3 Years Later:
notes from a post-tsunami village
A Field Study Report Francesca Hernandez & Bruce Chan Ball State University / CAP Asia V September 2008
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This report represents a labor of love, and the culmination of many people’s efforts. We would like to extend our thanks to these people who were instrumental in this process: • The University of Moratuwa for providing us with the resources necessary to complete our research, and for providing us with a venue and audience for the presentation of our findings. • Our Sri Lankan student partners, Anuja, Jagath, Lasantha, and Sumith, for their indispensable work with the community workshop and early interviews. • Professor Jagath, for his unerring attention to detail and rigor while advising our group during the research process. • Pradeep, for his extensive and generous assistance in all things related to this project and for his heartfelt friendship and instruction at carrom. • Yayawatte Village, for allowing three foreign strangers to enter their community and homes, and for teaching and sharing with us their stories of survival and strength. Special thanks to: • Priya and Dilu, for their contagious enthusiasm and assistance in Yayawatte with the surveys and festival. • Neluka, for his generous spirit and willingness to be our guide. • His beautiful wife Rashini, for treating us to the best rice and curry in Sri Lanka. • His sons, Mihel and Numesh, for teaching us the complicated game of cricket, and not making fun of our collective ineptitude at it. • Sudath, and his family for their hospitality and assistance. • Our fellow CapAsians, for providing comic relief, camaraderie, inspiration, and much-needed perspective. • Our friends and families, for understanding our determination to finish this report and seeing us through endless delays and complications.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS Francesca Hernandez Despite her current position as a proud graduate of the Landscape Architecture department of Ball State University, Francesca Hernandez never imagined she would be a landscape architect when she grew up. As shocked as she finds herself to even be a grown-up, she is eager to pursue a career in disaster work, and maybe even a little design on the side. CapAsia introduced her to her new favorite country, Sri Lanka, where she hopes to return one day for work. If she is really lucky, some kind local will teach her how to make a proper rice and curry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Bruce Chan Even after graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Southern California, Bruce Chan knew that his passion for learning had not been satiated. With a long held interest in disaster-relief architecture and planning, he applied to CapAsia with the hope of experiencing first-hand the relief efforts in posttsunami south asia. The experience has introduced him to the various fields and opportunities architecture plays not only in blue-print, corporate, cubicle-celled firms, but also in aid organizations and NGOs. He hopes to find himself providing his architecture skills in a developing country, preferrably where rice and curry is the staple food. He can be reached at email@example.com
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Table of Contents Introduction..............................................................................................................................................1 Context..................................................................................................................................................... 2 Phase I : Preliminary Research Basic Information...........................................................................................................................3 Tsunami.........................................................................................................................................6 NGO: PLAN Internation...................................................................................................................7 Yayawatte......................................................................................................................................7 Conclusion...................................................................................................................................12 Phase II : Interviews Objectives....................................................................................................................................13 Process.......................................................................................................................................13 Interviews Fishermen..............................................................................................................................13 Villagers.................................................................................................................................14 NGOs...................................................................................................................................16 Tangalle Market......................................................................................................................18 Neighboring Post-Tsunami Village...........................................................................................19 Tangalle Tour.........................................................................................................................20 Reflection...............................................................................................................................21 Phase III: Community Action Workshop Objectives....................................................................................................................................22 Process.......................................................................................................................................22 Results........................................................................................................................................24 Reflections...................................................................................................................................26 Phase IV : Group Project A. Survey Objectives..............................................................................................................................27 Process..................................................................................................................................28 The Surveys...........................................................................................................................29 Problems in the Process.........................................................................................................30 Results...................................................................................................................................32 Reflections.............................................................................................................................34 B. Community Clean-Up Objectives..............................................................................................................................35 Results..................................................................................................................................35 Reflections............................................................................................................................37 C. Peacock Festival Objectives..............................................................................................................................38 Programs...............................................................................................................................39 Results..................................................................................................................................40 Reflections............................................................................................................................45 Reflections.........................................................................................................................................46 Conclusion........................................................................................................................................47 F. Hernandez & B. Chan iii
INTRODUCTION In recent years, the visibility of natural disasters has increased due to several disaster events that gained international attention. While disasters can strike anywhere, they tend to affect disproportionate numbers of people living in the developing world because of pre-existing vulnerability. Poverty in coastal and rural communities, coupled with a lack of disaster education or planning, created a â€˜perfect stormâ€™ of vulnerability in Southeast Asia, demonstrated by the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, which killed hundreds of thousands of individuals, leaving millions more homeless and destitute. Disasters of this magnitude require strategic, organized responses, typically managed by governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) experienced in disaster aid. Typical responses include rebuilding efforts focused on the provision of housing structures rather than on the process of community and capacity building. While these efforts appear to help the survivors, there is another dimension to this type of aid: it takes the process of rebuilding homes and communities out of the hands of the affected. Instead, they are offered hand-outs in the form of new homes designed and built by outsiders, who have determined what the villagers need without having asked them first. This is known as a top-down approach, and it is the most common type of disaster aid and assistance. Because of the variety and scale of the response efforts, and their having been heavily documented, The Boxing Day tsunami offers a unique opportunity to study the short and long-term effects of various types of response and to determine which methods are most effective and why. As part of an academic program, we conducted a field study in Sri Lanka 3 years after the tsunami, in an NGO-built village. We went in questioning what type of aid was most valuable in light of the aid provided. We wanted to understand the inherent human process of recovery and survival, so that we could identify those factors that help to facilitate and those that hinder. While perhaps naive, our group went into the field with the belief that most disaster aid provides for survivors in ways that are vital and necessary. Our assumptions and preconceived notions about disaster aid were shattered by our discoveries in the village. Through site visits, interviews, surveys, and a community project, we realized that the picture is more complicated and challenging than we had imagined. The following study is a distillation of our experience; it covers the knowledge we gained, the conclusions we drew, and the many questions we walked away with.
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CONTEXT CAP Asia, a 3 month field study program offered by the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) at Ball State University, exposes students to urbanization, planning, and architecture in Asia. However, in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, the program has shifted emphasis, and now focuses on the process of post-tsunami reconstruction in South-East Asia. Although CAP Asia V also visited Indonesia, Thailand, and India, the University of Moratuwa, in Sri Lanka, functioned as our home base. Shortly after our arrival, all of the student participants were broken up into groups and were assigned to separate post-tsunami developments to conduct field-study work. Our group was assigned to a post-tsunami village called Yayawatte, near the southern Sri Lankan town of Tangalle. Arrangements were made for our group to live in a guest house approximately 4 kilometers from the Yayawatte, necessitating the daily use of motorized transportation to conduct our research in the village. Our collaborative team consisted of: Bruce Chan, Francesca Hernandez, and Marino Solario, three students representing 3 disciplines (architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning, respectively). Our collective unit shall be henceforth referred to as â€œthe groupâ€?. The group was paired with a team of Sri Lankan graduate students of urban planning from the University of Moratuwa: Anuja, Jagath, Lasantha, and Sumith. Our field study was produced in 4 phases. The first phase consisted of preliminary research, primarily secondary (online) research and a windshield survey. The second phase was achieved by conducting personal interviews with households in Yayawatte and in Tangalle. The third phase was a community action workshop, initiated by our Sri Lankan partners. The final phase was the implementation of a project we considered appropriate and manageable, which took the form of a survey, a community clean-up, and a festival. Due to intermittent travel to Thailand and India, our field study in Yayawatte was accomplished in 3 separate increments. Phase I & II were conducted between January 28 and February 12, phase III was conducted between February 20 to 25, and phase IV was conducted between March 19 to April 1.
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PHASE I: PRELIMINARY RESEARCH January 28, 2008 â€“ February 5, 2008 Before the various student teams went into the field to conduct their studies, it was necessary to conduct some preliminary research. Our group initially gathered information during an introductory 30-minute, self-guided walk through the village (windshield survey), and then later via the websites of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) of Sri Lanka and PLAN International, the NGO responsible for constructing Yayawatte. We sought not only basic information about the village itself, but also a sense of what life in the village was like for those displaced by the tsunami. The city of Tangalle was also a major focus of research, in light of the fact that most Yayawatte residents had lived there prior to the tsunami and continue to use it as their primary service center. Basic Information Sri Lanka is divided into 9 provinces and 25 districts. Those districts are further subdivided into Divisional Secretariats (DS). The Tangalle DS is one of the 11 Divisional Secretariats located in the Hambantota District in the southernmost province of Sri Lanka. The Tangalle DS is further divided into 72 Grama Niladhari, or GN, the smallest administrative unit.
9 Provinces of Sri Lanka.
3 Districts comprising the Southern Province
OKEWELA TANGALLE BELIATTA
11 Divisional Secretariats of Hambantota District
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Hambantota District has a population of 547,000, 96% of whom are considered rural residents. Over one-third of Hambantota residents live below the poverty line. The district records one of the country’s highest suicide rates, mainly due to endemic poverty. The average monthly income is less than $30 for more than 75% of the families.1 Some 13.4% of the labor force of 244,847 is unemployed – in comparison to the national average of 8.3%. Of those employed, 42.2% are in the agricultural sector, 23.3% are involved in industry, with the remaining 34.5% working in the services sector.2 The DS of Tangalle is a regionally important fishing port. The Tangalle Fishery Harbour was first constructed in 2001 under the Japanese Grant scheme, and greatly advanced the economic and technological capacity of the fishing industry in Tangalle. The harbor provides a marina for larger motorized ships to be moored, as well as a wharf where the loads of fish caught during multi-week trips out to sea can be unloaded, iced, and packed into trucks. The gentle slopes of the beaches of Tangalle provide ample room for more traditional forms of fishing to be practiced. Narrow, traditional single-occupancy boats dot the beach where fishermen with nets embark and return early each morning for their catch. The town of Tangalle is located along a 6-kilometer-long sandy bay. It has not yet developed as a tourist destination, so the beaches are busy only in the morning and evening when the fishermen pull their boats ashore, unload their catch and mend their nets. The local economy is primarily based upon fishing, agriculture, and some handicrafts. A number of basic guesthouses cater to the small number of tourists that come to enjoy the extensive, pristine beaches and wildlife of southern Sri Lanka. A significant game reserve is situated just south of the town, and an important sea turtle nesting beach lays to the east of Tangalle. 1 2
http://realmedicinefoundation.org/initiatives/IN1-11_previous.asp Department of Census & Statistics – Sri Lanka
TANGALLE Tangalle Bay
Tangalle DS, with the main town highlighted.
Town of Tangalle
View of Tangalle Bay and Beach, with the Tangalle Fishery Harbor to the right.
Photo: Bruce Chan
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Commercial Center (Farmerâ€™s Market, Bust Stand, Cricket Stadium)
Tangalle Town City Hall & Performance Hall Tangalle City Center
Boysâ€™ Middle School Tangalle Fishery Harbor Hospital Administration Center (DS Office, LIbarary, Water Admin, etc.)
