A Tsunami Experience

John Bevan and Graham Barlow, both members of Tamworth Rotary Club gave a talk to the Society at the March speaker meeting about the involvement of Tamworth Rotary Club in providing humanitarian help to the Indian Island of Manasanitippi, a small fishing island situated in the Bay of Bengal in the East Godavari region of Rajahmundri.

Manasanitippi was devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami which caused death, loss of property and shattered livelihoods by destroying the boats and nets necessary for its fishing industry. Tamworth Rotarians decided to respond immediately and made some Club funds available, organised street collections in Tamworth and very quickly raised a total 30,000 to provide assistance for Tsunami relief. This sum was supplemented by matching funds provided by Rotary International through its charity fund Rotary Foundation after identifying a specific need associated with Manasanitippi by liaising with Rotarians in India who in turn sought funding from the Indian Government in all raising the total fund available to 100,000. A bold plan was developed to rebuild 50 houses with the money available using the good offices of Rotarians in India to project manage the reconstruction works on site in India. The works were completed in 2007.

The presentation to the Society was given in the form of a video diary of the visit to India by six Rotarians to inspect the completed works and to investigate supplementary projects where practical aid could be given. The video was very professionally filmed by Graham Barlow with over four hours of video accompanied by hundreds of stills being edited into a 30 minute presentation with commentary by John Bevan. The images were stark and atmospheric showing television interviews, the flights, the devastation caused, the teeming masses and traffic chaos in India, boat trips to the island, the opening ceremony for the completed works, visits to local hospitals to see the administration of health care and further visits to see the operation of Indian Street Kids charities set up to rescue and educate abandoned children. We saw some very poignant scenes of bright eyed children being fortunate to be in the safety of these rescuing organisations. But this leaves the hanging question of the position of those children abandoned but not rescued. We were told that the visiting Rotarians were treated as VIP's, a status unwanted, but the class system is very pronounced in India.

Finally the video showed a set of very tired Rotarians departing from Hyderabad airport for home after what was described in the video as `a day too far for ageing Rotarians'.

John and Graham then participated in a Q & A session describing their experience as `unforgettable and with a desire to return' and that they had identified a further project to provide a mobile health service to alleviate a problem indicated in he video of waiting patients being turned away from treatment due to excessive demand after walking 15 miles for treatment. John confirmed that from the monies raised for the project no deductions were made for administration or expenses, all work was carried out by Rotarians free of charge. The visit to India was paid for by the Rotarians themselves and home hospitality was provided by Indian Rotarians. In all we heard of a very impressive example of what can be achieved internationally by cooperation, goodwill and entrepreneurial drive. Thoughts for all to contemplate. In thanking John and Graham the Society made a small financial contribution to the Rotary Club of Tamworth to assist with the project to provide a mobile hospital as referred to earlier and if any Civic Society member would like to make a personal donation then they could do so by writing to John Bevan, 14, River Drive, Atherstone CV9 3SR, making their cheque contribution to the Indian mobile hospital, payable to The Rotary Club of Tamworth, indicating that it is a donation.

Tony Crookes
March 2008