FIN relief distribution in Kameshwaram

Image may contain: 7 people, people standing and outdoorNovember 22, on the night of the full moon, Pournami, the Goddess Shakti or Energy is welcomed all over South India and Sri Lanka with the lighting of lamps. But for villages like Kameshwaram and nearby ones, which have been far more devastated – there is no energy and no electricity after the Gaja cyclone. Indeed the need of the hour are mosquito repellents, candles and matches – then tarauplin material for roofing, bed sheets and blankets. We wanted to serve the worst off in the village and so we devised a system to identify and help them. We do believe that it’s been worth it to reflect upon how to do this best – it’s not only enough to help – it must serve the most needy – especially when our resources for relief are limited.

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing and outdoorPlease join us in saluting Mr. Paranjothi Singaravelu who has been working tirelessly and our volunteers of the Thandavamurthy ward of Kameshwaram: Suresh.K, Sathiyaraj.M, Venkadesh.T and Anbu.S. We will continue our work towards the rehabilitation of the village!
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FIN Gaja cyclone relief efforts: Update from Kameshwaram

We have successfully distributed mosquito coils, candles, and matches to about 400 families. Electricity and mosquitoes were a huge problem as power is yet to be restored. Now, these families would be able to manage for a week with these supplies. Please note that most of these families were living in interior places with little to no help. They were really happy that we reached out to them. We would like to appreciate our manager Mr. Paranjothi Singaravelu and his team of volunteers for their sincere efforts in identifying the most affected places and helping the people there.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoorNow we turn our attention to the second problem – damaged roofs. Most of the huts’ roofs are in a bad state and people are staying in schools/public places or with their friends/relatives. We raised some money through our friends and we have ordered tarpaulin sheets from Chennai. These tarpaulins can cover the damaged roofs so that these people can get back to their homes. This set of tarpaulins is expected to be shipped tomorrow and will reach the nearest town, Nagapattinam by Friday. We have already conducted a survey and identified the neediest of all the houses and we will start the distribution this weekend.

We will keep you posted on further developments! Hope the delta region bounces back strongly!

November 22, 2018

We have successfully distributed mosquito coils, candles, and matches to about 400 families. Electricity and mosquitoes were a huge problem as power is yet to be restored. Now, these families would be able to manage for a week with these supplies. Please note that most of these families were living in interior places with little to no help. They were really happy that we reached out to them. We would like to appreciate our manager Mr. Paranjothi Singaravelu and his team of volunteers for their sincere efforts in identifying the most affected places and helping the people there.

Now we turn our attention to the second problem – damaged roofs. Most of the huts’ roofs are in a bad state and people are staying in schools/public places or with their friends/relatives. We raised some money through our friends and we have ordered tarpaulin sheets from Chennai. These tarpaulins can cover the damaged roofs so that these people can get back to their homes. This set of tarpaulins is expected to be shipped tomorrow and will reach the nearest town, Nagapattinam by Friday. We have already conducted a survey and identified the neediest of all the houses and we will start the distribution this weekend.

We will keep you posted on further developments! Hope the delta region bounces back strongly!

November 28, 2018

It’s been two weeks since the deadly cyclone caused havoc in the delta region of Tamil Nadu. As things are crawling back to normalcy, a huge amount of effort will be necessary in the upcoming months for rehabilitation. 

It is only in times of such emergencies we get to really know the people we live and work with. Catastrophes whatever the form, often activate the altruistic gene in us that would otherwise lie dormant, to reach out to strangers in need. This is a Finnie (outside of Kameshwaram) writing.

The same thing is happening this time in Tamil Nadu. Though this cyclone disaster didn’t get much media attention in other parts of India or the world, there has been an outpouring of support from various parts of Tamil Nadu. People are helping in many ways – some arrange for relief materials, some go directly to help the needy, and some donate money. What do they get from this? Nothing. They don’t expect anything in return, neither rewards nor recognition. Just the satisfaction of helping a fellow human being get back to life. Nothing more! Isn’t it amazing? My friends who don’t know anyone in Kameshwaram decided to be a part of the villager’s slow, limping but sure transition back to normalcy. Thanks to all!

