12/23/2005, 00.00
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Boats, schools, orphanages: a year of PIME aid for tsunami relief

PIME's campaign raised more than two million euros for tsunami victims.  In Tamil Nadu reconstruction work has ended, but money is now needed to cover unexpected costs in the Andaman Islands where monsoon rains continue to slow down recovery.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Orphanages, schools, bursaries, boats and psychological support are some of the projects funded by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) thanks to its campaign—which AsiaNews contributed to—on behalf of the last year's tsunami victims. In one year, 2,063,992 euros were raised. With this money planned spending was covered but more is still needed. In the Andaman Islands construction workers are getting sick as result of relentless monsoon rains, which are slowing down reconstruction whilst pushing up costs.

Fr Davide Sciocco, director of Milan's PIME Missionary Centre and at the forefront of the campaign, said that "all the funds have been allocated but the Institute needs more".

In the immediate days after the December 26 tsunami PIME acted with speed. Relief aid quickly arrived in India, Thailand and Myanmar. This was followed by more long-term aid such as fishing boats and equipment for Tamil Nadu in southern India, assistance to schools and hostels in the Andaman Islands, and psychological support for survivors in Thailand.

"We are satisfied with how our plans are proceeding, especially for the involvement of the population," said the missionary, "but there have been unexpected turns of events."

"In Tamil Nadu," he explained, "we completed one of our two plans, but on the Andamans, where monsoon rains have been relentless (they should have ended two months ago), reconstruction has been slowed down, whilst costs have gone up".

The "Rebuilding the Andamans and the Nicobars" plan includes a 12 hectare (30 acres) complex with school and a 300-student hostel (evenly divided between boys and girls) in Manarghat, 30 kilometres from the archipelago's capital of Port Blair.

"We are doing everything in our power to meet the scheduled July 1, 2006, opening date," said Father Rodrigues from the Society of Pilar.

In Port Blair the first brick was laid for a high school that was badly damaged by the tsunami. Once work is done it should host some 500 pupils. It should also received support for another three years.

On Little Andaman and Car Nicobar Islands, the reconstruction of two churches and their attached community centres has already started. There are also plans to rebuild six chapels on Little Andaman.

Reconstruction faces two main obstacles in the archipelago though, this according to Father Sciocco: monsoon rains and red tape from faraway New Delhi.

Because of extensive flooding and landslide, building foundations has become difficult. Muddy grounds have made matters worse for workers, who easily get sick.

As for the school in Port Blair under total renovation, its proximity to the airport meant that its plans had to go through a lot of red tape. Paperwork began in late March but the go-ahead came only on October 9.

The fathers of the Society of Pilar are partner in this project, which is expected to take three years.

To know more about the various projects underway thanks to PIME's tsunami campaign, please check the following website: http://www.pimemilano.com/ (in Italian only).

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