Political map of Sri Lanka. Click on the underlined locations for more information about Ath Welak's involvement in those areas.
The charitable organisation Ath Welak was established in 2005 on the island of Sri Lanka, a former British colony south of the Indian subcontinent. Like many of its Southeast Asian neighbours, Sri Lanka’s history is one of tumultuous socio-political upheaval.
Official emancipation from the British Commonwealth was achieved in 1972, since which time the island has witnessed frequent clashes between the northern Tamil minority and the Sinhala majority in the south.
The derogatory effects of Sri Lanka’s colonial legacy and similarly the Tamil and Sinhala conflicts can currently be seen reverberating within the nation’s political and social landscape; arguably having been responsible to a large extent for the country’s current political fragmentation and the atmosphere of looming civil war on the Island.
Thus, when the tsunami hit Sri Lanka’s shores on the 26th of December 2004 at seven fifteen in the morning, it bequeathed nothing short of devastation and tragedy to an already ravaged nation. For the Sri Lankan citizenry, it is no longer merely crippling poverty, disease and an increasingly fragile cease fire to contend with; now, as a result of the tsunami, homes have been obliterated, livelihoods shattered and families torn apart.
A year on, and Sri Lanka, as it did that day, still desperately requires our aid and support in redressing the overwhelming impact of the tsunami. Arguably the most crucial aspect of this process of recovery is to ensure that the tools and resources needed to re-establish livelihoods and businesses can be made available so that local communities have the capacity to earn a wage and begin rebuilding their lives.
Following the tsunami, emergency aid arrived in the form of dry rations and tools. Tents and temporary shelters were put up by INGOs, like the Red Cross and Oxfam and since then, throughout the course of the rehabilitation process many of these temporary houses, not intended for long term occupation, are still in use today.
It was in the immediate wake of the tsunami that two volunteers, Hannah West and Luke Heslop, who had previously spent time in Sri Lanka, returned in the hope of assisting the aid process by working with an INGO or NGO. However, after just a short spell of time, it became apparent to these volunteers that certain organisations were devolving power from local people and arguably having a more detrimental than beneficial effect on the Sri Lankan recovery process. Some INGOs, it seemed, possessed numerous avenues for potentially corrupt activities; with aid funds often being invested on overheads rather than being transferred directly to the Sri Lankan populace.
It was therefore in the spirit of providing direct and uncomplicated assistance to victims of the tsunami in Sri Lanka that the project Ath Welak came into being. Hannah and Luke established the organisation in the town of Weligama on the south coast of the island to complement the work carried out by local NGOs; the crucial difference here being that Ath Welak’s funds were not subject to NGO structuring.
The Ath Welak project aimed to support three small businesses and ten fishermen, all of whom had suffered unimaginable losses as a result of the tsunami. The first business was a local family-run restaurant; the second a woman who made breakfasts for fishermen, the third business a group of local lace makers. All these businesses had lost their equipment, houses, boats and, most horrifically, family and friends to the tsunami. By writing an initial project report (which was later sent back to the UK) Hannah and Luke managed to fundraise seven thousand pounds to support these businesses and give these selected individuals in the village of Weligama the means to support themselves and re-establish their livelihoods.
Much valuable work was done during this time; however, the progress made has by no means alleviated us of our responsibilities, it has simply opened the door for additional advancement to be realised. It is now Ath Welak’s primary objective to develop their project further; the first and most imperative step here being the establishment of Ath Welak into a charity officially recognised by the charities commission.
Hannah and Luke have recently visited Sri Lanka in February 2006 in order to start the support another project in desperate need of funding. This charity was launched in Batticaloa on the east coast of the island by Rebecca Walker, a returned Project Trust volunteer. The primary objective of Ms. Walker’s project is to provide funds for housing and equipment in the area.
So once again Ath Welak is asking for your help. For these projects to be successfully realised, more funds are urgently required, both from those of you who made such generous initial contributions, and others wishing to ease the plight of the Sri Lankan people.
Given Ath Welak’s emphasis on transparency, honesty and direct fundraising, those intending to make a donation can have absolute confidence in how their money is being spent. As a result of the less than admirable activities of some INGOs in the aftermath of the tsunami, it is Ath Welak’s policy to keep official receipts and records accounting for every penny donated to the charity. Consequently, your support, either through raising awareness or by making a donation, is of paramount importance in order to ensure that the long-suffering people of Sri Lanka are living, not just surviving.