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“The floods that healed a nation”
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“The floods that healed a nation”

Navodinee Wickramanayake pic

Floods and landslides brought enormous destruction to Sri Lanka, but they also brought community spirit and generosity that define the small nation, writes Navodinee Wickramanayake, 22, a Correspondent from Sri Lanka who urges continued positive response to the disaster.

I guess the drought was not the very worst. After weeks of wishing for rains, rains we got. According to the meteorological department, in one day we received a month’s worth of rain.

These monsoonal rains, resulting in devastating floods and landslides, have left almost half a million people displaced. They killed almost another hundred in the process. We experienced what could be called the worst natural disaster since the tsunami in 2004.

Amidst the muddy waters, the world began to see a side of Sri Lanka that only those who lived within its borders knew of – our selfless generosity. As little as we are, Sri Lanka has been named the world’s eighth most generous nation according to the World Giving Index. Generosity is deeply embedded in our culture, and the past few days have been a gentle reminder of just how much that is true.

Our brave military, local start-ups, organisations and communities joined hands to provide much-needed aid and relief, so much so that if you would go into a supermarket in an unaffected area, it would be hard for you to purchase rations and snacks, as most of the stock has been bought by locals to be donated to those trapped in their homes or seeking refuge in evacuation camps.

You’ll see the youth of the nation heading out with boats and jet skis to rescue those affected, from humans to puppies and even lizards! It is not only the mere act of giving that has filled my heart with awe, but also their desire to physically contribute that has truly made me prouder than ever.

Social media and technology were at the forefront of these relief efforts with organisations like PickMe, Takas and Uber introducing boat pick ups and donation buttons on their apps to better locate victims as well as collect and distribute aid from locals. Being able to use technology at times of struggle such as this is a hopeful indication of the bright future Sri Lanka will have in bettering our disaster relief management efforts.

Despite the heart-warming generosity of our own as well as the international community during the initial stages of the crisis, there is so much to be done in the upcoming months. I have never for a second doubted my country’s ability to care for our own, regardless of race or religion, but we must remember these times of need extend long after the muddy water recedes and the homes are cleaned.

Those affected need a tremendous amount of empowerment and assistance so that they are able to settle back into their lives. We must understand that as amazing as immediate aid is, it is equally important to continue to support the rehabilitation for these victims. A disaster like this leaves people helpless for months upon months. Important documents are lost, textbooks and examination notes drenched, spirits dampened. It is imperative to continue to show the same level of enthusiasm and support in order to help our fellow brothers and sisters reclaim their lives.

Yes the floods broke us, but they also healed us. It was a reminder of who we are as a community and what we stand for. We needed this. It was that feeling we get when we win or lose a cricket match – pride and unwavering hope to rise above. It is that feeling we felt in 2004 when we were humming that “Tsunami song” while packing truckloads of rations to send to our friends living by the coasts affected.

Since our memories are refreshed, let us use this to move forward with the same unity as we had when we used our voices to collect foreign aid, and when we tied our sarongs up high and waded in to brackish waters to carry someone’s grandmother  into safety.

Let us remind ourselves of how we acted over the past few weeks whenever we feel like we are drifting apart. Let us remember how proud we felt to see ourselves come together, and we will never fall short of what we truly stand for, children of one nation.

Photo credit: Frozen in Time via photopin (license)
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About me: I am a Blogger for the United Nations Development Program Sri Lanka, a leader at the Global Education Project and currently obtaining an undergraduate degree on a full scholarship at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan.

I’ve been actively involved in projects that focus on youth empowerment and cultural appreciation and am passionate about creating sustainable and positive change. I hope to join an impactful organisation and help make a difference from grass roots levels.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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