June 21, 2011
Lalitha DeSilva lost her home, her livelihood, and her husband in the December 26, 2004 tsunami. She and her six children were forced to live in a camp for displaced people for three and a half years, trying to get enough to eat and to rebuild their lives.
Today, she lives in a new home with her one unmarried child. She supports herself by preparing fish for sale: first boiling, draining, boning, and de-finning them, then drying them in a solar oven for three days. After that, they are salted and sealed for shipment.
Lalitha’s life turned around when she met a staff person in the camp from Savisthri, a PWRDF partner organization working in southern Sri Lanka,. Savisthri focuses on building women’s economic and social well-being. Staff members support small groups in over a dozen communities in the districts of Galle and Matara. These small groups support home gardens, encourage savings, build small businesses and develop their members as leaders in the community.
Savisthri had a small group active in Thotamuna, where Lalitha lived, before the tsunami. But the devastation of that event caused the disintegration of the group. The small group members who survived had scattered to different camps, or to live with relatives in other parts of Sri Lanka. After the tsunami, Savisthri worked hard to rebuild the small groups, and Lalitha was one of the women who joined the new group. Together with other women, the small group helped provide nutrition, health and psycho-social support and schooling to survivors of the tsunami. It also worked to enable the women to regain their livelihoods.
Lalitha’s family was one of those provided with new permanent houses by Savisthri. Lalitha developed several projects to support herself and her children: making handicrafts, drying fish, and growing a home garden. Because she likes to learn, she attended seminars held by Savisthri and has developed her own leadership skills. Lalitha is now the leader of the home gardening group and Vice President of her small group.