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Tsunami On Sunday, December 26, 2004, at around 9 in the morning, one of the most significant tsunamis in modern history struck Tangalle. Because of its location right on the southern tip along the coast of Sri Lanka, the town and surrounding area was badly damaged. The loss of life, structures, and livelihoods in Tangalle was considerable. Pre-tsunami Tangalle had a population of nearly 100 thousand. As a result of the tsunami, 608 died, while 216 are officially classified as missing.3 Over half (621) of the 1130 households affected earned less than $45 dollars a month.4 There are currently 5,167 people living in the damaged housing units.5 The DS reported damage to well over a thousand of the 2770 homes, although only 15% were damaged beyond repair6. Of the 737 non-residential buildings in the DS, over 100 were destroyed or damaged beyond repair7. 2,454 people have been displaced as a result of the disaster, and are now living in various NGO-built villages, housing, and other arrangements outside of the DS. Most of the beach-side guest houses were destroyed, further paralyzing the tourist industry in the area. Most of the adult males in the affected coastal areas are fishermen, and in Tangalle alone, more than 90% of the local fishing fleet of 150 boats was destroyed8. Before the tsunami, 685 individuals were engaged in the fishing industry, with 120 people employed in fishery-related jobs. After the tsunami, only 88 people remained employed in the fishing industry, and a mere 12 people remained in fishery-related jobs.9 The Tangalle Fishery Harbour, completed in 2001, was entirely destroyed by the tsunami. With the help of Japanese organizations, the fishery harbor has been rebuilt, making it the first fishery harbour to have been successfully reconstructed after the Tsunami. Due to the introduction of sea water to the soil, much agricultural land was lost, and a great deal of the once-fertile land still is still incapable of production. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
http://www.statistics.gov.lk/Tsunami/final/hamban/ftab0712.pdf http://www.statsitics.gov.lk/Tsunami/final/hamban/ftab029.pdf http://www.statistics.gov.lk/Tsunami/census%202/hambantota-tangalle.pdf http://www.statistics.gov.lk/Tsunami/final/hamban/ftab011.pdf http://www.statistics.gov.lk/Tsunami/final/hamban/ftab011.pdf http://www.secondaid.org/downloads/report_may_2005.pdf http://www.statistics.gov.lk/Tsunami/census%202/Hambantota-tangalla.pdf
View of destroyed Tangalle Fishery Harbor after the tsunami.
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NGO: PLAN International The recovery of these areas has been slow, and owes much to the interventions of the NGOs that provided housing and donated equipment for the many who lost their businesses or homes and lacked the means to recover independently. According to their mission statement, PLAN international is one of the world’s largest child-centered community development organizations, and is focused on sustainable development projects. Having already spent 8 years working on improving education, health, sanitation, and income generation for 90,000 people in Hambantota, it was logical for them to respond to the tsunami by creating Yayawatte “Child Friendly” Village, a post-tsunami settlement outside of Tangalle. Yayawatte Yayawatte “Child Friendly” Village is located in the Medagama GN in Tangalle DS, along the main road that connects all of the coastal towns of the south. The village was built by the Sri Lanka branch of PLAN International on 74 acres of land owned by the UDA, adjacent to a large bird sanctuary and lagoon. Of the 74 acres, only 14 acres were developed, in order to preserve the ecological habitat of the surrounding area. The closest large service center frequented by the residents of Yayawatte is Tangalle, which is 5 kilometers away.
Yayawatte “Child-Friendly” Village is located 5 kilometers northeast from the main town of Tangalle. Photo: GoogleMaps
Yayawatte Site, surrounded by scrub jungle and lagoons. Photo: GoogleMaps
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Yayawatte boasts a total of 200 housing units, each featuring one of 2 designs: model A (56 houses) and model B (144 houses). Both models are similar in size, but differ in configuration. Each home is built on a lot totaling 7 perches of land (1 perch = 272.25 square feet). Most resident families have cultivated gardens on their small plots of land, which typically include fruit trees, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Almost all of these lots are enclosed by fences built from salvaged materials (such as old fishing nets) or made from living trees. The result is very picturesque, and adds to the character of the village.
Model A House.
Model B House.
Photo: Bruce Chan
Creative use of salvaged materials as fencing.
Expansion / Addition.
Photo: Bruce Chan
Photo: Bruce Chan
Photo: Bruce Chan
Cultivated vegetable / fruit gardens.
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Photo: Bruce Chan
Views of Yayawatte. Maps: GoogleMaps Photos: Bruce Chan
Fig. 1 Volleyball Court / Public Park Space Fig. 2 Open Green Space / Impromptu Cricket Field Fig. 3 Model A Cluster Fig. 4 Model B Cluster
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On the west side of the village, there is a large community hall adjacent to a Montessori school. The rutted, red-earth roads are unpaved, and storm water runoff from the village flows into the bird sanctuary and lagoon surrounding the village, through a series of constructed channels that are in various stages of completion. Yayawatte was designed with some noteworthy principles of environmental design in mind. The village is aligned along a north/south axis, with low-rise homes laid out in a linear arrangement, separated by wide swathes of open green space. This design is intended to optimize wind flow through the neighborhood, while allowing the mature trees remaining on site to provide shade for streets, open areas, and homes. As mentioned before, a total of 2/3 of the site remains undeveloped, for the preservation of natural habitat.
Ma i n Road
Community Hall & Montessori School Complex
buildings landscaped lots scrub jungle natural bodies of water unpaved roads
Volleyball Court / Public Park Space
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Some of the social design characteristics insisted upon by PLAN are: separate rooms for boys and girls, lowered windows (for equal access), a toilet that is connected to the home, and a chimney in the kitchen. All of these considerations are geared toward the health and safety of children.
BEDROOM SITTING ROOM
House Model A Plan
Use of Chimney Stove Hoods in the Kitchen. Photo: Bruce Chan & Francesca hernandez
House Model B Plan
Interior Views of House Model B. Photo: Bruce Chan
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It is not immediately clear whether these highlighted features (the attached bathroom, indoor kitchen, and separate rooms for boys and girls) were included because they had been expressed as important by the Sri Lankan aid recipients or if they had been deemed important by PLAN designers. In many ways, neither the attached bathroom and toilet nor the indoor kitchen are consistent with the typical Sri Lankan village home. It is worth considering that the designers of these villages may be imposing a middle class standard upon the recipients of these homes by placing them in structures that are ‘improved’ upon from the traditional types of houses common to the region in ways that are not structurally significant but are rather reflections of the higher living standard of the West. Preliminary Research Conclusion Our preliminary research left the group with the impression that PLAN had done a remarkable job of creating a village that met the needs of those who had lost homes in the tsunami. Furthermore, the mission of PLAN to create a “child-friendly village” appeared to have been accomplished in Yayawatte, evidenced by heartwarming recovery stories and smiling faces of children staring out from the online literature related to the project. After our brief introduction to Yayawatte and PLAN International, we made our first presentation in Moratuwa, secure in the belief that our village was a complete success story. We had been led to believe that the village was fully functional, had been designed with environmental sensitivity, and that the children living there were being served by the various programs that PLAN International had provided for them. The fact that taking an institution’s literature at face value left us with such an uncritical and positive impression should be noted: this is the inherent weakness of secondary information.
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PHASE II: INTERVIEWS February 6, 2008 – February 12, 2008 Interview Objectives Our small group decided to begin our project by introducing ourselves to Yayawatte. We hoped that by being unobtrusive and friendly that we could familiarize ourselves with the village and gain a level of trust that would allow villagers to freely share their information with us. We wanted to develop an understanding of their recovery process in the newly erected village, and get a feel for post-tsunami life. Interview Process Our group, in partnership with our Sri Lankan student counterparts (also acting as our translators in the village), decided on a specific method to conduct our interviews. We agreed that once we arrived to the village, we would randomly choose houses where the residents were at home, and introduce ourselves to them. The atmosphere would be casual, and not feel like an actual surveyed interview. In this way, we hoped to establish trust in the village, as a group of students who genuinely wanted to hear about the villagers’ experiences. By not resembling a superficial data-collecting government-type agency, we would be able to obtain the whole, unadulterated truth behind their recovery process. To appear like government officials or international nongovernment organizations (NGOs) might skew the answers, and not elicit honest responses. Thus, an informal conversational method would be used to conduct the interviews. Within our group of 6 (3 American students and 3 Sri Lankan students), we established that we would split up into 3 pairs (one American student with one Sri Lankan student), enabling us to cover more houses. We also discussed using the extended place method, as described in Mitchell Duneier’s article “Sidewalk”, in our interview process. We wanted to branch out into the city of Tangalle and conduct surveys there, where many of the residents of Yayawatte conducted their daily business and met their daily needs. By interviewing business owners and market stand sellers, we believed it would be possible to round out our picture of the lives of the people in Yayawatte. The Interviews 1. The Fishermen On our very first afternoon in Tangalle, our group, along with our Sri Lankan student counterparts, decided to explore the beach and harbor where many of the fishermen of Tangalle moored their boats and conducted business. Because our preliminary research informed us that Tangalle was an important fishing port, we wanted to gain a sense of its role in the post-tsunami atmosphere. The 6 of us were surprised to find that very few fishermen were present on the beach; most of the small fishing vessels laid alone on the beach. Besides the handful of fishermen, we were the only other people present. As we later discovered, fishing business is conducted mainly in the early morning before the sun rises, and concludes around 10 a.m. There was, however, one fisherman on the beach, attending to his net on his boat. After casually introducing ourselves as students studying in Yayawatte, he candidly discussed with us his occupation as a fisherman. Fortunately for us, he happened to be a resident of Yayawatte whose family had been given a house after their house was destroyed by the tsunami. F. Hernandez & B. Chan 13
In our conversation he mentioned various issues that had come to affect his family in the wake of the tsunami. His personal income had decreased as a result of the tsunami, and it was still slowly recovering. In order to get to his boat each morning, he bikes to and from Yayawatte, a roughly 5 kilometer bike ride each way. One very important point he brought up was the effect of the relocation to Yayawatte on the familial and social structure of the fisherman. Prior to the tsunami, most of the fishermen lived right on the beach in ancestral homes. In the morning, the fishermen would walk out onto the beach and take to their boats. While out at sea, their families would wait for the men to return home, with the children often greeting their father on the beach in time for lunch. Sadly, now that many of the families have been displaced further inland, there is no one to greet the fishermen when they return from their morning catches. The children no longer enjoy as much time with their fa- Fishermen on the beach helping owner of single-man boat pull thers, and the wives see less of their husbands. There in vessel. Photo: Bruce Chan is a silent sense of loneliness in being a fisherman now, compared to before the tsunami. Another important point is that many of the fishermen, due to the large distance between their houses and the beach, can now fish only once a day. Prior to the tsunami and their displacement, fishermen could fish multiple times a day according to the ocean conditions they observed from their front yards. A little-discussed problem was that of aid agencies having handed out so many boats that there is now an overabundance of fishing vessels and fishermen. Excess boats can be seen moored in yards and along roads, and the seas have suffered from overfishing. Many fishermen now have much smaller incomes due to these new circumstances affecting them. While speaking with this fisherman, another fisherman approached us out of curiosity. He soon began to divulge his misfortunes and hardships to us. After the second fisherman left, the original fisherman told us that the latter had lied to us, thinking we were an aid organization with money to give out. This was the first time we were faced with people blatantly lying and skewing their stories in an attempt to elicit some aid. At this point we braced ourselves, realizing that further dramatizations and lies might await us in our interviews in the village. 2. The Villagers On our first day in the village, much to our surprise, the people of Yayawatte were open and seemingly unguarded, inviting us into their homes, offering us tea, and telling us their stories in response to our cursory questions about their personal circumstances. Due to this unexpected (but welcomed) method, our group of 6 decided to conduct the surveys together, as opposed to the previously discussed pairs of students. As we made our way around the village, we began to systematically ask questions about the villagersâ€™ homes in Yayawatte, their lives before the tsunami, and the effects they had experienced in their personal lives. In this way, we were slowly able to form a clearer picture of the reality of the villagersâ€™ lives, rather than the picture painted by the NGO responsible for building their village. The discrepancies were noteworthy and somewhat unsettling. F. Hernandez & B. Chan 14
The most obvious issue facing villagers is the fact that transportation to and from Tangalle puts a strain on their finances. Virtually every household we visited complained of having problems with their septic tank overflowing within 6 months of moving in. Additionally, the side drains on many of the roads traversing the village had never been properly installed, and had consequently created drainage problems in many yards, as well as erosion problems for the roads themselves. The villagers complained that PLAN had done nothing to remedy the situation, in spite of repeated appeals for help.
