It’s about 11:30pm the music is still playing but I’ve had enough for today. I’m sitting outside my room in my nightgown writing this. I’ve had a great room. More private then most.

4 people have decided to stay for 2 more weeks. The trees still need to be planted, the orphanage needs painting, the emergency evacuation system for the village needs to be developed and implemented.