On my recent holiday to Thailand I was privileged to visit the Tsunami Volunteer Center in Khao Lak and spend a day visiting some of the projects. This was very poignant for me as Save the Children are one of the Centeršs sponsors and it enabled me to see at first hand some of the projects that your generosity has helped to fund. I would like to share my experience with you.
The Tsunami Volunteer Center is a Thai-led tsunami relief organization, non-governmental which started shortly after the December 2004 disaster. Helen Sutton and her boyfriend James have been helping at the Center for several months. Clive and I met Helen at the Center one Monday morning and joined a group of new volunteers on an orientation day. This started with a briefing at the Volunteer Center and included cultural awareness and responsibilities which come with living and working in a foreign country. We were then taken in open trucks to visit the projects. Our first stop was a furniture workshop aptly name "Thaikea". In the aftermath of the Tsunami thousands of coffins were sent to the area, some were too small for the European victims. The resourcefulness of these people turned this surplus commodity into furniture for the new homes being built. Each household can go to the workshop and with the help of the qualified Thai workforce and the volunteers, design and make three pieces of furniture. When this project is finished the workshop will remain as a sustainable business using the leftover wood from the boatyard, to build outdoor furniture.
We went on to visit two rebuilding projects, one in Niam Khem and the other at Tap Tawaan. Both are the complete rebuilding of villages wiped away by the Tsunami. Each villager has to build their own house with the help of the volunteers; this engenders self-sufficiency and helps to develop skills to enable them to support themselves. We stopped for lunch at a small fish restaurant on a beautiful beach. It was hard to think, whilst sitting eating a delicious lunch, that the whole area had been totally devastated and these warm and wonderful people have gone through all the pain and anguish and yet are still courageously working hard to restore their lives.
After lunch we left for the Pakarang Boat Yard. This is an amazing project that employs 22 local full time boat carpenters. The local fishermen who lost their boats and their livelihood are required to work on their own replacement boat during its construction. They also have an input into the boat's specifications and details. They have built 47 boats and they have a further 22 to build. After the project is finished the boatyard will remain as another sustainable business.
We then went to see a group of Volunteers helping some Thai villagers in Environmental restoration around their newly built village. This project is a race against time as a Corporation is trying to take over the land to build a golf course and is subject to a Court case in three months. Our last stop was a visit to the Tsunami Craft Shop; here Thai women, affected by the Tsunami, make all the goods on sale to support their families. The quality and range of goods is excellent and hopefully their business will grow, as more tourists come back to the area. The Thai people and the Volunteers are truly amazing and together have achieved so much in just over one year. The ultimate goal of the Tsunami Volunteer Center is to enable and empower communities to become self-supporting without the need for external assistance.
Having been a part of the fundraising volunteers for Save the Children for over 27 years, I have never been in any doubt that the money