Mrs. Champa during an interview in her house.
Photo: Bruce Chan
We were told various tales of PLAN administrators coming into the village bearing treats for children--and then snapping photos of the smiling children to post in their literature and reports as a means of generating revenue from donors. Ultimately, we were being told that the people felt marginalized and exploited by PLAN. Suddenly, in the space of only a few days, our view of PLAN had ceased to be that of a fully effective, helpful organization. Instead, our model NGO had been transformed in our minds to an exploitative, greedy institution with little regard for the very people they were supposed to be serving. How did this happen? Surely this could not be the whole truth!
We had detected an interesting pattern in our interviews. It had been made clear to us that while most of the villagers had suffered losses due to the tsunami, others had been offered homes because their property had been infringed upon by the development. The illegal residents of Yayawatte, who were residing in houses not given to them- effectively squatters, were split fairly evenly between the tsunami-affected and those who had migrated from the north or east to avoid conflicts there. Those who had been legally relocated expressed gratitude and satisfaction with their Yayawatte homes, explaining that their previous homes had been illegal, and that their new homes were permanent. The illegal inhabitants were also grateful to have a place to live, in spite of the fact that many of them were without electricity or running water due to the illegality of their residency. It was primarily those who had been given homes to replace their old homes in Tangalle who expressed strong displeasure towards PLAN Sri Lanka and the quality of their donated homes. While some residents were making significant improvements to their homes, others complained of leaking roofs and other minor issues that they felt PLAN should be repairing. In all, our group collectively interviewed roughly 15 households, with smaller, even more casual conversations spontaneously occurring with children we came across playing in the fields and residents walking through the village either alone or in small groups. -Major / Frequently Mentioned Issues Additional transportation costs Absence of shrine Outdoor drainage problems Rooftop / property drainage problems Inadequate septic tanks Unofficial ownership, absence of property deed Unpaved roads F. Hernandez & B. Chan 15
Not enough space for agriculture No local markets in walking distance Houses are spaced too closely, too loud for children to study Loss of fishing family structure 3. NGOs On our fifth day in the village, we were told that the Montessori school was having a grand opening ceremony, and that representatives from PLAN and a sister organization would be present. When we arrived at the Montessori school, we were thrilled to see the building (that we had previously only seen empty) filled with tiny chairs, and the playground bustling with small bodies. We immediately met with one of the coordinators of the Self Employment Information Center (SEIC) of Ambalantota, a local NGO that has worked closely with PLAN in Yayawatte. -SEIC Interview The SEIC director informed us that the opening of the school was a collaborative effort between PLAN and the SEIC. In addition to the school, the SEIC was currently working on implementing a solid waste management system that would replace the heavy concrete bins in the village with lightweight plastic rubbish bins. Trash would be collected from these bins once a week, a dramatic improvement over the current system which seemed to rely upon villagers burning waste in shallow pits that marred the open green spaces throughout Yayawatte. We were also informed about a new program about to begin in the village, a cultivation program aimed to provide every household in Yayawatte with training and space for agricultural cultivation. The corner lots throughout the village were to be set aside as cultivation areas and outfitted with raised, tiered planting beds. While this development was ultimately positive, the households occupying the corner lots, many of whom had cultivated significant gardens, would be forced to give up their spaces and allow their gardens to be razed to make room for the community gardening areas. Additionally, the SEIC was planning on distributing money to households for the building of living fences. According to the SEIC coordinator, many of the existing living fences were built outside the plot lines allocated to each house. They were therefore illegal and were going to be torn out. While we understood the logic behind this maneuver, we could not help but wonder why no one had broached the subject in the early days of the village, before the majority of families had created their fences, many of which were thriving, having had time to mature considerably. Rather than rewarding the behavior of those who had taken initiative and demonstrated ownership of their properties, this policy seemed to be punishing those who had taken time and effort to improve their homes. Both of these initiatives struck us as questionable in light of the fact that so much open, green space had been set aside throughout the village. It also calls into question the issue of propriety: whose village is this, anyway? If the people of Yayawatte were ever to feel a sense of ownership, it would seem that their many attempts to make these houses their own should be respected and celebrated. Instead, the opposite was happening: the NGO responsible for the poor roads and the overwhelmed septic systems were now taking the position (with the SEIC) that work completed by the villagers was to be undone. We could not imagine these well intentioned programs doing anything in Yayawatte but fostering yet more ill-will directed towards PLAN.
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-PLAN International Immediately following our conversation with the SEIC coordinator, we moved to the interior of the Montessori building, where we were met by Jayatissa Manamperi, the assistant program director from PLAN Sri Lanka. He gave us a brief overview of the history of PLAN Sri Lanka, and told us about the history of Yayawatte. The land was initially owned by the UDA, and had been allocated for Yayawatte by PLAN Sri Lanka after the tsunami. PLAN, we were told, created a list of recipients for the homes based on criteria that were never explained to us. Issues emerged early-on in regarding the allocation of homes in Yayawatte. Apparently, the initial list created by PLAN Sri Lanka was disregarded by the Tangalle DS, who had created her own list of recipients to receive homes in Yayawatte. PLAN insisted on an investigation, which delayed the process of moving people into their homes. Eventually, squatters began illegally moving into unoccupied homes. This example of the type of corruption that sometimes springs up around aid work demonstrates how the intentions of the aid process can be effectively rendered useless by graft, dishonesty, or nepotism. When confronted with the question of who was culpable for the deficiencies of the engineering, specifically the septic tanks, we were informed that PLAN was not directly responsible for the oversight. Evidently, the master plan and unit designs for Yayawatte were all created by a Galle firm specializing in design, engineering, and master planning. Upon completion of the plans, they were submitted to the Urban Development Authority (UDA) for approval. Ultimately, the faulty plans were stamped with a seal of approval three times over: once by the Galle firm, once by the UDA, and once by PLAN Sri Lanka. Consequently, no one was made to take responsibility for an error that has cost the recipients of homes in the village comfort and proper sanitation. When we asked about a temple or shrine, which many of the villagers we had spoken to had expressed a desire for, he told us that the UDA had already allocated land for a temple. It was not mentioned that this proposed temple is situated on the lowest point on the entire village site, a most inauspicious and untraditional place for a temple. We also asked about a hulking market complex adjacent to the road that remains unoccupied, in spite of having been completed many months prior. We were told that the market area is owned by the UDA. What they have planned for it remains unknown, but it clearly has nothing to do with the residents of Yayawatte. We had hoped that PLAN Sri Lanka had completed a survey of the village, and thus had comprehensive demographic information for Yayawatte. We were told that the survey department had conducted a survey at one time, and that there were 126 permanent residences, and 29 illegal ones. This was as much information as we were offered. The last bit of information that we had hoped to collect from Jayatissa concerned the cabana and guard station situated at the far end of the village, accessible only by driving through Yayawatte. We had been told by the uniformed watchman hired to guard the property- perched on the edge of the verdant bird sanctuary- that it was owned by Germans and was intended as a rustic outpost from which tourists could bird watch. Jayatissa claimed to know nothing about it, which we all found a bit difficult to believe.
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4. Tangalle Market As part of our Extended Place Method, our group wanted to spend some time in the actual city center of Tangalle to gain a sense of the services available. We also wanted to gain some insight into how the larger area of Tangalle viewed Yayawatte. Our group took a morning to explore a large open-air market place adjacent to the town’s main bus stand. This area is the heart of Tangalle town: bus stand, market, fish mart, large cricket field, weekly produce / goods market, clock tower. We entered the market place and began to observe the goods being sold. While there were various fruits and produce stands, there were also stands selling household wares, hats, brooms, etc. These open-air stands, while being non-permanent structures, were clustered together in a permanent section of the city center. While these permanent stores were open daily and provided most of the daily essentials for a household, most people did their shopping at the outdoor farmer’s market which operates on Wednesdays and Sundays adjacent to the bus stand. The weekly farmer’s market provided a one-stop trip for households to load up on their weekly grocery needs. Aside from produce, the market also displayed a large clothing, spices, and kitchen ware section.
Regional cricket math held at Tangalle Stadium. Photo: Bruce Chan
Bi-Weekly Farmers’ Market held in open lot next to Tangalle bus stand. Photo: http://www.tangalle.com/gallery.html
Tangalle Bus Stand & Clock Tower. Photo: http://tangalle.com/gallery.html
Tangalle Commercial Center
Photo: Bruce Chan
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Photo: Bruce Chan
5. Neighboring Post-Tsunami Village In an effort to gain some perspective and context for what neighboring NGO-developed villages were like, Francesca, Bruce, and Anuja visited a village about 1 kilometer north of Yayawatte. After a leisurely walk up an asphalt-paved road with small rural houses, our group decided to engage these outlaying neighbors of Yayawatte. We found, through informal interviews, that while many of the residences were aware of their neighboring village Yayawatte to the south, they were unmotivated and uninterested in pursuing additional information.Thus, they felt that they had nothing in common with the post-tsunami village. As we walked further up the road to the north, we stumbled upon another post-tsunami village. It was quite recognizable as such, since all the houses were identical. However, unlike Yayawatte, there were considerably fewer houses, and the roads were paved and adjoined by gutters and sidewalks. The plaque at the entrance to this cul-de-sac village stated that it was built through cooperation between a German NGO and the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka. The three of us were greeted by one of the families that happened to be at home. Upon interviewing them in their house, we found some surprising differences between their post-tsunami village experience and that we had found in Yayawatte. This family had only moved into their house 8 months prior, as the village was newly-constructed. There were only 14 houses on their small cul-de-sac village, and most of the houses were occupied. The empty houses were not abandoned; they had not yet been assigned. Many of the residents had been initially passed over by the NGOs and government for aid because they had been living with relatives or in a rented house at the time of the tsunami; they technically had not lost a house.
Family of 4 in their spacious house in the neighboring village. Photo: Bruce Chan
The houses were much larger than their counterparts in Yayawatte and were situated on 12 perch lots, with ample yard space surrounding each house. Unlike the large fences characteristic of the houses in Yayawatte, the yards in this village were separated only by low bushes or flowers. From the interviews we conducted, the residents were very happy with their new homes, and were concerned only that the village was very far from the main road and the bus stop servicing Tangalle.
