Czechs mark one year since tsunami disaster

Photo: CTK

People around the world have been marking the first anniversary of the tsunami disaster in south east Asia. Here in the Czech Republic eight families recalled the loss of loved ones, and many others said a silent prayer for the thousands of victims who lost their lives in the disaster. Also being remembered at the moment is the great charity shown by Czechs following the terrible disaster.

Photo: CTK
It is hard to believe that it is now one year since news of the tsunami disaster sent shock waves around the world. The estimated death toll eventually rose to 217,000. Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless. The news sparked a wave of solidarity in the Czech Republic - and people responded with greater generosity than ever before - collecting over 360 million crowns /close to 15 million US dollars/ in public donations. Another 200 million / 9 million US dollars /came from the Czech government. Close to a dozen charities and NGOs were actively involved in providing emergency aid and, later, re-building the tsunami ravaged areas. The Czech Catholic Charity is helping out in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka - having sent out its own missionaries and experts to coordinate projects. Vojtech Ralek tells us what they've being doing over the past year -and what still lies ahead.

"In Sri Lanka we have several projects underway, psycho-social projects which are realized with the help of local organizations. Approximately 30 people are out in the field - helping in refugee camps and villages, helping people to overcome the trauma of the disaster and helping them to make whatever arrangements need to be made. We are also active in helping to build a so-called green belt -ie. an environmental project that should protect villages and the coast against future natural disasters. It means planting a belt of trees that should protect the inhabited areas. And I would also like to mention a very special project which is called Beach sessions. As you know after the tsunami disaster many of the locals feared the sea and they wouldn't go back to the beach. So we organized these sessions on the beach with competitions and theatre performances to attract people back and to help them overcome that fear."

Well, it is a year now since it happened. Have you concluded this form of aid or is it still going on?

"I would say we have concluded the first phase. Now we are starting what I would call the development phase. We expect to be there for two or three years, mainly in Indonesia where we have some livelihood projects helping fishermen and agricultural villages. We also organize leisure time activities for children in refugee camps, such as teaching them the traditional dances. This is aimed at preserving the traditional culture. And another thing that may be of interest - we are trying to utilize newly emerged lagoons where we are building fish and shrimp farms."

Vojtech Ralek of the Czech Catholic Charity reporting on some of the aid projects still underway in south east Asia. Due to the generosity of public donations several Czech charities have been able to extend their work in the area from the originally planned 12 months to two or three years.