Sri Lanka’s good Sa­mar­i­tan

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Guanny Liu

For most New Zealan­ders mem­o­ries of the 2004 tsunami are slowly fad­ing. But not for Jeremy Hall. The Bal­moral res­i­dent has re­cently re­turned from Sri Lanka, his fifth trip there since the tsunami wiped out towns and vil­lages in its path and killed 225,000 peo­ple in 11 coun­tries.

Mr Hall has been work­ing tire­lessly to help a strug­gling vil­lage in the coastal town of Ham­ban­tota to get back on its feet.

Dur­ing his last trip he took $5000 with him – a com­bi­na­tion of his own funds and do­na­tions from friends.

He spent most of the money on 4800 books for lo­cal school chil­dren who needed sta­tionery for the new school term.

He also trav­elled around the vil­lage, sup­port­ing those who ur­gently needed help.

One fam­ily were about to have their power dis­con­nected af­ter fail­ing to pay their bill for four months.

“So I paid that off – it was $12,” says Mr Hall.

Mr Hall works along­side the SKeP foun­da­tion, es­tab­lished by lo­cal man Granvil Rath­nayake and named af­ter his wife and two young chil­dren who died in the tsunami.

Mr Hall stum­bled onto the foun­da­tion by chance on his first trip to Sri Lanka.

“I was driv­ing along a tourist track on the coast of Ham­ban­tota and there was a bed sheet tied up on the side of the road that had been turned into a homemade sign.

“The sign said some­thing like, ‘Please help the chil­dren of this town’ and pointed to this lit­tle build­ing.”

Mr Hall met Mr Rath­nayake, who said he was try­ing to set up a foun­da­tion to help the 600 lo­cal chil­dren who had lost one or both par­ents in the dis­as­ter.

“My first im­pres­sion was that he might be a shys­ter,” says Mr Hall, who gave Mr Rath­nayake a 1000 ru­pee note – the equiv­a­lent of $15 – and left.

“That night I had a nag­ging feel­ing I should go back and see him. He showed me that he bought a very small bag of pens and ex­er­cise books, enough for about 10 or 20 chil­dren.

“From that I felt that he was some­one who could be trusted and some­one who was de­ter­mined to make a start, no mat­ter how small.”

Mr Hall de­cided to be­come in­volved and do­nated 600 sets of ex­er­cise books and pens.

He trav­elled back to Sri Lanka twice in 2006, bring­ing re­sources and funds with him.

“I say to my friends, ‘Give me money. I’ll spend it all’. That’s the thing with the 100 per­cent aid thing.

“Ev­ery cent that peo­ple do­nate will be given to the tsunami vic­tims. I pay for my own trip, my own air fare.”

Mr Hall has also bought sew­ing ma­chines to help a small home busi­ness run by wi­d­ows who had lost loved ones in the tsunami, and a com­puter for the lo­cal school.

He also helped pave a play­ground for chil­dren who were hav­ing breath­ing prob­lems from dust in­hala­tion.

He says Mr Rath­nayake is cur­rently build­ing a home for two young girls who were left or­phaned and pen­ni­less by the tsunami.

Jeremy Hall can be reached on 638-8878 or by email at jhall@ki­wilink. co.nz.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Jeremy Hall has re­cently re­turned from his fifth trip to help tsunami vic­tims in Sri Lanka.

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