Gravel paved roads with storm gutters and sidewalks .
Photo: Bruce Chan
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Overall, our group was very surprised at the positive and content disposition of the people in this village. Not only had they been provided with more space in terms of their houses and yards, but also the quality of infrastructure planning (gravel roads, drainage, large yards, etc) was superior to that of Yayawatte. Our group speculated that one reason for the apparent success of this village was the relatively small scale of the project; only 14 houses were built, opposed to 200 in Yayawatte. Also, the houses had only recently been completed and distributed to the residents, and had not been hastily constructed for mass production. Perhaps most important was that the residents, who had owned nothing before the tsunami, were overjoyed by their new houses. Complaints were few. 6. Tangalle Tour Bruce was afforded an opportunity to see the tsunami destruction in Tangalle through the eyes of someone who had survived the disaster. Neluka, a resident of Yayawatte whom we befriended, spoke adequate English and offered the use of his 3-wheel taxi to tour the town. Prior to the tsunami, Neluka had operated a small fishing business with his brother, using a small, motorized fishing boat. He and his family had lived a mere 500 feet from the ocean and beach where he moored his boat, in the ancestral home (passed on to him by his father) where he had grown up. Nelukaâ€™s two sons were also born and raised in the house. He had found great solace in the stability of his livelihood and family life. Due to the east-facing orientation of crescent-shaped Tangalle, the tsunami was especially destructive in this area, where it swept deeply inland. A large canal running through Tangalle empties into the ocean beyond Nelukaâ€™s old neighborhood. This channel directed the rushing waves of the tsunami deeper into the populated town, with catastrophic results. In addition to sharing his firsthand account of the areas and properties damaged by the tsunami, Neluka also discussed many of the problems and issues faced by fishermen and homeowners post-tsunami. Due to government enforcement of a new 100-meter buffer zone between the ocean and areas where new construction is permitted (though repairs to damaged structures are allowed), many families who lost their homes were not allowed to rebuild. Those within this zone whose properties were too ravaged to repair received new houses in settlements such as Yayawatte, through government and NGO programs. Unfortunately, the devastating tsunami wave swept well beyond the 100-meter zone inland. For those like Neluka, whose damaged properties lie past this 100-meter boundary, the government offered only monetary aid in amounts not adequate to replace or repair the damages incurred by the tsunami. Photo: Bruce Chan
Beyond the physical effects of the tsunami, Neluka expressed the psychological effects of the tsunami on his 2 children. Both boys were swept away from their parents during the tsunami but had fortunately managed to survive the waves. Despite their bravery at the time, both boys were now terrified of the beach they had once considered their playground and backyard. Thus, even having been offered financial aid by the government, Neluka had little desire to rebuild his ruined house due to the fear his children felt being in such close proximity to the ocean.
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Abandoned houses in the beach-side community of Tangalle are a common scene. Owners are holding onto the property for the hopeful event that resort developers will purchase the land. Photo: Bruce Chan
Neluka’s plot of land now sits empty; only the skeletal foundation of his ancestral house remains. Much of the once thriving fishing beach-side family community of Tangalle is now quiet and derelict. The houses that were not washed away with the tsunami remain either boarded up and vacant, or refurbished and transformed into small guest houses for foreign tourists. Neluka revealed that many of his old neighbors, much like himself, currently live in donated houses in post-tsunami villages. However, unlike him, many of them still own the land where their house once stood, hoping to sell it to hotel and resort developers in the future. Neluka already sold his plot of land to a local real estate agency for extra money because unlike his neighbors, he and his family are illegally squatting in a house in Yayawatte.
On the subject of livelihood, Neluka revealed that many fishermen, like himself, have now switched professions due to a variety of reasons. In Neluka’s case, he cannot bear to see his children worry as he goes out to fish in the ocean they now fear. While some fishermen did not receive aid or new boats after the tsunami, others cannot afford the extra transportation costs, and many are simply too filled with fear to return to the ocean. While Neluka’s tour of the physical destruction inflicted on Tangalle by the tsunami was useful, his insight into the issues he and his neighbors faced proved to be of great value for increasing the group’s understanding of the issues brought by the disaster. The economic and psychological effects that he revealed are not often found in official documents or reports. Personal Interview Reflection Our first phase of research and interviews had answered many questions, but left us with still more questions that begged to be addressed. The disparities between what we had been told by PLAN and the SEIC and what we were witnessing in the village were troubling. The idea of an agriculture initiative in the village seemed wonderful, but if it happened at the expense of the already-established efforts of community members, was it worth it? While respecting boundaries might appear to be important, was it important enough to warrant destroying the long-established living fences created by residents? Establishing blame for engineering deficiencies might help to clarify the situation, but how could the issues actually be resolved? What did the residents of Yayawatte really need and how could their needs be met? Could we actually facilitate the villagers’ efforts to seek solutions? In Phase III, we would begin to ask and answer more of these questions by involving the community.
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PHASE III: COMMUNITY ACTION WORKSHOP February 20, 2008 â€“ February 25, 2008 After an absence of several weeks, we returned to Tangalle with our Sri Lankan students, whom we had been told would be conducting a community workshop. We had neither preparation nor context for this activity, save for a generic print out describing community action workshop processes handed out to us on our bus ride back to our villages. We would have less than 48 hours to plan and execute our group community workshop. Our initial re-entry to the group was plagued by tension and misunderstandings. A rift seemed to have arisen between our Sri Lankan partners and ourselves, created by lack of mutual respect and communication. It was implied by the lead Sri Lankan student that the American students lacked experience and were not serious. Amongst ourselves, we felt that the Sri Lankans were failing to listen to our observations and were not taking our suggestions seriously. We took a trip out to Netolpitiya to invite the head monk to the workshop. This was a subject of tension because in our interviews we had established that most of the residents of Yayawatte worship at the temple in Tangalle. The Sri Lankans held fast to the belief that the Netolpitiya monk was the appropriate spiritual authority to invite to the workshop because of the proximity of his temple to Yayawatte. We were beginning to experience the discrepancies that arise when conclusions are reached by using purely geographical data instead of empirical data. This is an issue that would appear again, much later. Later, we met as a group and began to discuss the specifics of the community workshop. Our partners from Moratuwa had come to the meeting armed with the same handout we had been briefed with on the bus. It appeared to be straight out of a textbook, and it recommended a one-size-fits-all formula for conducting a community workshop. We discussed the various steps laid out in the plan, and then we collectively made the decision to abandon the instructions and create our own plan for the workshop. This was a major breakthrough: finally we agreed on something and decided to move forward as a group. Workshop Objectives Though this workshop was mainly conducted and thought through by the Sri Lankan students, our group inserted ourselves into the process very early on. We too wanted the workshop to substantially be useful to both us and the village. One of our goals was to go through and identify, as a community, the main problems facing Yayawatte. We had to make clear that we were not an NGO, and we were not going to fix their problems for them. Rather, we were going to help them identify the most pressing communal issues, and connect them with officials on how to solve the problems. We hoped that with a community created and prioritized list of issues, they would be able to concentrate on the select issues and work as a community on the solution. Workshop Process We made the decision to give everyone a card upon entry to the community center. Each card would have a number from between 1 and 10 on the corner, and they would be distributed in sequential order so that no two people arriving together would have the same number. They would be asked during the workshop to write their most pressing issues on the cards individually, and then would be asked to split into 10 separate groups, indicated by the number on their card. The beauty of this system is that no husbands, wives, or children would be together in their groups, and consequently would be more likely to discuss their issues freely without the influence of their family members affecting their ability to state their case. F. Hernandez & B. Chan 22
Once in the group, it was decided that each individual would contribute their list of issues, which would then be transferred to a large board that was to be issued to each group. After all of the lists were compiled, the groups would appoint a spokesperson, whose job was to read aloud the list when it was their groupâ€™s turn to do so. As each group spokesperson read aloud the list, all of the issues would be compiled onto large boards at the front of the room, by our Sri Lankan student partners. The issues were to be categorized into 4 categories: economic, infrastructure, environmental, and social. Finally, after compiling the lists, the participants would vote on the issues that they considered most pressing, and we would be able to prioritize issues based on this vote. This way, the lists were formulated by consensus by the villagers themselves. We were informed that all of the relevant local officials had already been invited to this workshop, and so we hoped that during this process there would be a parallel process occurring by which the officials could compile their own lists of issues. After the transcription to the category boards was complete, we envisioned the officials meeting with groups of people to discuss potential solutions to these problems, thus making the workshop a productive process that focused on solving problems rather than simply rehashing and complaining about them. After planning out the community meeting, we spent a day preparing for it. We could not have done it without our Sri Lankan partners, as many of the preparations included coordination of chairs and tables, procurement of refreshments, and other such actions that required fluency in Sinhala. During this time, we visited Yayawatte to make certain that villagers were aware of the workshop. Much to our surprise, there were signs posted, and most everyone seemed to know about it already. Visit with GN Officer During our time in the village, we paid a visit to Mister Ambepitiya, the officer of the Grama Niladhari (GN) of Medagama which Yayawatte was located in. Our meeting with Mister Ambepitiya was very interesting. We learned about his role as a mediator between the government and the people, and discovered that he was the official record keeper for the village responsible for recording births/deaths/marriages. We asked him if he had a census for Yayawatte, or any sort of documentation that detailed the population of the village. Once more, we were told how many families reside in Yayawatte, but were not offered any more extensive demographic information because it simply did not exist. The meeting was not fruitless, in terms of vital information that helped to steer our perception of the problems faced by the village. An important class issue was revealed to us: that the people of Yayawatte, regardless of their professions, were overwhelmingly of the fisherman caste, generally considered quite low in Sri Lanka class systems. The residents of our village are generally not highly educated, and might be the subject of discrimination or dismissal by public officials. When we inquired about some of the issues we had observed between the residents of the village and PLAN Sri Lanka, we were told something very surprising. Mister Ambepitiya explained to us that the construction costs of the homes in Yayawatte were grossly inflated. He pointed out the windows in the house we sat in, and informed us that they normally cost around $60 per window. The windows of the homes in Yayawatte apparently cost closer to $300 apiece. It was little wonder, then, that the budget for the village had been entirely spent, leaving no funds for paving the roads or repairing septic tank issues.
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Resident turn out, with city and government officials seated in the front of hte hall. Photo: Bruce Chan
Residents writing their most pressing issues on individual cards. Photo: Bruce Chan
One of the the groups compiling their issues onto boards to be presented to the hall. Photo: Bruce Chan
Compiling of group issues into 4 different boards representing 4 categories. Photo: Bruce Chan
Workshop Results Preparations all in place, we were finally able to conduct the community action workshop. At the designated time, we gathered in the community hall, and were disappointed when only one old woman showed up. After a few minutes, when no one else had joined us, we began to worry that the entire effort would be a failure. Fortunately, within half an hour, the community hall was full, and we had exceeded the number of participants we had anticipated by a wide margin. The meeting went surprisingly smoothly. Participants were very apt at assembling in their groups and writing out their issues. Those who were unable to read or write were assisted by their neighbors, and the energy in the room was palpable. Neighbors brought additional chairs to make up for the lack of seating, children eagerly helped with the distribution of refreshments, and leaders emerged almost immediately to help guide and direct people in their groups. With the exception of a couple of very vocal complainers, the issues were voted upon without incident. The process we had envisioned played itself out almost exactly as we had hoped it would, save for one important detail. The officials who were present at the workshop did not make any lists, nor did they appear to be very interested in working out solutions or engaging with the villagers. In fact, midway through the voting process, a van arrived, and the majority of the officials present left. This was unexpected, but not unwarranted. The workshop had begun half an hour late, and had taken a couple of hours already. However, the end goal of envisioning solutions was not accomplished, and so we were left wondering whether the meeting could truly be considered a success.
