University of Guelph – RESTORE Consortium

The purpose of the RESTORE project is to implement a multi-sectoral approach to environmental restoration, sustainable livelihoods and development, with full community input and participation in specific tsunami-affected districts.

One beneficiary grateful to the RESTORE project is Mr. Kesakapodi Rathinasingam, 56 years old and a resident of Puthukudiyiruppu Central in the Batticaloa District of Sri Lanka. Rathinasingam is married with three daughters. His eldest daughter is 29 years old, and lives nearby with her husband and two children. His other two daughters are 26 and 13 years old respectively, and the youngest is pursuing her studies.

Prior to the 2004 tsunami, the family struggled for their daily survival. They received a Samurdhi grant through the State Poverty Alleviation Programme, amounting to Rs. 1,000 per month. This supplement is provided to households living below the national poverty line. The family lived in a simple cottage on a small parcel of land owned by Rathinasingam. He worked as an artisan, supporting his family by making assorted handicrafts from bamboo and palmyrah. Both these materials were in ready abundance near their home, but Rathinasingam struggled to make and sell enough handicrafts to cover his family’s day-to-day expenses.

The 2004 tsunami stuck a hard blow to the family. Their house was destroyed and the family lost all their meager belongings. In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, the family sought shelter at a nearby school for two weeks before moving to a temporary welfare centre in Puthukudiyiruppu. At the welfare centre, Rathinasingam’s family lived in a tent provided by an international NGO. After 6 months, the family received a government grant for Rs. 250,000 to rebuild their home. This grant allowed the family to return to their land and start the long process of rebuilding their house.

Rathinasingam borrowed some money from local moneylenders, paying 5% interest monthly. This infusion of capital allowed him to restart his fledging handicraft business. The entire family helped him in this endeavour. After all the hardship the family had endured, they were dealt another severe blow. Rathinasingam’s wife, Luxmi, became ill and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Within a short period of time, Luxmi lost her eyesight and her physical condition deteriorated further.

The family was devastated and Rathinasingam knew that to keep his family afloat, that he had to increase his earning potential. His second daughter, Mehapathi, is an active member of the District Economic Social Mobilization Organization (DESMIO). On her father’s behalf, Mehapathi applied for a loan through DESMIO, supported by SLCDF and funded by RESTORE, to expand their handicraft business. DESMIO provided a loan of Rs. 10,000 to Mehapathi, who worked closely with her father producing the handicrafts. The loan allowed the family to successfully expand their handicraft operation and they started selling the handicrafts themselves in surrounding markets. Rathinasingam now makes Rs. 400 daily from making and selling his handicrafts. While the family’s future is by no ways secure, Rathinasingam’s increased income is sufficient to manage daily expenses, provide medical treatment to his ailing wife, and send his youngest daughter to school. Rathinasingam says that his main priority now is to find a good husband for his second daughter, Mehapathi. Though he will lose his business partner when she marries, Rathinasingam wants a promising future for Mehapthi. Rathinasingam will be forever thankful for his daughter’s association with DESMIO, which helped him to expand the handicraft business and to provide more financial security for his loved ones.