Following the 2004 tsunami which killed 280,000 people in Sri Lanka, Brit Olam – International Israeli Volunteering and Development arrived in Sri Lanka to assist with post-tsunami community building. Appointed responsible for youth centers in Sri Lanka by UNICEF, Brit Olam sent eight delegations of volunteers to train local professionals and organizations to promote crisis intervention and assemble youth activities and program development. Through this work, Brit Olam strived to create the sustainable support necessary to address the long-term needs of the devastated regions.
Brit Olam formed a strong partnership with Multi Diverse Community (MDC), a Sri-Lankan NGO founded by well-known Sri Lankan actor, Wasantha Moragoda. “After the Tsunami, many donations poured in, but people lacked a clear vision of how to use the money,” said Moragoda. “We focus on mental recovery and mental empowerment. Our motto, ‘Identify Diversity, let’s respect it,’ promotes social, political, economic and national diversity.”
Brit Olam, together with Topaz and the National Council for Volunteerism in Israel brought Moragoda and members of his team to Israel for a two-week seminar on the theory and practice of community building.
After the seminar, MDC returned to Sri Lanka to initiate an Integrated Youth Center in a new village built with international efforts to rehabilitate more than 1000 families. The center offered young people and their families a place for recreation, vocational training, and educational and emotional support.
“The Tsunami has caused our nation to take a step backwards by one generation and we have to work to correct this situation,” said Moragoda. “Brit Olam has taught us that with strength, courage and cooperation, we can accomplish whatever we want.“
Volunteer Ora Adam, a social worker and counseling psychologist who volunteered in Sri Lanka, said that as long as people remained in a state of shock, experiencing posttraumatic stress, they could not retain their sense of vitality, creativity or motivation needed to heal.
“When we came to Sri Lanka, most international organizations were involved with doing – rebuilding homes, boats and villages. There was no one to take care of the emotional trauma,” said Adam. “What is really special about Brit Olam is the fact that we work with post trauma syndromes to help people face and overcome their sorrow and depression and help make other international organizations aware of these problems.”