Voting of issues considered the most pressing. Photo: Francesca Hernandez
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The following is a list of issues presented by the community during the workshop are arranged in order of priority assigned (the percentage of the community that voted for them). Economic Issues: • No loans or grants offered or received for home improvement.............. 75% • No agricultural equipment or space for cultivation................................. 73% • No opportunities for employment......................................................... 56% • No assistance offered for fishing activities............................................ 45% • No scholarships made available to young people for education............. 39% Social Issues: • • • • •
No shrine in the village for daily worship............................................... 100% No deeds offered led to feelings of insecurity about homes................... 100% Renting properties to outsiders compromising village security............... 65% Stray cows damaging gardens, causing unrest in the village..................63% No clear demarcation of boundaries causing property disputes............. 60%
Environmental Issues: • Septic tank overflow creating unpleasant smell..................................... 100% • Mosquito and fly problems................................................................... 100% • No proper waste disposal creating waste problem................................ 75% • Problems with snakes in the village...................................................... 13% Infrastructure Issues: • No side drains on roads causing road erosion and yard flooding........... 100% • Kitchen space and room sizes inadequate............................................ 100% • Not enough streetlights to feel secure walking at night.......................... 98% • Lack of house gutters causing rain damage to window/door frames...... 92% • Problems with water tank causing water to be contaminated................. 72%
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Workshop Reflections Our workshop demonstrated to us how willing the people of Yayawatte are to discuss their issues and cooperate in the process of communicating these issues with outsiders. Unfortunately, we realized after the workshop had finished that these people have probably participated in countless workshops and meetings not unlike this one, and that the compiling of lists of problems was not a novel experience for them. While we felt that the workshop was incredibly productive, the question remained as to whether it was productive for us or for them. The residents of Yayawatte are already well aware of the issues they face, whereas the workshop was enlightening to those of us conducting it. Our hopes for participation from the local officials in attendance were not realized, and this left us all wishing that they had been somehow more involved in the workshop process. It is more agreeable to assume that the reason they did not stay until the end was due to time issues than to assume that they did not have any interest in participating with villagers. In retrospect, we wished that we could have made the process of listing issues less time-consuming. We also, not speaking Sinhala, could not be sure that the solutions phase had been adequately explained to the officials. What we hoped, and were told by at least one official in attendance, was that they were unaware of many of the issues they heard being discussed in the workshop. Once can only hope that this opened their eyes to the many unmet needs of the people living in Yayawatte, and would make them more sensitive to these issues in the future.
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PHASE IV: GROUP PROJECT March 19, 2008 – April 1, 2008 A. SURVEY After another few weeks away from Tangalle, we returned to Yayawatte, fully aware that this would be our last 2 weeks in the village before our field study research would come to an end. Therefore, we determined as a group that some sort of project or tangible product needed to be completed to truly prove our efforts in Yayawatte to be helpful to the residents. From the previous phases and research in Yayawatte, we realized that there was no definite known number of the number of houses and residents present in the Yayawatte settlement. Furthermore, due to the issues of squatter families and rented spaces, the census data for Yayawatte was never established by any government or official organization. Thus, it was evident to our team that a survey of the village would need to be conducted. Our group also threw around the ideas of a festival and clean-up day along with the survey. However, we agreed that the survey and what we did with the survey results would be the main project. Survey Objectives Through the survey, we hoped to accomplish set objectives and acquire data relevant to our research. 1. Gauge / Map Out Village’s Recovery Process. We wanted to include questions pertaining to the recovery process of the people in Yayawatte, specifically what was aiding / thwarting them to attaining a normal life again post-tsunami. We wanted to elicit from the surveyed individual ways that the community could improve through their own actions, without playing the blame game and looking to the past. 2. Census Data. One large part of the survey was to acquire census data. Specifically, we wanted to know how many people lived in Yayawatte, ages of the population, household numbers, occupation of the breadwinner, and the ownership status of the house occupants. 3. Identify Community Leaders. We hoped to identify through the survey anyone who would consider themselves or volunteer to take a more active role as a leader in Yayawatte. This question was followed by one that asked if there were any apparent established leaders they could identify in the community already. Through these answers, we wanted to approach those mentioned to begin some sort of community leadership council. 4. Create Updated Site Map. The only site map available was outdated, and had been drawn up during the design stage of Yayawatte’s development. Thus, many of the houses that were shown on the site map were not actually existent. In addition, the numbering of the houses was not logical and did not follow any obvious system. In an attempt to unify the community with the common knowledge of the location of every numbered house despite the confusion of the system, we wanted to create a new updated map with correct placement and number of each and every house.
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Process With our objectives and goals formulated, we had to decide on the format, an implementation method, and process for our surveys. We agreed that the survey should be an easy to fill-out, half-page, front-and-back written survey, with a majority of the questions having the surveyed individual check boxes, rate their responses on a 1-10 scale, or fill in a single digit number. However, with the questions pertaining to more complex issues, such as questions regarding their post-tsunami recovery process, short fill in answers were necessary to obtain a clear picture. The impetus behind creating the survey as such was to allow the least amount of translation of the completed surveys in the end, and the time constraint we faced with executing close to 200 surveys in about one week. Along with our Sri Lankan student teammates, we planned on carrying out each survey door-to-door, in person. This way, if there were any questions or issues about the survey by the resident, we could immediately clarify them. Also, we hoped that our presence would compel the resident to take the time to complete the survey and hand it back to us, all in the interest of time. We also hoped that with the ease of our survey, it could be left on the door of non-present residences to fill-out once they returned home. We would then pick-up the surveys on the following day. We had hoped that once the surveys were collected that we would be able to, with the help of our Sri Lankan counterparts, analyze the data for further use. We intended to create an implementable community action plan to address some of the issues in the village, rather than blaming or relying on the inefficient NGOs and government agencies.
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Yayawatta Survey To what extent do you feel that you have recovered since the tsunami? .......................................... What has been the most signiďƒžcant obstacle to recovery? .......................................... What has been the most helpful factor in your recovery? ..........................................
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 How willing are you to be a part of the solution? .......................................... Do you know someone in the village who is a leader? Name____________________________ House # ____ .......................................... What potential opportunities do you see in Yayawatte and what are Yayawatteâ€™s strengths? .......................................... What were your main priorities following a disaster? Rate the following: ___ House ___ Job ___ Accessible Transportation ___ School ___ Temple ___ Community ___ Other _________________________ .......................................... What marketable skills do you have?
___ Tangalle ___ Netolpitia ___ Yayawatte ___ Other_____________ .......................................... What do you go for? Check all that apply: ___ Religious Purposes ___ School ___ Food ___ Arts/Crafts ___ Clothes ___ Entertainment ___ Other ___________________ .......................................... How do you get there? ___ 3 Wheeler ___ Car ___ Bus ___ Bike ___ Walk ___ Other
Where do you go for basic needs?
Yayawatta Survey House # ________
.......................................... Number of age groups in household ___ 0-3
What is the main source of income in your household? (Occupation) ___________________________________ .......................................... What is your house status? ___ Own ___ Rent ___ Other
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Problems in the Process 1. Scheduling Conflicts We had arranged and had confirmation from our Sri Lankan graduate student counterparts, before our departure to Tangalle, that they would be present in Tangalle as well to help both translate and implement the surveys along with us. However, once in Tangalle, and after two days of trying to contact our absent teammates for whom we were waiting to help us translate the surveys into Sinhala, we received a call from one of them saying that they would not be able to come to Tangalle after all. Thus, not only did we waste time in waiting for our surveys to be translated, but we also needed to begin searching for new translators who could translate our survey and accompany us going door-to-door to give the surveys. 2. Translation Difficulties We quickly discovered how difficult it is to conduct a survey demanding very specific questions when it first requires translation into a radically different language. Not only did we have to make sure that the surveys themselves were translated correctly, but we also needed to make sure that the surveyed individual understood the context of the answers we were expecting. Thus, it was essential that we had proficient translators assisting us. We wrote our survey in English as succinctly as possible to facilitate translation to Sinhala, and to encourage efficient analysis of the data collected. Unfortunately, due to the unexpected absence of our translators, we had to quickly find anyone with enough knowledge of English to help us write the surveys in Sinhala. Fortunately, there was an elderly retired man in Yayawatte who had been employed earlier in his life by an English speaking company who understood English; he offered to translate our survey for us. We were ecstatic at the help being offered, as not many people in Tangalle had the ability to speak English at an advanced enough level to translate a non-colloquial survey. Once the surveys were completed, another pair of translators (whom we had been lucky enough to find) looked over the Sinhala translated survey we picked up from our in-village translator. Upon examination, they commented that the translation was not correct. Many of the translated questions were not even in the same context we had originally written them in. This was another setback, as we had hoped to be able to print out the surveys at the local print shop and begin the surveys today. However, we now needed to re-translate all of the questions, which was a task in itself. So we headed to the local print shop, where Sumudu, one of our newfound translators, along with the print shop assistant, began re-translating the survey. Here, our group saw first-hand how difficult it is to translate a precisely written piece of academic work. For example, in one of our questions, “community” was listed as as an optional answer; this had been translated as “communication”, specifically in reference to telephones. This error was not found until after the majority of the surveys had been given. Aside from the difficulties involved in the simple translation of the survey, when administering the surveys we had difficulty attaining appropriate answers to the questions we had asked.
Priya administering a survey.
Photo: Bruce Chan
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3. Blatant Lying Some recipients of houses in Yayawatte actually did not actually need them. In many cases, these individuals owned other property or houses in the city of Tangalle. These recipients considered their “extra” houses in Yayawatte assets, seemingly oblivious that other families who desperately needed housing had been passed over for aid. These ill-given houses in Yayawatte sat empty, the owners tending to them infrequently if at all. In an effort to identify these “empty” houses, and also as a part of our population census and mapping, we often inquired with neighbors about the status of these houses. We were astounded to find that different neighbors provided different answers. Some would respond that the occupants were on holiday, or away tending to a mother in a hospital. Other neighbors would say that their neighbor left early in the morning for work, and did not return until dark. However, upon our own personal inspection, many of these houses had leaves and dirt blown strewn across the floors of living rooms, evidence that the house had been empty for some time. We were lied to in an attempt by neighbors to cover for these “empty” houses. We could not pinpoint a motive for this lying. One reason we considered was that they were afraid we would report the status of the house to the officials, who might seize the house. Whatever the reason, we were surprised by this outcome, and we began to not accept all of the data we collected as the truth. We began to question. 4. Answers Skewed We were also surprised to find that some of the answers provided had greatly exaggerated the conditions of the families and their houses. Numbers of deaths in a family, loss of livelihood, and problems obtaining a job were just some of the data that seemed to have been exaggerated in an attempt by families to gain some sort of aid from us. Once we realized that some of the families were using our survey as a means to gain our sympathy and as an outlet for blame, we decided to preface each survey by stating that we were merely students doing research, and not an international NGO with any sort of monetary aid available to give them. We had hoped that this was already understood, but it was apparent from the misleading responses we had received on our surveys that this was not the case. Additionally, during the translation process, the answers written in by one of the translators who helped us all were the same on each survey for several of the questions, leading us to believe that this translator may have prompted the answers in order to expedite the process, or worse- to assist in the aid-seeking deception.
