Ath Welak
(Give a helping hand)

Project Proposal by Luke Heslop and Hannah West - February 2005


On the 26th of December, 2004 at 9:40 am local time, waves of destruction hit Sri Lanka. Over 30,000 people were killed. 6,500 remain missing. Tens of thousands of families were broken apart and in excess of 500,000 people displaced. 125,000 houses were damaged. 165 schools were destroyed. Sri Lanka’s transport infrastructure was disabled, roads and railways devoured by the waves causing the worst train crash in history. The tsunami did not discriminate between rich and poor, men and women, adults and children, locals and tourists, regardless of religious or political beliefs all who stood in its path were victims.

As we awoke on Boxing Day, recovering from the aftermath of Christmas, making our way through the debris of presents and gifts, wondering what to do with the left over turkey and how to spend that extra money. Eleven year old Pidurah Lakshan awoke to fight for his life. In the aftermath of the tsunami, he made his way through the debris of his destroyed home and of all the homes of the people he knew, wondering what to do with Rashmi his five year old dead sister, and if he would ever see his parents again.

In the weeks that followed, the enormity of the situation became apparent and this developing country, already crippled by two decades of civil war was left to deal with the re-housing and the physical and emotional rehabilitation of its people after the world’s largest natural disaster. Subsequently, we witnessed the world coming to the aid of the under developed countries of South East Asia in their plight to recover from the horrific effects of the tsunami. The support, be it financial, physical or emotional was overwhelming and demonstrated the compassionate nature of so many individuals.

As two individuals who have spent 12months living and working in Sri Lanka as volunteers we both made a decision to commit 3 months to working with tsunami victims and to see how we could help them to re-build their futures. Since arriving in Sri Lanka we have both been involved in relief work with the Methodist Church based in Colombo. This has given us the opportunity to assist with the sorting and distribution of relief items around the devastated coast line of Sri Lanka, this also allowed us to assess and identify the effectiveness of the relief operation and the gaps created. Noting that there are many areas in which supplies are not being evenly distributed and some which have simply been forgotten, we have decided to embark upon our own project which seeks to fill some of these gaps and to go some way in helping to lift people out of their present suffering. Whilst we are choosing to run this project independently, it will also be done with the full support and backing of the Methodist Church, with whom we have formed strong relationships. This is essential in monitoring and ensuring the success of the project given that our time here is limited.

Aim and Objective

Ath Welak is a rehabilitation initiative set up to empower four businesses affected by the tsunami. This project will give these individuals in the village of Weligama the opportunity to rebuild and sustain their livelihood, which will in turn allow them to support their families and to re-establish a sense of community. Ath Welak aims to achieve this by returning to these people the equipment they previously owned as a means to obtain an income before the tsunami. With the exemption of one project these are not large elaborate items but simply the tools which enable lives to be re-built.

Ath Welak will operate in the village of Weligama, which is situated on the south coast beyond Galle. When the waves of the tsunami hit the coast the homes and small businesses which lined the beach did not stand a chance. About 600 lives were lost in Weligama on the morning of the 26th, a surprisingly low figure given the extent of the destruction left behind. Three weeks after the tsunami one of us was able to visit Weligama to provide relief items and carry out a needs assessment, it was then that the initial relationship with the area was struck. In the assessment it was noted that, so far Weligama has received very little aid, we believe this is for a number of reason including the following; It lies in the shadow of Galle which is one of the major cities in Sri Lanka, contains no major historical or industrial sites which might warrant attention from the public, media or business sector. No government ministers come from Weligama, so the push from the government to re-construct has been somewhat unenthusiastic (unlike in other areas were government ministers have ensured their personal support). Weligama does not have the prestige attached with it to be fought over for support by INGO/NGO’s as many other cities, towns and villages do. It is for these reasons amongst others that we have decided to focus the attention of Ath Welak in this area.

As previously stated it was our mission to work in areas where gaps in aid relief could be identified. Weligama fitted the criteria. Thus, we have decided to locate small businesses in this neglected area, (receiving inadequate aid from the government or not falling into the categories supported by INGO/NGO’s) that cannot generate an income due to lost or damaged equipment as a result of the tsunami.

