In southeast India - an area still struggling from the effects of the 2004 tsunami - the dawn of 2012 arrived with more destruction. Cyclone Thane roared into the districts of Cuddalore, Villupuram and Puducherry on December 31 - leveling homes, uprooting trees, flooding farmlands and killing dozens of men, women and children. More than 20,000 people were displaced from their homes; the survivors are still without food, electricity or basic shelter.
Cyclone Thane also wreaked havoc on Salesian property in Pudcherry, Cuddalore and the missions in Gedilam and Maranodi Vinnarasi as well - shattering windows, shearing off roofs, destroying water heaters, and ruining equipment in several vocational centers.
Despite these extensive damages, however, the Salesians immediately sprung into action - providing shelter, warm meals, clean water, clothing and comfort to those affected by the devastation.
“Beyond these immediate needs, we must offer mid- and long-term assistance,” says Father Johnson Antonysamy, director of the Salesian mission in Chennai. “We are facing a years-long process of reconstruction.”
For example, estimates suggest it may take as many as seven years for farmers to recover their land and rebuild the crops - such as rice, corn, sugarcane, and bananas - essential to their livelihoods. Damaged infrastructure, such as roads and electrical poles, must be addressed in order to restore a basic standard of living.
By extending spiritual, educational and technical support to hundreds of people in dozens of additional communities, the Salesians hope to provide a leg up on these reconstruction efforts - helping residents not only envision a sustainable future, but to participate in building it. Specifically, the Salesians hope to:
- Construct sturdier housing for affected villagers – with an eye toward replacing thatched roofs – to enable homes to better withstand extremes in weather
- Launch farmers’ associations to aid in agricultural recovery efforts – including options for financial assistance
- Create a Disaster Management Endowment Fund to help underwrite the costs of rebuilding roads, restoring electricity and other long-term needs
At the same time, the Salesians must work to repair the damages sustained in their own missions - a process that will take dedicated time and resources. Despite these challenges, the Salesians are optimistic about what the future holds. “We are resilient here in southeast India,” says Fr. Antonysamy. “Together with the people we serve, we will build a better future.”
Please consider a special gift to the Salesians today. Your generosity will support our missions around the globe, including immediate and long-term efforts to rebuild the lives and livelihoods in communities around the world struck by disaster, such as the victims of Cyclone Thane in India.