Life starts anew with a church on the beach
PIME moved in right after the tidal wave—its action in support of victims was immediate. In the first few days, relief aid arrived in
Andrea Ferrari, who is the administrator of the PIME Missionary Centre in
After a 15-day visit to
According to the Missionary Centre’s estimates, some € 320,000 was raised this year for tsunami victims, all projects included. “Of course, the amount of money is much lower than in 2005 when we raised € 2,063,992, but if we do not want to leave some projects unfinished with need more donations,” he said.
Schools and hostels for youth
The “Rebuild Andaman and
When the school is finished, it will open on May 15 next year and will serve 800 students. But for the time being only the first floor is ready; the second is expected soon.
The Boys’ Hostel should be function by
The school will offer elementary and high school education.
In Port Blair, donations to PIME funded the rebuilding of a school destroyed by the quake.
“The building,” the PIME administrator said, “is finished. It only needs some final touches but it is already being used by at least 150 students who will become 500 by the time everything is done. The school includes a kindergarten and elementary classes. The school charges a fee but about a hundred places will be free for orphans and disadvantaged kids.”
The overall cost totals € 1.25 million including building, furniture, bursaries for some orphans, and some special expenditure (road and bridge). More than € 900,000 was raised by an Italian TV newscast (TG 4).
“In the beginning we expected to use only this money but then we added € 250,000 from PIME’s tsunami campaign itself. Money also came from overseas like foreign missions in
“Diocesan missionary centres were also very much involved,” Ferrari said, “that of
Overall, “we need € 150,000 to pay for our neediest pupils for three years as we promised. With the amount of money we currently have we can only cover the expenses for the first year and half”.
Church by the beach
On Little Andaman and Car Nicobar two churches with respective community centres and six chapels as annex are planned. “because of popular demand we decided to add two more chapels but this also requires more money,” Ferrari said.
On Little Andaman, the Pilar Fathers church and residence are in use again. Six chapels were built but an additional two are still not finished: one has the foundations but building the other has not yet started.
Same problem on Car Nicobar where the complete rebuilding of local churches requires still more donations.
So far € 150,000 has been spent on churches and chapels but to be complete the projects needs an additional € 80/90,000. “Until we find this money, everything is on hold,” the administrator said.
But according to both Andrea Ferrari and the Pilar Fathers, rebuilding the places of worship is giving hope to the prostrate local community. For example, Car Nicobar’s capital of
“People are very happy to see the church on its old spot,” said Fr Joseph from the Society of Pilar Brothers. “It is like a sign that life is being reborn where it was once broken. When it was inaugurated the whole population took part in a huge celebration. Many Protestants come to our functions as well ”.
For his part Andrea Ferrari told the story of a man he met in the last, the remotest, chapel he visited. “I met this young man, 25, who impressed me. He lost his entire family in the tsunami but was there, smiling, when the chapel was rededicated. As he told me, he plans to stay in the village and go on.”
Full recovery still difficult
The islands are still far from full recovery. Rebuilding is experiencing delays and higher costs due to a variety of factors, Ferrari said. First of all, it is hard to get the necessary materials because demand is high. Throughout the Andamans there is building boom—bridges, roads, housing—with the result that supplies arrive late and are more expensive. “Not to mention the fact that the price of some materials like iron are up because of Chinese demand,” he added.
Workers flown in from continental
Moreover, there are technical problems as well. For instance, when a school collapsed in Tamil Nadu, the Education Department introduced new building regulations so that we had to retrofit our walls to comply with the new rules.
And last but not least there is the weather. Last year, the monsoons lasted two months causing widespread flooding.
Despite the hope, the situation on Little Andaman is tragic. Fr Joseph reports that people are still living in shanties waiting for permanent housing the government promised but has not yet delivered.
“The impression is that two years after the disaster everything is still like in the first emergency phase,” PIME’s administrator said.
According to Fr Joseph, the hardest recovery is that of the spirit and the mind. “People are grateful to those who helped them, but when a foreigner visits the first thing they all do is retell the story of that fateful December 26,” he said. “The memory is still alive and raw.”
“Many told me that after they were cut off , for days they could not figure what had happened. Some thought about the atomic bomb, World War 3, or that Jesus had arrived a day late (the day before the tsunami was Christmas),” he explained.
Notwithstanding his trust in people’s spirit, Fr Joseph is convinced that “it is almost impossible under the circumstances to recover. Families and orphans lack everything and it seems the world has forgotten them”.