Our aim is to work with a manageable budget on a small scale personal level using funds collected in our local communities in the UK, e.g. family, friends, schools, clubs, work colleagues etc. By operating on this personal scale we can provide the means of direct support to the victims of the tsunami, making the relationship between donor and beneficiary clear and understood by all concerned. This therefore, creates a system which allows transparency so that donors know where there money is going, and will also have an insight into the effect it will have upon the lives of the recipients. This in turn will enable us to directly purchase and distribute from local sources the necessary equipment to allow these individuals the opportunity to re-build and sustain their livelihood.

The project ‘Ath Welak’ is a long term project. Although we aim to complete the fundraising and hand over of equipment within a five week period (the length of time we are both in the country), the effects of this endeavourer and our relationship with the people will be long lasting. Having witnessed the listlessness of the people sitting in camps or beside their destroyed homes, and their frustration and desperation to begin to move on, we believe that the sooner help can be given the better. Due to the restricted time we have in the country, and the critical need for the fast re-building of businesses, Ath Welak has been designed to be completed within this five week period.

Time Table - 10 February to 17 March 2005

Week 1 (10-17 Feb)
  • Locate small businesses in Weligama who are in need of support.
  • Interview all possible recipients to gather field information
  • Investigate cost of possible equipment needed.
  • Prepare a project proposal to be distributed amongst potential donors.
Week 2 (17-24 Feb)
  • Introduce a candidate to be responsible for the monitoring of the projects in the long term.
  • View possible Catamarans, nets and engines to be purchased.
  • Begin to collect donations.
Week 3 (24 Feb-3 Mar)
  • Over the weekend of the 26th and 27th of February, purchase and distribute equipment to small businesses 1, 2 and 3.
  • Purchase nets to be sewn together for the fishermen (this takes 10 days).
  • Gather information for final report and take relevant photographs.
Week 4 (3-10 Mar)
  • Purchase Catamaran and engine.
  • Distribute the Catamaran complete with engine, nets and petrol.
Week 1 (10-17 Mar)
  • Complete final report to send to donors.
  • Hold final meeting with recipients to discuss success of project and consider future plans.
  • Implement the long term candidate to sustain the project.

Small Business Profile 1

Name: K.P Amarawathie
Age: 51
Gender: Female

Amarawathie lives in the village of Weligama with her husband, four sons and one daughter. Before the tsunami she was operating a small business from home. She would start the day at 4.00am to prepare rice and curry which would be sold to around 50 fishermen for their lunches. After completing the preparation of the lunches she would begin making breakfasts for small restaurants to be sold that day. She did not earn a large amount of money but what she did earn allowed her to support her family.

The tsunami destroyed Amarawathie’s home and all of her cooking equipment which was the foundation of her business, and therefore her livelihood. Now she has no means to generate an income and rebuild a life for her and her family. At the moment her life is lived one day at a time, waiting for the next delivery of dry rations.

By supplying her with the basic equipment she needs, you can give her the opportunity to start rebuilding her life. Amarawathie can begin to generate an income for herself and stop relying on handouts, restore her independence, dignity and empower her to have dreams for the future.

Equipment needed is as follows:

Gas cooker, electric blender(used for blending spices),a string hopper steamer, coconut scrapper, 1 water barrel, a 8kg rice pot, a 6kg rice pot, 3 curry pans, 2 plastic basins, 2 oil spoons, 2 mixing spoons, 2 knives and an initial quantity of firewood to begin.

The overall cost for this equipment is 11,500 Rupees. At the rate of exchange, being 180 Rupees to the Pound this is approximately £64.

As you can see this is not a large amount of money and will allow one family to be self sufficient again.

