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A decade of recovery

In 2004 life changed in the Asia Pacific region as a gigantic wave engulfed the region killing 250,000 people. Personal belongings were lost. Havoc and heartache were everywhere.

Friday 26 December 2014, 02:00PM

Jirawat Kuramakanok

On that day, I was asleep, the bed began to shake and I knew that something strange was happening. People were shouting and watching the television in horror as they screamed, “a big wave is coming to Phuket”. There was chaos all over the island.

As I was a 13-year-old learning English at school, we formed a small group of young English speakers and went to the city hall to assist people as much as we could. The situation was desperate as there were not many English speakers to help the foreigners who were affected and needing help.

The total impact along the communities of the Andaman coastline was 8,202 dead, 2,817 missing and many displaced. Communities were destroyed. Social, recreational areas and businesses were damaged.

Recently, I joined the Rotary Club of Patong Beach as I was interested in strengthening my English as well as getting involved in community service. In this tenth year since this over-powering event, I became aware of the total devastation of our community and also the great response by people from all over the world including local service clubs, government agencies (including school and medial center.) and local businesses.

Many partnerships were formed to begin the process of recovery. The Rotary Club of Patong Beach raised $1.5 million for a Tsunami Scholarship Fund used to provide education for 300 students to attend high school and provide school books.

Houses were reconstructed, furniture provided, water and waste systems installed and much Medical assistance was given, including two ambulances and 40 wheel chairs

QSI International School Phuket

Incentives for small business operations were provided in addition to the restoration of land sea life.

Orphanages were set up while others, like the Life Home project (for children born to parents with HIV) were also assisted.

This story was repeated by many organizations throughout Phuket. When I was younger, I was not aware of the total level of support. My involvement in a video production helped me understand the full picture. The most touching part, for me, were the stories of individuals whose live’s were changed through intervention efforts.

At a Moken village near the Surin islands, a young girl – Wilasinee Klathale – was given support to go to school and then to university because of Rotary Club’s scholarship fund. The moken village has had little access to education and, when she graduated from the university, she returned to teach in the village school. She is now one of four teachers involved in assisting young Moken kids to gain access to education.

Ban Pak Trium and the fishing industry was completely destroyed by the tsunami. The villagers had nothing as many emerged from the sea naked. With the assistance from the rebuilding fund, land was purchased, 23 houses were built, water systems constructed and the fishing industry was reestablished. This community is now thriving.

There were many projects taking place all over the coastline. As for the YouTube video that I produced for the Rotary club, it’s a tribute to all those who were deeply affected and a tribute to the many volunteers and donors who took action when needed. It provides a challenge for the future to promote education so the next generation is able to see the causes of tsunamis and have the skills to protect the beautiful Andaman coastline for the future.



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