11/18/2005, 00.00
INDIA
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Tsunami-devastated village becomes "model"

In a reconstruction work financed by Caritas India, 647 houses will be completed by 26 December. The people's lifestyle has changed: now they use the Internet to check the weather forecast.

Devanampattinam (Asianews/Agencies) - Devanampattinam, one of the coastal villages in Tamil Nadu which was struck by the tsunami, has been given a facelift thanks to the construction – financed by the Indian Caritas – of hundreds of new homes. The works will be finalized before 26 December, the first anniversary of the disaster. The entire village, which is in Cuddalore district, is at work. More than 500 bricklayers are constantly on the go to finish 647 permanent homes.

On average, 10 houses have been completed per day since mid-October, at a daily cost of three million rupees (nearly 65,750 US dollars) per day.

A team of Caritas communicators and journalists visited the village as part of a programme from 27-31 October of visits to tsunami affected villages in Tamil Nadu.

Since the villagers got permanent houses, they have become more confident and creative, said Caritas members, who plan to turn Devanampattinam into a model village.

The local population is creative, and already uses advanced technological communication, such as the Internet, for their work and safety. They download the latest weather updates from websites run by the authorities, broadcast three times a day.

Some village elders said their weather bulletins have become a referral for local police and other local alert cells in several neighbouring villages.

Another innovative initiative is "vermi-composting", an ingenuous and avant-garde method. Compost is used as manure and the yield is 200 times higher.

The community development centre has become the focal point of activities of a self-help group which helps local youth to acquire computer knowledge and skills.

It may be hard to understand how the tsunami actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for some residents of stricken areas. Their villages have new homes, buildings and young workers have become accustomed to a new lifestyle.

The Pondicherry Multipurpose Social Service Society, local partner of the Indian Caritas, is running a number of projects with its director, Ratchard. The animators of his specialized group, according to villagers, "have changed the village's way of life."

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