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Survey Results As the aforementioned problems indicated, many of the results acquired from the surveys, particularly those regarding the recovery process, were deemed inadmissible by our group. Either vague or complete nonsensical answers forced us to disregard many of the survey results. The only results we did feel were correctly answered were those Status regardingofthe census data. 200 Houses Friend's / Relative's 2%
Yayawatte consists of 200 built houses. Of these, only 132 are occupied, while 68 are vacant. Vacant houses were determined both by visual confirmation of neglected, empty houses and by verbal confirmation from neighbors. Vacant houses are defined as houses not occupied as the main residence of a household. On average, there are 3.86 persons per household in Yayawatte.
Status of 200 Houses in Yayawatte The total population of Yayawatte is 509 persons. And as the age distribution graph shows, the population currently does not show any signs of high potential growth, which is a problem for the future sustainability of the village population.
Distribution of Sex
65 and over
55 to 64
45 to 54 35 to 44 25 to 34 18 to 24
11 to 17
7 to 10 4 to 6 Under 4 60
Population Distribution by Age and Sex
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Employment Industry Teacher
As the employment data reveals, the main source of income comes from the fishing industry, through individuals employed either as fishermen or as fish brokers and sellers. Unemployment at 31% is of great concern. Of the 7 government workers in Yayawatte, 3 of them are police officers.
Mode of Transportation
Due to the remoteness of Yaywatte relative to important service centers, we asked the households about their main modes of transportation to and from Tangalle and Netolpitiya to gauge the added transportation costs. As the results show, the predominant mode is public bus. The roundtrip bus fare to Tangalle is 16 rupees per person, making this an expensive but necessary fee relative to the average income of the residents, many of who are unemployed.
140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 Bus
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Survey Reflections Even before the surveys were administered to anyone in Yayawatte, we learned that the quality of translation was going to play a pivotal role in the usefulness and efficacy of the resulting data. As it turned out, many of answers provided in the surveys were not admissible, or even within the context of what the question had asked. Before the surveys had even been translated into Sinhala, one member of the group had begun administering his own survey in the village- asking residents whether they would be interested in a village clean-up and a cricket festival/arts expo. This had begun without the knowledge of the other group members, who were busy trying to translate and print the surveys. By the time the administration of the surveys was underway, the idea of a cleanup day and other village-wide activities had taken root, and signup sheets were making their way into the homes of each resident who was taking the survey. As the answers to the surveys began to appear to be slightly disreputable, it was decided that the importance we had initially placed on the survey as a vital part of our final project in Yayawatte might have to change. Reviewing the answers that had been given by the residents of Yayawatte, the group realized that the faulty translation was too large an obstacle to hurdle over. Without entirely rejecting or dismissing all of the results as unusable, we were disheartened and discouraged by the results of the survey, and saw this as a yet another setback. The other activities that had been planned and signed up for began to take front and center, and the survey was assigned low priority. As we began to question the truth behind the answers given to our survey, we could no longer accept all of the answers as truth. We then began to question if entirely open and honest answers in these post-disaster villages (which are heavily reliant on aid from international organizations) can in fact be obtained. Can a post-disaster culture which relies so much on the sympathy and goodwill of other people, nations, organizations, and governments abuse their position as â€œvictimsâ€?? Do they begin to lose their own capacity as they become increasingly dependent on the resources provided for them by others?
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B. COMMUNITY CLEAN-UP March 29, 2008 In the weeks prior to our final round in Yayawatte, we had observed that the green and open areas of the village were spotted with trash, often coming from the inhabitants of Yayawatte either through careless discarding or intentional dumping. The lack of a municipal trash collection service (or even a designated community trash â€œdumpsterâ€? area) led to household trash being piled or, most typically, burned in the open community green space and fields. These public spaces were thus turned into unsightly and often dangerous trash depositories, often creating physical obstacles in the fields where the children play cricket matches. As a group, we had always considered the rubbish issue as something that needed to be addressed, either by the community or by the local government. This issue had also been addressed by some of the households that had participated in the surveys. We had always bandied about the idea of a community clean-up day, and it was exciting to get it underway. This Clean-Up Day was to coincide with another event on the following day called the Peacock Festival. The clean-up event consequently served multiple purposes: it would rid the community of garbage, and also prepare the public fields for the cricket and volleyball tournaments that were to be the major attraction of the festival. Clean-Up Objectives 1. Community Pride in Grounds As part of our greater goals in Yayawatte, we wanted to re-establish and instill a sense of pride in the community. We theorized that cleaning up their own village was a way for the community to begin building up their own capacity and to feel empowered amongst themselves, as opposed to blaming authorities and feeling powerless to affect change. Having a village that was beautiful and well-maintained was certainly something to be proud of. 2. Pollution Awareness Prior to the building of Yayawatte, the village had been a lobe of dense shrub jungle on high land surrounded by a bird sanctuary. Predictably, the introduction of the 200-household community had negatively impacted the surrounding environment. We hoped that this clean-up Day would help to serve as a reminder of the importance of protecting the fragile estuarine environment that cradles Yayawatte. 3. Community Gathering Because of the large size of the community, both in terms of population and geographic area, many of the members of different households are not well-acquainted. We had decided that it was important to create an opportunity for the community to come together and to, at the very least, physically acknowledge one another, and hopefully to converse and get to know each other. We hoped the clean-up day would be a catalyst for the community to become closer through work together side-by-side. Clean-Up Day Results Prior to the event day, we had inquired and signed up household members who were available and interested in helping to clean-up. According to our sign-up sheets, a majority of the households were interested in coming to help. But on the morning of the scheduled clean-up, some villagers who had signed up never came, while others who had not signed up came randomly, tools in hand, prepared to work.
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We began our clean-up operations in the largest, most open of the public green spaces- an overgrown field encompassing an enormous area at the entrance of the village, initially meant for recreational activities. This was the space where the volleyball and cricket fields were located, where the next dayâ€™s tournaments would be held. Our group had supplied garbage bags, latex gloves, brooms, and other cleaning/yard tools for the community to use.
Break during Clean-Up Day.
Photo: Bruce Chan
In spite of having planned and organized this event, we did not know where our involvement in the planning should end and where the community could take over. As the members began to gather in the field, it became evident that, although we had spread the word and brought some supplies, the community had their own ideas and tools for the Clean-Up Day. Leaders in the community began to come forward and direct and organize the clearing of certain areas. At this point, our groupâ€™s involvement as leaders began to diminish, and we happily joined in the clean-up effort.
As the community self-organized and got to work, we were surprised to note that the activities going on tended to fall more under the categories of horticulture and weeding than what we considered cleaning. We had primarily intended for articles of trash to be picked up, but the community seemed to have determined that weeding and grooming the large field area was the objective of the day. Many villagers were under the impression that the objective of the clean-up day was to prepare the public field for the following dayâ€™s tournament activities. In spite of the fact that this was not our original intention for the clean-up day, we gladly let the community do as they pleased, as this event was now in their hands. We made a note of the fact that while there was a sign-in sheet present, this sheet was not passed around to be signed until the end of the event. This was a very strict rule that was enforced by the villagers, who told us that once the participants signed in, that they would not feel obligated to stay any longer. This came as a shock because we had believed that this event would be happily attended by volunteers. Instead, this sign-in sheet protocol indicated that at least some of the community members had only come to sign their name on the signin sheet. We had never indicated that there would be any rewards handed out for attending the Clean-Up Day, so we were a bit startled by this behavior.
Clean-Up Day activities in the main public green space in the village.
Photo: Bruce Chan
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In the end, only the large public field was “cleaned” and weeded, although our group had planned for numerous smaller green spaces throughout the village to be cleaned as well. We were disappointed that once the largest of the fields had been cleaned, the people seemed to think that their work was done. After trying to convince people to help clean the other, smaller fields, we learned that people were hesitant to clean the other grounds because they felt that those grounds were the responsibility of the households whose houses they lay between. The community was not willing to clean areas they perceived as the “front yards” of other households. Members of some households were obviously at home, but did not partake in the community clean-up. They refused to come help, citing health issues, time constraints, or errands needing to be attended to as their excuses. While some of these excuses may have been valid, many simply seemed uninterested in helping the community. Clean-Up Day Reflections Notwithstanding the fact that some of our original objectives for the clean-up day had changed over the course of the event, we had been happy to see the residents take their own initiative once the event began. Many of the residents had brought their own yard tools, cleared overgrown areas of their own accord, and disposed of the waste without using our trash bags. We realized that the only thing our group had contributed was the organization of people and the securing of a commitment from them to participate in the event. We believe that aside from that, our group could have very well been absent on that day, and the event still would have been a success. The experience of the clean-up day demonstrated to us that the community possessed both the motivation and the capacity to join together and execute a project. All that was lacking was the individual required to take the initiative necessary to start the process of planning and organizing the event. The event had caused us to question the concept of public space within a community. In Yayawatte, the residents only perceived the largest and most public space as belonging to everyone, and consequently as a shared responsibility. Although the other green spaces, situated between 2 rows of houses, were open for anyone in the community to use, many villagers did not view them as truly public. We questioned whether an American community laid out in the same configuration would be perceived and treated in the same manner. Surely, trash littering parks and thoroughfares everywhere is perceived as someone else’s problem. While we considered the clean-up day a huge success, we still could not understand how our notions of cleaning-up could be so different from the villagers’. We wondered whether it was a cultural issue that prevented us from seeing eye-to-eye with the villagers. There is no word in Sinhala for the word “trash”, which may have contributed to the misinterpretation of our objectives, having been communicated through the aid of our interpreters. Additionally, as a result of waste disposal being a more casual and less organized activity in the developing world, perhaps the bits of trash were not perceived as a “problem” but rather as simply an element in the backdrop of day-to-day life. Regardless of the underlying reason, it is a question of cultural difference that merits further inspection.