Small Business Profile 2

Name: P.G Ratna Siri, U.G Nimalawathi, P.G Ranjit Kumara Tunga.
Ages: 57 (Father), 57 (Mother), 32 (Son)

Ranjit and his parents ran a small friendly restaurant by the market place in Weligama. Each day they would welcome around 100 customers (mainly fishermen). They would open their restaurant at 5am and start preparing the food; dahl, potato curry, fish curry, string hoppers etc. After a busy day they would close the shop at around 7pm.

On the 26th of December torrents of water filled the shop to the roof destroying nearly everything inside. They survived by clinging on to the ceiling fan but their business was devastated. After two weeks they re-opened the shop but were unable to prepare the same quality or quantity as before, due to damaged equipment. The shop (as of the day we visited) has now got electricity again and the custom has started to pick up!

P.G Ranjit is married with three children and like others in the area is only receiving 375 Rupees a week (less than £2), which is insufficient to sustain his family. By giving him the opportunity to recreate his previous business, you can enable him and his family to retain some hope and have ambitions for the future.

Equipment needed is as follows:

Gas cooker, gas cylinder, 2 plastic tables, 10 chairs, 2 curry pots, an electric blender, a glass food cabinet to keep the flies off the food, reducing the risk of bacterial infections.

The overall cost for this equipment is 16,300 Rupees. At the rate of exchange, being 180 Rupees to the Pound this is approximately £90. As you can see, again this is not a large amount of money and will allow one family to be self sufficient.

Small Business Profile 3

Names: H. Thanuja Deepani, W.H Padumawathi, Chandamali Weeraratna, P.H Chandrika Nalani, P.B Dayawathi, Damika Priyangani
Ages: 29, 54, 29, 30, 59, 31.
Gender: All female

Before the tsunami these women, on top of the everyday tasks of a house wife would earn an income through lace making. They would prepare the lace for a variety of products such as pillow cases, curtains, doilies, and dresses on a simple wooden machine called a Beralu Kottiye. This is a fine skill passed down through generations from mother to daughter and involves a phenomenal amount of co-ordination and proficiency. On finishing these products they were sold to a local company called ‘Le La Lace Centre’.

In the tsunami the ladies lost family, their houses, machinery and livelihoods and have been left to live their lives reliant on donations and sleeping on the floor of tents. Although we cannot re-build their houses or bring back their loved ones, by enabling them to re-establish a part of their previous lives, we can restore some hope for the future and return some of the dignity these women deserve.

One Beralu Kottiye and enough thread to begin, will allow them to start earning an income once again. They hope that when the tourist industry returns to Sri Lanka they will be able to open a shop of their own. This is a small step for a brighter future after the tsunami.

(Dayawathi, Chandamali ,Damika, Deepani, Chandrika)
(Padumawathi was not available for the photograph).

Equipment needed is as follows:

6 Beralu Kottiyes (lace making machines)

The overall cost to equip six women with a machine each is 15,000 Rupees. At the rate of exchange, being 180 Rupees to the Pound this is approximately £85. The machines will allow the women to triple their monthly income.

Business Profile 4 - 10 Man Catamaran Project

Fishing is the main source of income for the people living on the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. The fishing industry itself has taken a massive blow as a result of the tsunami. Ten’s of thousands of boats were damaged and nets were destroyed. While the rich entrepreneurs who previously owned the damaged boats are suffering financial loss, the effects on the people who manned them are far more harrowing and far more real. Many fishermen cannot fish any more due to physical disability from the tsunami, many due to loss of equipment and many do not know why they should as without their families they feel they have nothing else to live for.

We want to work with the villagers of Weligama to locate a suitable catamaran that they can keep, maintain and operate themselves. Our aim is to provide an opportunity for the fishermen to work for themselves with equal responsibility and out right ownership of the boat. Our hope is to help them become self sufficient and once again provide for their loved ones.

The fishermen left unemployed in Weligama have formed a society of around 60 men who are in desperate need of employment. They decided democratically amongst themselves the ten men most in need of the employment the boat will provide. This was demonstrated when two of the selected members were offered jobs on other boats and therefore, gave up their position with this project and a further two were selected by the group. Every person chosen is supporting their family financially and with the opportunity of employment will be able to start rebuilding their houses and livelihoods.

