WOCCU Assessment Team Visits Southern Regions of Sri Lanka Affected by Tsunami
D.M.G. Pathama, manager of the Beruwella Credit Union
Sri Lanka – World Council of Credit
(WOCCU) survey team are continuing to assess
the damages and needs along the southern coast
toward Galle, an historic outpost heavily
affected by last month's tsunami.
In the small town of Beruwela, an hour from
capital city of Colombo, the deadly tsunami
completely destroyed the town's small credit
union, leaving only a pile of rubble. Many of
the town residents are now living in refugee
camps. Many others, including the Beruwela
credit union chairman, were killed; trapped by a
stalled train or crushed under piles of
concrete. "The people tried to run away,"
explained D.M.G. Pathama, manager of the
Beruwela credit union. "But a train had stalled
on the tracks. It blocked the road and many of
them were trapped and died, crushed by the
WOCCU is working closely with SANASA, Sri
Lanka's credit union federation and central
liquidity facility, to assess the damage to
credit unions and their members. Eighty-five of
the 90 credit unions in the Galle District,
including Beruwela and Modara Patuwatha credit
unions, were affected in some way by the
tsunami, reported SANASA Development Bank. Of
those, 23 were completely destroyed.
Further down the coast in the town of
John Ikeda, WOCCU project development manager
reported from the scene, the Modara Patuwatha
credit union was flooded, though the building
remained standing. According to chairman E.
Benat, the credit union ledgers were partially
destroyed, but efforts are now underway to
reconstruct them; a challenging task for an
institution that still registers every
transaction by hand. "Our members who have
managed to save their passbooks are bringing
them in. We are using these passbooks to help
rebuild our books," said Benat.
Fishing boat destroyed near Kudawella West Credit Union
Kudawella West credit union serves members in
small fishing village further south. Several
hundred boats in the village's small harbor were
completely ruined. Some of the boats were
pushed high into the surrounding hills by the
force of the wave. G.S.P. Jayaratna, fisherman
and Kudawella West credit union member for 13
years, was one of the many fishermen in the
village who lost his boat to the tsunami. "My
home, my boat, everything is gone – washed out
to sea," he told Ikeda. Despite this, Jayaratna
hopes that, with help, his credit union can be
revived. "Now is a difficult time for
everybody," Jayaratna said. "With help, I hope
to buy a new boat, to rebuild again."
Individuals or organizations wishing to
the Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund can make a
contribution to Worldwide Credit Union
Foundation via World Council's website at
www.woccu.org/disaster_relief or via the
National Credit Union Foundation's website at
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.