Nadeeshani and Dayaratne and their three young children; Ravindu, Kiruli and Shanuli had just moved into their newly constructed home in Yatiyantota when the devastating Cyclone Roanu struck Sri Lanka in May 2016. Nadeeshani and her family were asked to evacuate and they were relocated in a nearby village school. This temporary shelter, became their home for nearly a year after the disaster struck.
“When Cyclone Roanu struck the island it was just another ordinary day except with very heavy rains”, Nadeeshani recounts. “We were soon asked to evacuate due to the risk of landslides, and we had mere minutes to get our families to safety. Had we hesitated even for a minute to grab any of our belongings, we would not have survived.
Once the rains settled, Nadeeshani and Dayaratne soon found out that their beloved home had been completely destroyed in the landslides and that the land was declared a Disaster Risk Zone, unsafe to be inhabited.
The Dayarante family lost all of the simple treasures they had worked so hard to acquire, especially their television and washing machine they had saved so long to purchase. The children lost all their school books and toys, and the family lost all their belongings. The land they owned was all Dayaratne had to leave as an inheritance for his children one day, and now that too was lost. Cramped up in the evacuation center with limited space, privacy, and poor sanitation facilities, Nadeeshani and Dayaratne found it difficult to imagine where they could even begin to pick up the pieces of their once happy life. They never imagined that they would ever have a place of their own to call home, ever again.
Months passed and they received no word from officials who had promised the victims of the disaster that they would receive new homes. “And then just like a miracle, we heard that Habitat for Humanity was going to help us build a new home”, Dayaratne recounts. The family had been selected as one of the 80 beneficiary families to receive a Habitat Home in the village of Sanhindiyagama, Yatiyantota, through the generous financial support extended by Alwaleed Philanthropies.
Even though their dreams had been shattered and their future seemed bleak, Nadeeshani had a hopeful smile as she says, “Life is always full of surprises… change is not always the end of the world. We knew that help would come. And Habitat for Humanity came in and helped us rebuild our lives”.
“We cannot express how truly thankful we are to receive this Habitat home”, says Nadeeshani, who stressed the importance of her daughters having a safe and decent place to call home, as they grow up. She is especially grateful for the privacy her daughter has in this safe new home which has lockable doors. The new home is also situated in close proximity to the bus route and the village school, which makes it easy for the children to travel to school.
What Dayaratne was unable to contribute in terms of construction materials or finances, he contributed through unskilled labour, as he is a skilled mason. He was grateful for the opportunity he had to be a part of the construction activities together with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Volunteers. Dayaratne commented, “I feel so proud knowing that I was able to contribute in a meaningful way towards the construction of our own home even if it was only with my two hands”.
Dayaratne says he now feels confident about the future, knowing that his family has a safe and decent place to live. Dayarathne who is a mason plans to expand the house with his savings in the future. When asked what ‘HOME’ meant to her, Nadeeshani replied, “As parents, to us, HOME is a safe and secure place for our children to grow-up in…. and Habitat has helped us ensure that we are able to give our children that kind of Home”.