Acting Globally - Thinking Locally

Sustainable aid for tsunami stricken Sri Lanka

Visiting Sri Lanka for talks with the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) on the formation of an Eco-village with ‘right livelihoods’, trustee Owen Fenn and Administrator Pip Richards watched this disaster unfold and were lucky to escape.

Over the years we have continued to help in small ways. The Saga Charitable Trust have extended the project and we have been concerned with providing trees with edible fruits for relocated families, education around lowering carbon footprints and solar power.

The Centre for Environment and Development (CED) contributed to ‘Advancing Sustainable Consumption in Asia’ a guidance manual published by the United Nations Environment Programme, ISBN 92-807-2639-0

Directly afterwards

Directly afterwards

When the waves came in, coastal villagers lives were changed in minutes. As well as the sudden huge loss of life, houses were smashed, livelihoods destroyed, precious possessions lost, and a great fear, previously unknown, descended on the people.

Makeshift home one year after the tsunami

Makeshift home one year after the tsunami


The train at Peraliya, on the south west coast was washed away killing 1700 people. Within days, aid from every developed country in the world was centred on this site.

Pip and Joe, members of the Sustainable Trust, took refuge in the jungle near here. They were recipients of such selfless and happy care by a community in ruins that they decided to return with help when they could.

Ruined houses surrounded by established coconut palms gave us the inspiration to embark on a coir spinning project.

Ruined houses surrounded by established coconut palms
gave us the inspiration to embark on a coir spinning project.

The Sustainable Trust raised £4,000. Cornish ‘green’ businesses, groups and individuals helped. Robotmother, carbon neutral developers, Helston and the Lizard Friends of the Earth, the Cornwall Paper Company, Ground Force cycling group and the Longmead Trust, local food producers, donated. We covered our own travel and living expenses.

Together with our partners in Colombo, Sri Lanka, we aimed at improving the conditions and wages of the coir workers in one village with this relatively modest sum of money.

Community links

A real need was identified in the course of this work. The dispirited villagers had lost their sense of community and there was no cohesion between people of different age groups and abilities.

Coir spinning

Scooby Gill ( who works in the Photography Resource at University College Falmouth, visited the project and kindly offered to photograph the progress. We have an exhibition of photographs of our work here 'Recovery', available for educational purposes.

Community centre

A house abandoned after the tsunami was identified as a centre for the village. With the help and encouragement of the Centre for Environment and Development, the youth, children and elders got together to clear the garden, lay water pipes, sand and paint a house hit by the waves. It is now used as a development centre.

New Year Games

The 20th April saw the ‘New Year Games’ at the centre. New bank accounts were set up for the children and every child received a present. Games and competitions demonstrating traditional crafts took place. Spirits were lifted, community bonds strengthened.

Children plant a king coconut

A king coconut was planted for the Sustainable Trust in Madampagama on World Environment Day 2006. We sent a message for its dedication "Art, Craft, Nature and Spirit are the four legs of any good society, and the tree is central to all of these. We wish you peace in your beautiful country."

The seashore

Families once again have the courage to enjoy the seashore.


  • A Village Council has been created
  • Water storage and distribution is improved
  • The Coir industry has been revived, and a micro credit system initiated.
  • A village Youth and Sports Development Club has been formed. 50 children became members of the Better World Childrens Club and had bank accounts opened for them.
  • Three families were given small grants to complete their homes.
  • An Entrepreneur Programme for the youth was established for a TV and Electronics Repair Shop, an electrical workshop and a small tailors shop giving employment.
  • The Community Development Centre was cleaned and repaired and a meeting room organised with 50 chairs, a library and first aid facilities.
  • A ‘World Environment Day’ celebration with tree planting and help planning home gardens was held. At a college nearby, we have raised funds to repair the damaged gate. 5,000 people sheltered here during the days following the tsunami.

Please contact The Sustainable Trust if you have any projects that you would like us to get involved with, or if you would like any further details on any of the projects listed here.