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Looking back: 10 year anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami

The 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was known as one of the most devastating disasters of recent times. The tsunami was caused by a 9-magnitude undersea earthquake that struck off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. More than 230,000 died and 1.7 million people were displaced as the tsunami affected more than a dozen countries from Thailand to Madagascar.
Habitat for Humanity worked in the most affected countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, helping about 25,000 families to rebuild their homes and hope. Habitat focused on permanent housing solutions, using community-based strategies. In India, Habitat started a pilot program to help tens of thousands of families prepare for disasters and reduce the risk of disasters.
A decade after the disaster, survivors such as Dharumar (pictured below) and Govindasamy (pictured above) from India can testify to positive changes in their lives after Habitat built new homes for their respective families.
Dharumar lives in a coastal village in Kancheepuram district, Tamil Nadu state in southern India. When the tsunami hit, Dharumar – who had polio – had to be carried out of his mud hut to a safe spot by his brother. He stayed for several months at a refugee camp along with more than 1,000 people before he received a new house built by Habitat for Humanity India.
After moving into his home, Dharumar started a home-based tailoring business with a sewing machine donated by another non-governmental organisation. “With a tailoring business of my own, I have social status and I am living with dignity and pride.”
In the case of Dharumar, 41, a decent home also opened the door to marriage. “Thanks to the new house, I got married. Even though I am disabled, I have always wanted to live like a normal person. It was Habitat that instilled the hope in me that I could lead a normal life.”
After they were married, Dharumar’s wife Indirani started learning sewing skills from him. At first, she could only sew buttons but she was later able to make women’s clothing. Together, they earn about about 200 rupees a day, over six times the amount they were earning before.
Indirani said it is the couple’s dream to buy more sewing machines, employ local young people in need of a job, and expand their business.
Govindasamy, 55, also lives in Tamil Nadu. He was shattered when his home and livestock were destroyed in the tsunami. “Habitat’s assistance encouraged my family and I to move forward. They provided us with a new hope-filled future, by providing safe and decent shelter,” he said.
With a permanent home from Habitat, Govindasamy regained his confidence. He bought a small boat after the 2004 disaster. Along with nets of different sizes, he was able to fish in the sea and in the Kodilam river when the seas got rough. “I could borrow money to buy nets, a motor engine, and other fishing equipment. The oil dealers trust me and give diesel on a credit basis regularly. Now, I have a motorised boat and I am giving employment to 10 families in my village.”

Dharumar has started a business from home
Dharumar has started a business from home

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