Tsunami victims not getting enough help

Tsunami victims not getting enough help
By Sultan Jessa, Standard-Freeholder, March 13, 2006

A city dentist, who last year started a new humanitarian organization to help underprivileged children in Sri Lanka and in the local community, is not impressed with the help being provided to tsunami victims in her native country.

“The aid is very, very slow in getting to people who need it the most,” said Dr. Rachel Navaneelan. “There is too much red tape.”

The founder of Rachel’s Kids has just returned to Cornwall from a two-week trip to tsunami-affected areas in northern and southern Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was one of several countries in South East Asia and East Africa devastated by the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004.

Navaneelan set up Rachel’s Kids and was able to raise $32,000 from a live charity auction at her home last June. Another auction is planned May 28.

Navaneelan went to Sri Lanka to ensure funds raised at her event went directly to homeless children and orphans.

“Every penny we raised went to help the children,” she said. “I wanted to make sure the funds we collected were used properly.”

The dentist and her husband, Christy, an anesthetist, and their two children spent two weeks in Sri Lanka. The family visited camps in northern and southern areas.

A couple of hundred thousand children in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, have been orphaned and displaced because of past ethnic disturbances and by an earthquake and the tsunamis, which hit 11 countries in Southeast Asia.

“The money we raised in Cornwall went a long way to help a lot of children,” she said.

She emphasized half of the funds raised from the 2006 event will be used for programs in the Cornwall community. For example, breakfast programs for schools is one project she has in mind.

Navaneelan said more than a year after the tsunami hit, there is not much to show for humanitarian efforts to date. “This was very disappointing,” she said. Some of the homes built after the disaster are empty with no furniture except an odd chair.

Navaneelan is happy she was able to make purchases and distribute food and clothes to the needy in Sri Lanka. She even initiated a school uniform program.

An estimated 500 children received some sort of help from funds raised in Cornwall. She pledged $10,000 for a new school to be built 250 miles from the capital Colombo.

“Most of the children who will attend are orphans or from very poor homes.”

Navaneelan also pledged to buy land for another school project. The initial assistance from the international community has already faded and many children have already been forgotten. Navaneelan said very little support has reached the children.

Once again, the Standard-Freeholder will be one of the sponsors of the event in May.

“We hope to do much better this year,” Navaneelan said. The event is open to the public. Details about the May 28 event will be announced later.

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