Qatar Airways is spearheading a rebuilding project of housing in a fishing village devastated by last year’s tsunami disaster in Sri Lanka. Staff at the Doha-based airline, which employs more than 400 Sri Lankan nationals, initiated a fund-raising drive towards the reconstruction of 25 homes in a village affected by the tsunami.
Qatar Airways has worked closely with Habitat International - a non-government organisation that assists in building houses for the homeless - to identify one affected site and help the local community get back on its feet.
The fishing village of Jambuwatte in Balapitiya, 80km south of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, was chosen as the adopted site by Qatar Airways and work began in early August on rebuilding houses, which were flooded, destroyed or swept away when tragedy struck on 26 December 2004.
Qatar Airways is also contributing towards building a new community centre in Jambuwatte.
None of the villagers in Jambuwatte, who rely on fishing as their main source of income, lost their lives, but saw their livelihoods devastated. Many were forced to take up temporary accommodation in temples, huts, as well as living with friends in villages and towns further inland.
The village lies just metres off the coastline of the Indian Ocean and was one of the worst-hit areas of the tiny island following the disaster over the Christmas period last year. International aid agencies, helped by donations from around the world, swung into action soon after disaster struck in one of the world’s biggest humanitarian relief efforts.
The camaraderie shown by the people of Sri Lanka to get back to work and restart their lives has impressed many. Villagers living on the coastline have been desperate to move back into their own homes on their own plot of land as soon as possible.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said he was deeply touched as the events unfolded across the Indian Ocean when the tsunami devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the region last year.
“No one can really comprehend the magnitude of such a tragedy which we all saw with horror and disbelief unfold on our television screens,” he said, addressing a press conference in Colombo.
“Many of our Sri Lankan staff have friends and families affected by last December’s disaster. I am extremely grateful to the employees here at Qatar Airways to have initiated this fund-raising effort which the airline has fully supported.”
Added Al Baker: “By rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed by the tsunami, we are helping a community get back on its feet. It is extremely important that we fulfill our obligation and social responsibility to help in whatever little way we can.
“Tourism is one of Sri Lanka’s largest industries which we help support by flying in holidaymakers and friends and families to the country.
“Sri Lanka was our first international destination served outside the Middle East when the airline began operations in its former guise in 1993. We carry a lot of passengers to and from Sri Lanka which has developed into a vitally important market for us.”
A sample of testimonials from Qatar Airways employees who donated to the appeal.
Kathryn Brass, Cabin Crew, Qatar Airways
“I have been fortunate to travel around the world with Qatar Airways and meet people from so many diverse cultures. The tsunami affected so many people. They lost everything they had - families, homes and livelihoods - and it was only right that we could do something to give them a future to look forward to.”
Menik Amaratunga, Manager Human Resources, Qatar Airways
“I was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit and was taken aback by the level of destruction and death caused. I am indebted to Qatar Airways and, in particular, our CEO Mr Akbar Al Baker, for supporting the rebuilding of the fishing village of Jambuwatte and hope to bring back smiles to some of those affected.”
Peter Obino, Manager Internal Audit, Qatar Airways
“The tsunami proved that life on earth is precious, and we are vulnerable to what happens around us. Whenever we are in a position to help, we should do so. There was an appeal at Qatar Airways to contribute to the fund and I just felt it important to donate to this worthy cause and relieve the pain of many who suffered from this disaster.”
Dr Shreen Willatgamuwa, Company Doctor, Qatar Airways
“Humans are the biggest single asset for any company to have and with so many people losing their lives in this terrible tragedy, I felt touched that Qatar Airways considered it a social responsibility to contribute towards rebuilding the lives of the people of Sri Lanka.”
Prem Wilson, Safety Instructor, Qatar Airways
“The tsunami was a natural disaster that came unexpected, with children, parents and grandparents losing their lives and leaving so many without families to go back to. Many of my friends have lost loved ones - and one friend has lost an entire family. I felt deeply touched and dutibound to support those who were left helpless by this tragedy.”
Suranjith Jayatilleke, Avionics Engineer, Qatar Airways
“When one loses family, homes and belongings, it is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. I am extremely grateful to the Sri Lankan community and others within Qatar Airways to help in this hour of need.”