When the true enormity of the disaster became apparent, it was decided that Dave and two locals would buy 150 sets of clothes, blankets and bed mats, and drive 300km south to visit remote coastal villages near Nagalpattinam that would be much less able to help themselves than the nearby coastal areas of Madras. It was 3 days after the disaster when they arrived and the air was filled with the smell of death. They distributed their aid through local churches and invited people to tell their stories. They filmed these interviews to help fund raising back home in the UK.
They spoke to a lady who was caught in the branches of a tree as she clung to her two children but fainted, and lost the children to the floods. A 17 year old girl left with seven brothers and sisters, asked “What should I do?” One of many fishermen had lost his boat and source of income. All had lost their homes.
Dave realised that with so many children orphaned, perhaps their best contribution would be to use their knowledge of orphanages, and to rent some houses further from the coast. Each one could house, feed, school and care for 20 children with two staff, for the cost of about £100 per week. Annie, Pastor Martin and Omega, the Trustees of the ‘Love and Care Charitable Trust’ (the Indian Christian partner charity to India Direct) and other Pastors in the local area would supervise them.
This would provide permanent homes for orphans, and could give parents temporary respite to re-establish their livelihoods without the burden of feeding their children. Another advantage would be that by feeding money in via their local contacts they could ensure that it went directly to the most needy without fear of it being delayed by any bureaucracy.
The Armstrong family returned to the UK on New Year’s Eve determined to set up a new Tsunami fund to complement the existing orphanage. Within a few months our second children’s home was established in an affected fishing village near Poraiyar. The locals have named it ‘Joy Children’s Home’.