by Rachel Stevens
IN any disaster situation, it is the local people who are best placed and able to respond and provide immediate assistance. It is therefore great that The Salvation Army was able to respond on the day the tsunami struck. They are remembered by the community as the people who immediately came to help.
Tearfund greatly appreciated the opportunity to develop a partnership with The Salvation Army’s India South Eastern Territory. Initial contact was made in January 2005 and, over the course of the next few months, regular communication and visits were conducted, culminating in a partnership agreement being signed and financial support being passed on.
|Children play on a Salvation Army-provided boat in Kadiapattinam, India |
Since then we have made regular visits to the project site and have been really encouraged to see the project field staff developing close relationships with the two tsunami-affected communities where they have been working. Their local knowledge has been invaluable, as have the relationships which the project director and manager have developed with the Roman Catholic priests who act as ‘gatekeepers’ to their community.
On each occasion I have visited Kadiapattinam and Kaniyakumari villages I have been impressed with the community volunteers The Salvation Army has trained and equipped. Not only have they provided counselling to those affected by the tsunami, but in the longer term they will help raise awareness of health and sanitation issues in their community. The Salvation Army’s commitment to community development is evident in both these communities where, alongside restoring fishing livelihoods, the project team has also sought to rebuild communities. This not only involved the physical reconstruction of houses which have become homes, but also the rebuilding and enhancing of community groups.
The tsunami demanded a huge response, in often challenging situations, and the Salvation Army team based in Nagercoil rose to the challenge. As a result, thousands have been helped and communities have been strengthened to withstand better any disaster which may come their way.
Rachel Stevens is from Tearfund, a leading Christian relief and development charity