Bangalore, India. Southernmost small State of Kerala went through its first major disaster when 12 of its 14 districts were flooded in August 2018. Over 400 deaths, 1.4 million people displaced, and 200 million rupees loss found intervention from all corners a must to deal with the situation.
Project Vision, Bangalore Province’s social ministry for the blind persons, immediately sprang into action by floating an intervention called Bangalore Cares of Kerala, by bringing together various religious, social and corporate groups along with committed individuals.
Its staff under the leadership of Mr. Sibu George moved to Wayanad district, the closest affected area with relief materials. Twelve truckloads of materials worth about six million rupees were distributed as relief kits for each family containing 20 essential items for them to survive the difficult days. St. Sebastian’s Church at Edappetty became the place of operation with the Parish priest and the parishioners playing a vital role.
Their first intervention was with the Claretian Parish at Vythiri that was affected by floods. They provided relief kits to every family in the parish.
They identified temporary shelter as the main concern with more than 1000 families having lost their houses in the District. We replicated a model of houses built in Nepal for earthquake which was accepted by all. We constructed about 150 of the 15 x 10 sq ft Trafford sheet oval shaped structure which was cost effective, reusable and immediately doable out of the 328 shelters allotted to us. These are the first temporary shelters built anywhere in Kerala after the floods.
Each house cost about Rs. 20,000. The amount was supported by agencies like AIFO, corporate companies like Kolour Koncepts and Fidelity, social organizations like Ysmen International, religious groups like Karnataka Regional Conference of Religious, Cluny Sisters, linguistic groups of Keralites living in Bangalore like Suvarna Karnataka and from numerous committed individuals. Bangalore Province contributed Rs. 100,000.
The whole exercise of building the shelters was a community exercise with volunteers and the beneficiaries. They had people from all walks of like including religious like the Cluny sisters and the Vincent De Paul society members who shared the disaster experience of the people. Nine Claretian students of Theology spent their weeklong holiday staying in the community and building about 20 shelters. ‘Working with Others’ is indeed beautiful and possible.
The concept to Social Tourism brought people from Bangalore to promote the tourism of the area as well as to lend a helping hand at building the shelters. The first batch of 50 tourists spent three days building 50 shelters. Second program is planned later in the month.
Various activities to enhance the education of the students, building the permanent houses and providing livelihood opportunities are already initiated. There is a long way to go provided they can raise more resources.
“It is a great experience as a Claretian to take the lead to mobilize personnel and resources to reach out in a disaster situation – as decided as a priority area in the last Chapter. Our experience of tsunami and Nepal earthquake is very helpful,” said Fr. George Kannanthanam, CMF