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C. PEACOCK FESTIVAL March 30, 2008 We had hoped that the surveys would reveal: the leaders in the community, the obstacles preventing recovery within the community, and the suggested solutions offered by the community. As our time in the village was drawing to a close and the surveys had not met their expected purpose, we decided to go about another means of addressing the issues in the community. We determined that a festival of some sort to celebrate the community of Yayawatte was an indirect and executable way of facilitating the communityâ€™s ability to solve their own problems. With pride in their community, the people of Yayawatte would be more motivated and able to unify to face problems together. Thus, the Peacock Festival was created. Peacock was an appropriate name for the festival for numerous reasons. The initial inspirations for the festival was that it could serve as an opportunity for the many women in the community who practice handicrafts to show off their talents, like a peacock strutting its stuff. It was also not uncommon to hear the call of the peacocks around dusk in Yayawatte, as scores of them populate the trees of the surrounding ecological areas. Peacock Festival Objectives 1. Community Gathering Just as with the Clean-Up Day, we wanted this event to get the community out of their houses, and out into the open, together. With the different activities going on throughout the day, we hoped that new bonds between neighbors could be forged, strengthening the solidarity of this post-tsunami village and giving them the power to deal with their collective problems and issues. 2. Community Involvement / Pride It was our hope that the festival would instill a sense of pride in the residents of Yayawatte. Though the tragic circumstances under which the village was formed are a part of Tangalleâ€™s history, there was no use in dwelling on the past. Yayawatte coming together and showing that the villagers were thriving and living as tightly-knit as they had before the tsunami was a very important goal of the event. 3. Community Driven Although we had introduced the idea of the community festival, we still wanted the community of Yayawatte to play the primary role in planning the festival. We did not want this festival to feel as though it was given to the community as a gift by outsiders. Rather, we wanted the community to feel that this festival belonged to them. We strived to involve community members at every stage of planning and preparation, and to put resources back into the community where we could. Banners could be produced by the technical school adjacent to the village, rope could be purchased from a local rope weaver, and refreshments could be purchased from a household store. We also hoped that this would be the inaugural Peacock Festival, with it becoming an annual event for years to come. 4. Outreach to the Local Neighboring Towns Yayawatte lies in between two larger towns: Tangalle and Netolpitiya. Both towns are a long trek by foot from Yayawatte, but are the only service centers for the residents to do their everyday shopping and services. And while people in the area know of Yayawatte, we were unsure of how they perceived the village. We wanted this festival to show the outside towns that Yayawatte is a large and lively community of survivors, lending to pride in the community as well as possible economic and social benefits. In order to spread the word, we ordered F. Hernandez & B. Chan 38
banners to be hung in both Tangalle and Netolpitiya and hired a 3-wheeler with a loud speaker to announce the Peacock Festival. Peacock Festival Program 1. Cricket Tournament Having participated in cricket matches with many locals, we were aware that cricket was a vital and essential part of Sri Lankan social culture. In addition to playing alongside the children in the village in the afternoons, we had also been spectators at a formal match at the stadium in Tangalle. Having seen the power of the sport to bring people together, it was only natural that our festival, designed to bring the community together, would include a cricket tournament. We also hoped that a sporting event, especially a cricket tournament, would draw outside visitors to attend and watch. The structure of the tournament was to be divided among ages and sexes. With the lists of players and their ages collected during our surveys, we created balanced teams of 6 players each. There were 4 female teams of all ages, as there were fewer women than men who signed up. Because of the greater number of men who were interested, we split the age brackets into three groups: 14 and under (4 teams), 15 through 19 (3 teams), and 20 and older (6 teams). 2. Volleyball Tournament When we asked the community to suggest events to include in the festival, many also expressed a strong interest in volleyball. This was a wonderful opportunity because Yayawatte had been built with a perfectly level area designed as a volleyball court, complete with posts, which stood barren and unused at the entry to the village. We decided to re-activate this space by including volleyball in the festival program. As with the cricket, we also divided the teams by gender. Because of the small number of people who signed up, different age brackets were not necessary. Thus, there were 5 women teams (5-6 players each), and 3 men teams (5-6 players each). 3. Exhibition While conducting our personal interview door-to-door, and doing the surveys, we noticed that many of the women in Yayawatte had hobbies or talents. These included embroidery, painting, sewing, cooking, crafting, and much more. We thought that it would be wonderful if they had an outlet to display their work, so that they could feel proud in recognizing the many talents that existed in their community. The idea behind the exhibition was that people of the village could come out into the large, public green during the sports tournaments and lay out / hang up any of their arts, handicrafts, and other works that they wanted to share with their community. Upon hearing that there was a craft show, many of the women asked if they could sell items. Though we tried to explain that this was a chance to display only, they were indignant. We were concerned that they would be disappointed, but we had no idea what to expect. Thus, while we hoped this would be a possible economic outlet for some, we were confident that it would promote a stronger community bond. 4. Music / Dance Exhibition Music and Dance is another integral part of Sri Lankan culture. We experienced this during our time in Tangalle when we attended a showcase put on by the local school, where a myriad of colorful and energetic dances, songs, and plays were performed onstage. We also attended a private concert in support of a CD release for a local all-girl singing group. When we inquired about local talent to display, people in Yayawatte who wanted F. Hernandez & B. Chan 39
to perform for their neighbors responded with a great deal of enthusiasm. Taking this into consideration, we planned to have a small, informal stage area in the community center where those who wanted to perform a dance, act, play, or song, could do so. Peacock Festival Results Tournaments The first event of the day was the volleyball tournament, followed by the cricket tournament. With the sign-up lists made during our survey interviews, we created teams randomly. This way, random neighbors could get to know each other, and the teams would be evenly matched. Immediately after we placed the team lists up to the public, it was made clear to us that new teams would have to be made. The reason was that many of the people who signed up were not present, and some people who were present had not signed up. Some of the older fathers of the village took it upon themselves to remake teams, using our pre-made lists as a guide. This was quickly done, with very little complaint. While our group had planned the tournaments with something very casual in mind, the residents, mainly the men of the community, took it upon themselves to formalize the games. For the volleyball field, we had purchased a volleyball net, which we believed would suffice. However, once the men came onto the field, they quickly readjusted the net, created exact orthogonal boundary lines with string and stakes, and even created a stand for a referee. The cricket field also received some official white boundary marks. We discovered that one of the community leaders was a sports educator, and that this village was very serious about the tournament. Without our knowledge, an outside volleyball team (from the local prison) was invited to come play against the best of Yayawatte. This, being something we had not planned, came as a great surprise at the level of initiative people had taken to make this event their own. Before the start of this game, we were introduced as the guests of honor, which was a bit unexpected as we had tried to be as much a part of the community as we could, without behaving like an outside aid organization or any other sort of benefactor.
Volleyball game with a local team from the prison versus the Yayawatte menâ€™s team. Photo: Bruce Chan
Cricket game with the local Tangalle regional team versus the Yayawatte menâ€™s team. Photo: Bruce Chan
F. Hernandez & B. Chan 40
Not only did the community have a match featuring community players, the official Tangalle club team also came to play. We really had not planned this part of the event at all, except for inviting the outside team to come play. The Yayawatte men’s cricket players made up their own team to play against the official Tangalle team. This ended up being a very serious match, for reasons of community pride. We had hired a speaker system to be set up in the field, which included a microphone to make announcements with. The speakers were loud enough to be heard throughout the whole of Yayawatte. We had planned for this system to play music while the tournament was going on but, without our having planned it, some of the younger men in the community used the system to provide play-by-play commentary during the sports events. Without having been told to, volunteers had taken the initiative to make the event more official and enjoyable.
Samitha and Dulan providing play-by-play commentary during the cricket games, while other young men take down scores. Photo: Bruce Chan
Prior to the day of the tournament, many of the signed-up players had inquired about prizes for the winners. They seemed to be fixated on the notion of having some prize for the winners of the tournaments. As a group, we had never considered providing prizes, as we wanted the tournament and the festival to be a fun community gathering event rather than a competition. However, after asking for advice from some of the villagers, we realized that prizes would be a good idea, as they were typically awarded for the winners of sports tournaments. We were inclined, upon this realization, to award some sort of prizes. But what? No one had offered very specific examples of what type of prize could be expected. Due to monetary constraints, we considered providing one large group prize to the winning team. But in the end, we settled on purchasing watches for the men’s winning teams, and a tea cup set for the women’s teams. However, a problem arose when we were ready to distribute the prizes to the winning teams. Because the number of players had increased due to the creation of new teams by the villagers, we did not have enough prizes for everyone. And while we thought that a brief conversation about the importance of having fun instead of winning a prize would assuage the anger some of the players, we were mistaken. Even the referee for the volleyball game--who we had assumed was presiding over the game as a volunteer for the community-- made several attempts at obtaining a prize for his “work” that afternoon. The prize issue spiraled out of control, and caused us much unanticipated distress. A couple of days after the festival, while walking through the village, we noted that children were now playing in the once unused public green space. They were playing a game of cricket. We were very happy to see the space activated once again, and would like to think that the Peacock Festival really got the children to recognize the potential of this open field. F. Hernandez & B. Chan 41
Exhibition Our group had planned for the “Exhibition” portion of the festival to be totally open to anyone, anything, and anywhere. The only thing we provided was a line of rope that hung horizontally between trees, about 5 feet from the ground. The idea behind this was that anyone with something to exhibit could hang their goods up on the line for other to see. Without specifically instructing anyone, we were very surprised to see, as the day progressed, that people in the community had brought their paintings, drawings, woven bags, and other such goods out to exhibit and, in some cases, sell. In all, there were about 15 people, throughout the day, who displayed their goods. These mainly consisted of cottage industry products, such as textile (clothes, tapestry, table clothes, pillow covers,) and grass woven items (mats, hand bags). There were also 2 separate stands selling food, which consisted of both manufactured goods and home-made treats.
Photo: Bruce Chan
To our surprise, one woman was selling clothes that she had not manufactured herself. After inquiring about her, we learned that she was not from Yayawatte at all. She had heard about the Exhibition event, and decided to come and try to sell some products to the people in Yayawatte. This was great news, as one of our objectives had been to reach out and engage people from outside of the community.
One of the few issues we had related to the exhibition was the query by some of the exhibitors about whether “white people” would be coming to buy their products. It had seemed that some of the people had thought that we would be bringing “white people” into the village to see and purchase some of their items. This was a surprise to us for a couple of reasons. One reason is that we assumed the motivation for people to bring their goods out to exhibit was to show pride in their work and share it with others in their community, not to try to elicit money from outside visitors. Another reason this surprised us was that it showed us that people in Yayawatte still saw the three of us as outsiders ( if not from an international relief organization with aid money). We had hoped, through our interaction and immersion in the community, that people would see us simply as three students, trying to help them, while reaping no real benefit for ourselves.
