Rebuilding Sri Lanka after the Tsunami: One volunteer’s determination

One year on from the South Asian Tsunami, Pamela Nowicka meets YMCA Base Co-ordinator Charith de Silva, whose work with his community is providing for present needs and preparing for a better future.

Y Care International’s partner YMCA in Matara, Sri Lanka, offers a model of post-Tsunami rebuilding work. But not just of structures – like houses, or providing help in the form of grants to help with small business set-up or education – but in building that most tenuous but vital intangible… community.

And instrumental in that process is the combination of youthful enthusiasm and empathetic maturity found in 22-year-old Charith de Silva, the YMCA Base Co-ordinator for Galle and Matara.Charith has been involved in the YMCA in his native Badulla in central Sri Lanka since he was 15, firstly as a youth member, then working his way up to Youth President.

“My father was a warrant officer in the Sri Lankan army. He’d been working with the YMCA for 10-15 years and he encouraged me to get involved by going to a national camp. There were so many opportunities – badminton, Christmas programmes, youth camps. I enjoyed myself very much.

Most of my friends are Buddhist and most of them came with me after I joined.Charith was working as a volunteer in Kalmunai, when, shortly after the Tsunami, he was given the post of Base Co-ordinator. “My job is about Tsunami relief work. But the YMCA is not just for Tsunami work, it’s for everything: youth and child rights work, peace building, awareness building and building a YMCA identity.

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