The Boxing Day tsunami, 2004

On December 26 2004, the deadliest tsunami in recorded history struck the shorelines of South Asia with a crushing surge of water and debris. The Boxing Day tsunami took a staggering 230,000 lives in a matter of hours and left widespread devastation in its wake. Community Friends was soon formed by a group of parents and children in Portland Oregon to organize a relief effort in heavily affected rural Sri Lanka.

Arriving within days

The first Community Friends team on the ground in Sri Lanka arrived within days of the tsunami and immediately encountered widespread devastation.

First round of relief

This volunteer group rented a van, filled it with medical supplies, water purification tablets, flashlights, and even art supplies for the children and set out for the east coast of the war torn island, where the tsunami had devastated hundreds of villages.

Arriving in the affected area

What we found looked like a war zone. Entire buildings , including the school, had been washed out to sea, leaving nothing behind.

Addressing the community’s immediate needs

The first team met with the community to assess the local situation amd immediately began addressing the critical issues facing the people: malnutrition; healthcare; drinking water, food and sanitation.

First, the children

We soon made friends with the teachers and children, sharing the art supplies and drawings we had brought with us from Arbor School in the USA.

Food and school

The children were malnourished before the tsunami due to poverty and we decided to build a kitchen where volunteer parents could prepare hot lunches. Because school attendance is mandatory to receive a meal, parents made sure their children were in school to receive meals. School attendance grew by 25%. In the first years, more than 50,000 meals were served.

Pressing needs of the community

Next, the team began addressing the immediate issues facing the larger community: malnutrition; healthcare; drinking water, food and sanitation; rebuilding the school; and investing in microfinance projects.

Planning for the future

Plans were developed to rebuild the school, which had been destroyed by the tsunami.

A self sufficient future

The Sri Lankan government recognized the progress of the program. Community Friends successfully transferred the program’s operation and funding to the government, creating local self sufficiency and allowing Community Friends to start new programs.