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Sunil's story: cleaning up after the tsunami

Sunil Shantha with his wife in temporary shelter

Sunil Shantha has benefited from a British Red Cross cash for work scheme in Sri Lanka, which has helped him return to fishing.

The scheme involved clearing rubble from his village, clearing canals to get water flowing again and removing fishing nets and rubble from the beach, giving fishing boats access to the sea again.

Sunil, 44, lives with his three children and wife who is six months pregnant with their fourth child. The family lived in temporary shelter after their house was ruined by the tsunami. 

Sunil has worked as a fisherman for 25 years, going to sea for 10 to 15 days at a time. Two months before the tsunami, he bought his own small boat with savings and a bank loan of 400,000 rupees. His wife used to earn money selling handicrafts and home-made yoghurt and fish curry. Sunil’s boat was broken in two by the tsunami and his fishing equipment was lost. His wife Priyanka also lost her livelihood.

The family heard about the British Red Cross/Sri Lanka Red Cross project through a friend. Sunil worked for 11 days clearing rubble and thought the wage was fair and the hours good.

Boating in Sri Lanka

Sunil used the money to repair his boat and buy new equipment. In the four months since the tsunami, he has been able to go to sea for only six days as the boat needs further repairs, but he’s glad to get back to work:  “If my fishing job is strengthened then my family is strengthened,” he said.

He and his wife were pleased with the cash for work project: “The clearing work allowed stagnant water to flow away in the drains which removed mosquito breeding grounds. This meant our children could play in the area with less risk,” said Sunil.

Sunil is optimistic about the future now he is going back to sea: “We have come a long way and we still have some way to go. We don’t have to worry about what we have lost. We have to worry about the future. We can rebuild our lives on our own,” he said.

Cash for work in Sri Lanka

The joint British Red Cross/Sri Lanka Red Cross cash for work programme helped vulnerable families affected by the tsunami in Matara, southern Sri Lanka.

In return for daily wages of 400 rupees per five-hour day (around £2 – in line with average wages in Sri Lanka), local people carried out vital tasks to pave the way for reconstruction and recovery.

More stories about our tsunami livelihoods grants

More about our tsunami recovery programme


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