(Nadeesha, Premasiri, Sanjeeva, Damith, PredeepKumara, Anil, Ravinda, Dilanya, Lowlithe, Nuwan)

By providing a catamaran boat to selected people in the village of Weligama, we can change the lives of ten families. Before the tsunami fishermen had a daily routine which enabled them to return to their families at the end of the day with the necessary funds to feed, clothe and provide for their relations. Now their boats have been destroyed they spend their days looking at the ocean commenting on the wind, waves and where the best fish to be found are. When we were interviewing the fishermen they all of a sudden jumped up with excitment at movement in the water and explained that they could see a catamaran heading towards a huge shoal of fish. Later we were told the catch the fishermen made was worth 600,000 Rupees. Words can’t describe the disappointment and frustration of those watching from the shore.

Equipment needed is as follows:

A catamaran boat, engine, nets, and petrol for the initial week.

As is evident this is an extremely large project and will cost in the region of 755,000 Rupees. At the rate of exchange, being 180 Rupees to the Pound this is approximately £4200.

We are well aware of the magnitude of this particular project, however, equally aware of the significant change a ten man catamaran will bring about in the community. This project will change the lives of ten families (roughly 80 people) giving them an income now, and possible job opportunities for their children in the future.

How can you help?

Help us raise £5000 in 10 days!

If you are interested in supporting The Ath Welak project this is how you can help...

You can choose a specific business you would like to support or send a general contribution to The Ath Welak project. If you are interested in a correspondence with the individual you have chosen to support we would like to encourage you to send a letter and photograph to us which will be passed on to the recipient (this is optional).

It is of up most importance if you wish to make a donation that you email us your name, address, the exact amount you have donated and state (if any preference) who you wish to support. It is the case that the 10 man catamaran project is larger then the others and will therefore have to be supported by many donors. Wherever possible we will do our level best to match donors to beneficiaries, however, if the money donated to one individual exceeds the amount required it will be at our discretion to distribute the money accordingly to other beneficiaries.


Sri Lankan Rupees Sterling Pound
Business 1: 11,500R/s £64.00
Business 2: 16,300R/s £90.00
Business 3: 15,000R/s £85.00
Catamaran Project: 750,000R/s £4,200.00
Transport Expenses: 3,600R/s £20.00
Translator: 1,800R/s £10.00
Room Hire: 720R/s £4.00
Distribution Costs (Lorry): 5,400R/s £30.00
Administration Costs: 2,000R/s £12.00
TOTAL: 806,320R/s £4,515.00

These costs are rough estimates however we have tried to make them as accurate as possible. The Total Cost may fluctuate with the exchange rate of the Rupee to the Pound or with any changes to the price of the equipment. As you can see from our budget sheet we have tried to keep costs as low as possible.


As of the 4th of February 2005, Sri Lanka was declared no longer to be in a state of emergency. We are now entering the phase of re-habilitation. Ath Welak is a rehabilitation initiative designed to directly support the victims of the tsunami. Unlike the International Non-Government Organisations that the vast amount of donations from the UK are handled by, our small budget allows us to quickly and efficiently help the people. A large amount of money donated to INGOs takes a long time to process and is all too often inappropriately spent.

We hope that this report has informed you more about the sitration in Sri Lanka with specific reference to the district of Weligama following the tsunami, and encouraged you to entrust us with the responsibility of helping some of the victims severely affected. If you have any queries or questions about Ath Welak and our proposal please do not hesitate to contact us. If you require any proof oh the puchases we have made we will be more than obliged to provide photocopies of the receipts.

Our Promise

As project co-ordinators and representatives of all donors it is out promise to ensure as far as possible that the project is successfully completed within the given time scale, and meets all aims and objectives stated in the report. We will provide any information requested to make certain that the persons supporting the Ath Welak project are fully informed and clear on every step of the process. It is also our promise to be transparent and accountable for all transactions and dealings. Once again, we thank you for taking the time to read our project proposal and we look forward to your support.

Luke Heslop and Hannah West

Project Co-ordinators