The women of Yayawatte hang their hand-made arts and crafts for exhibition and for sale around the cricket and volleyball field. Photo: Bruce Chan
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Music / Dance Exhibition While in the initial planning stages of the music and dance exhibition, we asked the owner of our guest house for his advice. Sudath, the owner, also owned a house in Yayawatte and was a well respected and connected figure in Tangalle. Aside from being a great musician himself, he also had planned many events and musical programs in Tangalle. He consequently had many ideas for the festival, and helped us immensely. Our group had initially planned for this to be a very informal, fun, and spontaneous part of the festival, much like the arts and crafts exhibition. However, we were pleased to see that Sudath was energetic about putting on a more official and formal music program for the festival. So, with other things to plan ourselves, we allowed him to help us plan the music and dance exhibition. With only a couple of informal meetings prior to the event, we were in the dark as far as what Sudath had planned for the event. Having arranged to pay for the equipment, we knew that there would be a DJ, speaker systems, lights, and microphones set up. While these provisions were already way more elaborate than what our group had ever envisioned, we were enthusiastic, but nervous about the outcome of the exhibition. Was Sudath making this something better than we could have imagined our little talent-show being, or was Sudath taking this out of control? The music and dance exhibition was held at night in the local community hall, after the festive events of the day had wound down. As mentioned before, the three of us had played no part in the planning of this part of the festival besides signing up members of the local community if they wanted to sing or dance or perform. Thus, when we stepped into the usually bare and dark hall, we were taken aback by the bright colored stage spot lights, the painted backdrop on stage, the various musical instruments and seats for the band, and thundering speaker system. I believe the community was also astounded by this major and unexpected production. The only hitch was that, due to electrical power supply problems, the event started later than expected. The event began with a great deal of ceremony: the lighting of an oil lamp followed by several lengthy speeches, one by a local lawyer whom we had never seen before. It was a bit formal, and we were flabbergasted. However, once the first act was underway, the show proved to be quite entertaining. Most of the acts were dance acts performed by members of the community. Some of the acts (most of which we recognized from the student showcase) were very elaborate, with matching costumes and synchronized choreography. Acts were presented by both the old and the young, and ranged from talent show to professional quality. Much of the polish on this event came from the locally trained girlsâ€™ dance group from Tangalle that was brought in to perform. This music and dance performances lasted more than 2 hours.
Dance festival featured choreographed group and individual acts of old and young residents alike.
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Photo: Bruce Chan
After these opening acts were over, a multi-musician band took the stage. This included a tabla, a keyboard, guitar, drums, and additional tambourines. This band would play traditional Sri Lankan tunes requested by people from the community who wanted to come onstage to sing. This was a highlight of the evening because anyone from the community who wanted to share their singing talent with others could do so. Thus, the music and singing helped to foster new relationships between neighbors and otherwise complete strangers. This even was also completely planned without our knowledge.The Photo: Bruce Chan reaction from the community was wonderful. Many parents brought their children and families with them to attend and enjoy the evening. There were many cheers and cat-calls when acts took the stage, and clapping along to the beat of the music was very common. Unfortunately, once the evening came to an end, many of the community spectators left without pitching in for the cleanup efforts. Sudath, who had planned the entire event and arranged for all of the equipment and the band, felt unappreciated by the community whom he had done this for, and openly expressed his anger. Earlier in the week, he had asked some of the community members to prepare some simple rice and curry dinners for the band musicians, which did not happen. As a result of this turn of events, Sudath, to whom we were grateful for all his work spent making the evening a success, was understandably quite upset. Our group discussed how this could have happened, and we came up with several possible reasons. We concluded that, when the music and dance exhibition was described to the community, we had depicted it as a very informal, outdoor event. When Sudath took control of the planning of the evening and created an elaborate, formal program, he unknowingly changed the dynamics of the program for both us and the community. Because the event had taken on a more formal and official feel, it is possible that the community members no longer felt that their help was needed; everything was to be taken care of by Sudath. Because they had been removed from the process of coordinating and planning the event, it was no longer their own, and they had no reason to believe that it was their responsibility to help. Another reason could be that the community was in fact being selfish and didnâ€™t want to volunteer to help. However, we discussed that this sounded uncharacteristic as we had seen and experienced many instances of selflessness and thoughtfulness in the community. We could not come to any conclusions, and to do so would not have mended the situation. The only thing we could do was to offer apologies on behalf of the community to Sudath.
Turn-out in the community hall for the Music and Dance Exhibition.
Photo: Bruce Chan
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Peacock Festival Reflections As the last major event to be held before our departure from Tangalle and Sri Lanka, the Peacock Festival represented the culmination of our work in Yayawatte. For the most part, our objectives for the festival met with varying levels of success. Only after the festival did we began to question, as a group, whether this event would have happened without us. If one person from Yayawatte had approached their neighbors with the idea of a community-driven and planned festival, would the community have taken it on? This was an important question, because it directly addressed our concerns about seeming like an aid organization. We questioned whether the community possessed the independent drive to work together towards a community goal, whether it be simply planning a festival, or something more difficult like solving drainage issues. Was the unification that we observed during the festival due to our efforts in the village, or had this agency always been there? While one of our objectives had been to inspire the community to help with the planning of the festival, it was not until the actual day of the festival that community leaders and villagers took control and ownership of it. How much would our group (or any group, for that matter) have needed to do, realistically, before the residents were willing to take over? In this case, our group did the majority of the planning and organization. But was the planning even necessary? If a cricket bat, wicket, and ball were present, could the community have created a tournament on the spot? Was all the planning (in this case contributed by outsiders) somehow an impediment to the product of a simple tournament? Did we blow this idea of a festival so far out of proportion relative to the communityâ€™s expectations that the shortcomings were more glaring than they might have been otherwise? Had Yayawatte even wanted a festival to begin with? Prior to planning the festival, we had only discussed the idea of a festival with a few community members, who had responded with enthusiasm. But were they even aware of our objectives for the festival and for their community as a whole? Were the objectives that we set out to accomplish shared by the community? If not, how could we have been been more sensitive to the wants and needs of the citizens of Yayawatte? Given the amount of time that had remained for us in the village, had the festival been the only means by which we could have accomplished our goals and objectives? We had not held a formal sit-down meeting to discuss our groupâ€™s next step after realizing that our surveys were becoming a debacle. The festival, which had simply been one of many ideas, had suddenly come to the forefront of our groupâ€™s agenda, and may have represented different priorities and goals for each of us. With our week coming to an end, we had simply harnessed the momentum we had been gathering and applied it to the idea of a festival, without considering, as a group, the role of the festival in the larger scheme of things. So, while it was deemed a success in most aspects, one has to wonder how our own individual expectations had affected the process and, ultimately, the product of the festival.
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REFLECTIONS OF THE PROCESS We learned, through preliminary research, how deceptive secondary research may be, particularly in respect to an organization’s promotion of its own work. While PLAN can doubtlessly be said to do charitable work, the view from the ground revealed many procedural flaws that could never have been detected from afar. Our experience of the community workshop gave us a taste of how a democratic process can help to expose the issues that are truly important in a community. It also showed us how a well-laid plan can be completely derailed by lack of adequate communication or mutual interest-- demonstrated by the lack of participation on the part of the officials who attended the meeting. Through our interviews and conversations in the village, we discovered that almost everyone has an idea of what the problems are in the village, but virtually no one had any idea of how to solve them. We all wish we had known how to better assist the people in finding solutions rather than assigning blame. The clean-up day and festival provided us with a great deal of insight as to how agency manifests itself within a community. The clean-up day revealed an incredible energy and motivation that we had not realized existed in Yayawatte. The village surprised us by appearing in the morning and, without instruction, self-organizing to clean and clear the field. Likewise on the day of the festival, community members displayed incredible initiative with the preparations for the volleyball and cricket matches, and stepped forward to commentate for the duration of the day-long tournament. While we were puzzled by the lack of assistance the community offered to help cleanup following the music and dance exhibition, it makes perfect sense when considering the differences between the organization of the final event versus the festival events preceding it. Because the music and dance exhibition was primarily planned by Sudath, and involved a great deal of formality, it lacked the homespun, communitydriven effort that characterized the other events. The community did not participate as stake-holders, but rather as spectators, and they behaved as such. This could go a long way towards explaining the sense of ambivalence many villagers exhibited towards affecting change in the village that was built by outsiders. Why should they feel responsible for repairing homes and roads that they took no part in building? To what extent is the sense of responsibility in a community the product of the time and efforts that have gone into establishing that community? We feel that this is an essential, and too-often overlooked point in the establishment of relief villages. Regardless of the outcome of our work, we all learned a great deal about the difficulty of working in a group situation, and recognized the need for communication. For all of the talk about process and people that took place during CapAsia, the actual process of working with people proved to be neither simple nor straightforward. Both within our group and within the village, we were confronted with obstacles, misunderstandings, and personality conflicts. We realized, by the end, that there is no “right” or “wrong” process; the ability to adapt to shifting circumstances is critical to the type of work we participated in. A remarkable outcome of our own difficulties was that we gained a deep measure of empathy for the NGOs that work in these scenarios. What they do must be infinitely more difficult than what we did, and we marveled at the fact that they were able to accomplish as much as they did.
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CONCLUSION Our group’s main goal while Yayawatte had never been to directly solve or fix any of the village’s issues. We were not an aid organization, and lacked the resources to do the work of one had we wanted to. Rather, our goal was to help the villagers realize their own power as individuals and as a community. By realizing their own agency and breaking free from the cycle and mentality of victims, we hoped that Yayawatte might be able to bypass the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness displayed by government and aid organizations; and to solve their problems internally. We are not certain that we achieved this goal, but we do know that what occurred in our final days in the village was exciting and special, and that great initiative and enthusiasm were displayed by the community. If we were to draw out the perfect storybook moral from our story, it would be that we must all live together and help each other. However, as outsiders coming into the village, we were forced to consider the reality of our situation and the challenge of being the “other”. However, in spite of our outsider status, we refused to accept that we could not empathize with the villagers simply because we came from different backgrounds and had differing perspectives. We were obliged to question the basis of our differing perspectives: Was our image of a community culturally different from that of the Sri Lankans? How was the notion of community affected by the fact that this specific village was primarily made up of people who had survived a natural disaster? Most of the villagers of Yayawatte had been displaced from their original homes and communities by the tsunami. Yayawatte, with its identical homes, was funded by an NGO, and given to these displaced people. Thus, this community didn’t fall within the usual parameters of what one would consider a ‘normal’ community. But does this change the way Yayawatte (or for that matter any post-disaster community) functions and works compared to non-relief communities? Perhaps the only difference between this community and other communities was that this one happened all at once, rather than gradually, and that these people were here by necessity rather than choice. In an increasingly interconnected world, disaster planning, response, and relief have become part of a global industry that approaches the complex problems facing a community of disaster-affected as any supplier of a product would: with a one-size fits all approach. While the profusion of case studies existent in the developing world provides an incredible opportunity for academic inquiry, it is up to the professionals who observe these failures and successes to contribute to ongoing efforts to improve upon the typical aid approach-- by taking careful note of what has worked and why. Our observations and experiences led us to believe that the most valuable assistance that can be provided before, during, and after a disaster is training, work, and the opportunity to become more self-reliant. Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus (founder of the Grameen Bank), wrote an editorial in the Washington Post in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, stating that, “giving someone a hand-up doesn’t always require a hand-up.” He speaks from many years of providing micro-loans in disaster-prone Bangladesh. He advocates helping people to return to work and maintain their dignity and self-respect following a disaster. Too often, top-down relief efforts debilitate an already weakened community by taking away what little agency they had to begin with. When people are allowed to harness their own potential, they may be able to accomplish things they never imagined possible. Bridging the gap between the disaster profession and the recipients of disaster aid will require more than thoughtful design, professional knowledge, and cultural sensitivity. It will take time, the one resource that most organizations do not have to spend freely. Fortunately, once the NGOs have gone home, the villagers remain, and they have time on their side. Perhaps, through increased participation from day one, they will be able to move into a future that is more hopeful than the past. What we experienced, in our brief time in Yayawatte, led us to believe that this is possible.
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