JDCSI hands over boats to fishermen
Grace Bunker – Sri Lanka
It was indeed a joyous occasion!
On Tuesday, February 15, 2005, the Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan officiated at the handing over of five boat units to 15 families in Kaddupulam, Chulipuram. Rev. T.S. Joshuva made all the arrangements for purchasing the boats, motors, nets, floats, and other equipment and for the ceremony itself. He obtained special permission for the handover ceremony to take place in the high security zone so that the entire village could attend. It was the first time in 15 years that any of the community except the fishermen had visited their land. Also present for the handover were several members of the Tsunami Relief Committee: Rev. S. C. Arnold, Chairman, Mr. Trevor Watson and Mrs. Beverly Watson who, with their family, had provided one of the boat units, Rev. A. V. Jesuthasan, and myself.
As we approached the site of the ceremony we could see many people gathered under a large UNHCR tarpaulin. I could immediately feel the excitement in the air as we got out of our van. We could see the brightly painted boats, with their motors attached, bobbing on their anchors in the water, and there were large piles of sacks overflowing with nets, floats, and other equipment that I could not identify. Children swarmed everywhere, wide-eyed with curiosity. Adults gathered in groups or stood alone talking or just watching us make preparations for the ceremony. A group of 15 men stood together at one side and were easily identifiable as the fishermen who, along with their families, would receive the boats. The sun was bright, the sea was calm, the air was warm, and the sea breeze was fresh. I had a swelling sense of joyous satisfaction as I watched the faces of the people of that community, trying to read the story of their suffering, losses, and successes, and knowing that our diocese was doing something really substantial to help these people get back on their feet for a second or third time. Thanks to the efforts of Rev. Joshuva and Mrs. Watson this community has received a great deal of help of various kinds over the last 4 or 5 years, so this handover was just deepening the connection the JDCSI has with them.
The ceremony consisted of lighting of the lamp (hard to do in that breeze), prayers, and speeches by Rev. Joshua, Bishop Jebanesan, and one of the fishermen who expressed the thanks of all families. Then it was time to pass out all the equipment, given and received with both serious faces and bright smiles, and some wet eyes. Finally, the boats were drawn close to shore and blessed by Bishop Jebanesan. Several of us scrambled to accept an invitation for a short ride in the new boats, which were filled with all the men, boys, and children in the community. After the ride, during which the men pointed out to me where the tsunami waves had gone, we were bodily carried from the boats to shore – an experience I have not had since I was a child!!
It certainly was a festive occasion! Food and drink were served to all and then it was time to leave, but not before giving out to the children the gifts sent by the students of Uduvil Girls’ College. Four large cardboard boxes of mostly school supplies, but some personal items, were divided up among the children, gifts from Uduvil children who wanted to do their part to help some tsunami victims.
We left with an enormous sense of satisfaction and a determination to quickly supply the remaining three boat units needed so that all the families can find self esteem again by being self reliant. Those who had not received a boat seemed to be celebrating as enthusiastically as those who had. We are grateful to God for leading us in finding a way to be of service to our neighbors.
Grace is a missionary who serves with Jaffna Diocese (Sri Lanka) of the Church of South India. She teaches English at Jaffna College and also works with the Uduvil Girls’ School, where she works in the women’s training programs, which includes teaching English & tutoring women and working with women’s empowerment groups.