At the end of the day on my last afternoon that I was in the field in Sri Lanka I was brought to meet a bunch of fishermen that UMCOR is helping. I’ll be honest, I was very tired and road weary and longing for my hotel room. But, I got in the UMCOR vehicle and we headed through town to meet the fishermen. It was worth the trip.
We bumped down a dirt path through a dense village that led right up to the Indian Ocean. This Batticaloa fishing village is a maze of tightly-packed houses that extends down towards the ocean, leaving a narrow margin of beach. It’s easy to see how the tsunami washed away everything in sight. A small Hindu temple protrudes at the end of the road leading to the beach. This is where the group of fishermen gathered to talk to me about their successes and challenges.
“I was born to fish,” says Konamalai. UMCOR is helping him and many others to not only do what they were born to do, but to earn more at the same time.
Many of those who made their living by the sea found themselves without livelihoods after the tsunami in December 2004. They were devastated by the tsunami and then again by conflict-related restrictions that prevented them from fishing.
“We had nothing,” Konamali told me of life after the tsunami. He is the president of this village’s fishing society. “We lost our houses and economically lost everything and therefore we had nothing to do.”
Now that the war is over, many have begun fishing again, but still lack the many supplies they lost after the tsunami. UMCOR is helping a several local fishing societies with supplies such as nets, bicycles and coolers to not only help them catch the fish, but also to bring them to market.
The UMCOR-donated bicycles and coolers allow the fishermen to take their catch directly to market. “Before I had to sell my fish for 50 rupees on the beach,” says one fisherman proudly standing next to his bike with the cooler strapped to the back. His profit doubles when he can take the fish to the market himself.
It feels good to see these men proud and able to provide for their families doing what they were “born to do.”
By Michelle Scott, UMCOR Consultant