Community Friends is a volunteer organization in Portland, Oregon that has partnered with an NGO in Sri Lanka called SMS (Sadaham Mithuru Samuluwa). SMS is engaged in rebuilding a tsunami-stricken community in remote Eastern Sri Lanka known as the Panama region. SMS has a mission of "friends in service to community" and was established as a non-profit organization in 1958. With a local membership of 500 including many professionals who are volunteering their time, the relief project is direct and efficient. Environmental sustainability is the foundation of rebuilding and creating a long-term community relationship.
Panama's Lahugala School serves as the central element binding this community. Its 127 children are, in fact, the future for the village. One of our top goals is ensuring that these students, and their successors, are able to stay in school and have the opportunity to pursue higher education. In essence, a student's ability to stay in school serves as a measure of the overall prosperity of the community - and we aim to maintain that figure at 100%.
Our assessment and project planning of the needs of Panama is ongoing. SMS has many volunteer professionals on the relief team including: medical and psychiatric doctors, schoolteachers, project accountant, project architect, project manager, attorney, bank manager, translators & administration support volunteers.
SMS is working on several projects:
- Addressing malnutrition and supporting the health of children and families
- Resupplying the water, food and sanitation infrastructure
- Rebuilding the classrooms, the library and providing school supplies and books
- Beginning to restore the economic base and financially support families through 0% micro-loans and other financial and technical assistance
- Establishing scholarships for tertiary education
The following link tells the story of this relief effort: www.communityfriends.org
The key people behind this effort include Carsten Henningsen in the US and Deva Ratnakara in Sri Lanka.
Carsten Henningsen is based in Portland, Oregon and has followed the work of SMS over the past 25 years. Carsten is chairman of Progressive Investment Management and Portfolio 21 specializing in environmental and community development investing.
Deva Ratnakara is based in Kandy, Sri Lanka and is president of SMS. He is responsible for defining the organization's focus and direction. Deva is also personally overseeing the relief efforts on the ground in the Panama region. He has worked with SMS for more than 30 years.