Eight years on: Tsunami school needs your help

The school facilities built with donations from the people of north Devon desperately needs your help once more.

ON the eighth anniversary of the devastating Boxing Day tsunami, a small community in Sri Lanka is appealing to the people of North Devon once more.

A school building created following an appeal led by North Devon Lions and the Gazette is in desperate need after being badly damaged by monsoon rains.

The block of four classrooms which has served the Dodanduwa and Hikkaduwa area in the south east of the country was due to welcome children back to school at the end of January.

Not only does it need repairs, but is still awaiting a planned extension for a second floor assembly and community hall, that has been unable to go ahead because the region is so poor.

Eight years ago today the tsunami claimed the lives of more than 31,000 in Sri Lanka alone and devastated the coastline, its effects are still being felt as communities struggle to restore what they had.

Back then, North Devon responded magnificently and the ‘Adopt-a-Village’ appeal raised �11,300 for the classroom block in the grounds of the Dhammasara Piyaratana School.

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With the need now great, Barnstaple Lions Club has once again taken up the challenge and launched a new appeal, to aid the repairs but also to raise enough money to finally get the building finished.

Andy Shiner, who led the original appeal and attended the official opening of the building in January 2007, said the rains had caused extensive damage to the school, both inside and out.

“Some work has been carried out using what money they could scrape together locally through their Lions clubs, but they desperately need to get the money together by the end of January for when it is re-designated as a primary school,” he said.

“In the meantime they have had to move the children out of the school and separate them into four other schools in the area.

“It was always intended to put a second floor on and bars were left on the roof for that purpose, but they just don’t have the money to do it.”

Lucky Wijeyawickrema is a Sri Lankan Lions representative who has been working with Mr Shiner, said it was of particular concern there was no ‘proper’ roof on the building, simply a level concrete platform.

“We are hoping to build a meeting and recreation hall for the school on the concrete slab with a roof and half walls on two sides and full walls at the front and rear,” he said.

If anyone would like to help or make a donation, contact Andy Shiner on 01271 373180.

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