KATHRYN HARRIS, LCSW
Individual and Group Psychotherapy,
Training and Consultation
In March, 2005, I joined a team of professionals offering mental health services to refugees of the December 26, 2004 tsunami in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. This program was organized by the Mental Health Outreach Project which provides mental health services following disasters, and coordinated in Sri Lanka by The UNITED SIKHS, an international relief agency.
Our team worked with refugees from the fishing village of Navalady, on an island just off the coast from Batticaloa. The village was completely devastated by the tsunami. One third of the villagers either died or were missing (and presumed dead). People lost not only loved ones, their homes and all of their possessions, but their livelihoods as well.
Four articles written for the Cape Gazette provide more details about the tsunami and our project.
As part of our work with a women’s group we made arrangements to bring a group of 34 of the women to visit their homes and village which most had not see since the tsunami. That visit made very real the nightmare they had experienced. At our next meeting, after we processed some of the grief that surfaced,we asked the women in the group what they needed to move on, to either rebuild in Navalady or move to the permanent refugee camp under construction. One woman said “I need chickens” and then generated a list of supplies needed to once again raise chickens for market. Several others said they needed sewing machines to do piecework in their homes. Their needs were very concrete and realistic.
Once UNITED SIKHS agreed to implement this project, I have been raising money for chicken farmettes and sewing machines. Contributions have come from many places—mostly individuals reaching out to offer assistance to help persons in need on the other side of the globe. To date we have sent over $9000. to UNITED SIKHS.
In late July Phase I of this project was implemented consisting twelve chicken farms delivered to women who had returned to rebuild their homes in Navalady. The selection criteria was very clear (the women had no other source of support) and extensive interviewing was required before a woman could be considered eligible. Each delivery included two coops, forty chicks (20 layers and 20 broilers) feed, medicines and a consultation with a local veterinarian. Phase II will have 8 more chicken farms delivered in early September. (A market analysis indicated that the local market could support a total of twenty such operations.) A number of sewing machines are being procured for other women to complete the goals of the project.
In addition to chicken farms and sewing machines, one woman who qualified for a sewing machine but was going blind was allocated an equivalent amount of money and taken to Kandy for eye surgery which should rectify her problem., and a young girl was also taken for extensive eye treatment with the funds. The Foundation for Co-Existence, a Sri Lankan non-governmental organization, has agreed to monitor the progress of the recipients and provide support for the continued success of the project.
. I have been consistently amazed at the competent and caring way UNITED SIKHS has managed every aspect of the mental health project, and particularly, all of the details of this Livelihood Project. They are a very committed and impressive group of volunteers.
The UNITED SIKHS have provided a wonderfully thorough report of this livelihood project including a complete fiscal report. which can be read by CLICKING HERE.
Contact me at mailto:kathrynPH@aol.com
Lewes Office: 302-644-9474 (phone and fax)
Newark Office: 302-731-8662 (phone and fax)