So this will be taking our relief efforts to a higher scale next week. Presently, we have finished distributing the initial set of relief materials. As in all relief efforts the challenge is to identify those in real dire need and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our volunteers in the village – or the friends network of Mr. Paranjothi who is well known to most if not all in the village.

December 2, 2018

Join us in dedicating good wishes and thanks to the generous men who worked tirelessly to deliver the relief packets to their neighbours in need. We would like to salute Suresh, Sathiyaraj, Venkadesh, Anbu [Thandavamurthy kaadu], Mohanraj, Navane

etha Krishnan, Dharmaraj, Chandrasekaran, Nagaraj and Vijayakumari [Vairavan kadu ward], Dhanabal, Kesavan and Bakyaraj [Vettarkadu ward], Jayabal, Vedhanayagam and Sridhar [Anaiyanthoppu ward], Ezhilarasan, Vedanayagam, Subramanian and Gyanasekaran [Mellar kadu ward], Ravichandran, Chokalingam and Nagaraj [Sivan Koil Street ward], Kamaraj, Ramadoss and Suresh [Kallar kadu ward] for their sincere efforts. Without their help, we wouldn’t have reached people in the interior parts of this spread-out village, living in isolated huts, unconnected to any road. Their selfless act has put a smile on many faces.

Our hearty thanks to all the volunteers from Kameshwaram and also to everyone who has helped the people affected by Gaja in whatever way they could. Thank you for restoring faith in humanity. United we stand!

Insights from Gaja Cyclone

December 24, 2018

News from Kameshwaram: A little more than a month after cyclone Gaja, Kameshwaram is slowly returning to a new and changed state of normalcy

The village is bright, awash with light, when the sun shines; and soggy with slush when it rains. Oh – how they miss the leafy trees with their protecting leaves that let in the sun in rays and the rain in drops – holding the most in themselves. Now the village is dotted with naked trees – a sight never seen before in this southern village, where the trees are always lush and evergreen.

The government sent in their staff, who have worked very hard just days after the cyclone, to clear the wood and other debris from the roads, and repair electric and telephone poles. The households have started getting electricity at night, but not during the day. There are no telephone networks working in the village, but buses are plying again and the villagers go to nearby towns to use their telephones, talk to relatives and exchange whatsapp messages. Schools have reopened.

Farmers are stacking the wood to be sold. Mangoes lie littered on the ground and most cannot be sold. Prices have fallen to an unprecedented low in the coconut market as fallen coconuts are being rushed to sales. “Madam – that farmer has never offered me anything in all these 13 years, but now with so many coconuts lying on the ground, their market value extremely low, he said to me: “Sir, thank you for coming to see me – have a coconut drink.” So that took me by surprise,” said Mr. Paranjothi, who politely refused the drink.

Help has poured in from the outside world, but their distribution has been skewed and ad hoc. It was observed that the majority of relief went to Vedaranyam, not only because it suffered great damage, but also because the member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in charge of relief operations was Mr. O.S. Manian from Vedaranyam. Incidentally, he was assaulted by protesters when he went to visit the region and was hospitalized. 

Within Kameshwaram too, the distribution was skewed, as cars and trucks could go only along the main roads. Thus, only households, who could spare men or boys to wait along the roads to get any passing goodies had access to relief material.

Such relief also attracted criminality, as incoming vehicles were surrounded by marauding groups of men, who absconded with the relief material. For example, a company also wanted to help us and sent us a truck of relief materials, but along the road to Kameshwaram, the truck was stopped by a group and all relief materials were stolen.

This is why, at FIN, we pursued the slow but surer path to reach out to the needy. Volunteers were given strict instruction to talk to only households who lived inland far away from roads and in huts. Mr. Paranjothi initially was lukewarm to this idea, as it really involves much more effort, but as he saw the impact with his own eyes, he was most enthusiastic and told us many heart warming stories.

One of them is of an elderly lady, who explained, “I like being independent despite my age. I am a widow, but I do not want to live with my children, though they are all very good to me. So I love being in my hut at night, and helping the families of my children during the day and eating my meals with them. Thank you for the taraupline sheet and other relief materials, I can sleep in my own hut at night again, while I wait for my sons and their friends to repair my hut”.

Authors: Shanmugarajan M  and Shyama V. Ramani