According to official death toll, 200 lives were lost, and a similar number of fishermen were reported missing at sea. The families that survived these fishermen lost their sole breadwinners. Many widows currently have no income to sustain their families, no homes, and face crippling debt.
With limited resources, we decided to help the inhabitants of eight villages that experienced tragic loss due to the cyclone. We discovered a significant deficiency of appropriate safety equipment that could have warned fishermen of impending disaster at sea. We also realized that though government sponsored relief programs were available, many of the inhabitants were not aware of these programs or did not know how to avail them. With that in mind, we initiated programs to empower the women in these villages, providing them with opportunities to earn a livelihood and to continue to put their children through school.
The first step towards empowering inhabitants was to inform them of available opportunities. On March 28, 2018, we held an exhibition at St. John the Baptist Church in Poothurai. The exhibition featured NGOs, Central and State Government Agencies, local entrepreneurs and technology companies. Representatives from Garmin and Furuno introduced participants in the exhibition to navigation devices, disaster beacons and satellite phones, while micro financing institutions discussed how fishermen could obtain the funds to purchase such instruments.
In addition to the exhibition, we have set up long-term engagement programs, including training sessions for tailoring and producing value-added fish based food products. With the help of short-term sponsors, we hired professionals to run these training sessions. The aim of providing training is to help participants become experts and entrepreneurs with the means to set up businesses of their own. Through observing these sessions, we believe that these programs will help the inhabitants of fishing villages in the long run, offering them an alternate source of income and a way to raise themselves above the poverty line.
My name is Ramesh Chellathurai and I work for the European Space Agency in Germany as Ground Operations Manager. I grew up in Kanyakumari until I moved to Germany for my job. Hence, the plight of the people in my hometown is close to my heart. Although I do not have any previous experience in relief activities, the support and help I am receiving from friends and well-wishers gives me the hope that, as a team we will be able to achieve our goal of helping the people recover quickly and live a life with dignity.
Thank you for your support.