"THE TSUNAMI KIDS"
“YOU CANT CROSS THE SEA MERELY BY STANDING AND STARING AT THE WATER”
THE “ORIGINAL TSUNAMI KIDS”
When the 2004 Boxing day Tsunami occurred the school where I worked, Mill Hill School in London, like many institutions, raised money to help. As the school already had contacts with Usha Raman, the headmistress of Sri Jayendra, we asked if we could help some children through the school. She enthusiastically agreed and within a year we were looking after ten children whose lives had been severely affected by the Tsunami. Nine are from the fishing village of Pasiavaram in north Tamil Nadu, the tenth is from Vadaradiam near Tanjore a little further south.
The economies of both villages were devastated by the Tsunami and many people were killed. Some of the children are orphans, some “half-orphans” as they describe it and some have both parents but since the boats and nets were lost they were no longer able to support the children.
When they arrived the youngest was four or five years old: it’s difficult to be sure of their exact ages as none have birth certificates and few are sure of their year of birth.
We were concerned about how the rest of the pupils and parents would react: taking in these children from a 'Most Backward Caste was like Mill Hill School taking in a group of gypsies. We need not have worried: pupils and nearly all parents took them to their hearts in a way that was humbling and uplifting to all who witnessed it.
This original group of “Tsumani kids” have now left Sri Jayendra, (there is no point in trying to change this rather non PC name now, they have called themselves this for nearly fifteen years). They are a wonderful group. Whilst at Sri Jayendra they took advantage of all opportunities whether it work, sport, music or dance. They formed a charming, civilized and considerate gang who made a great
contribution to the life at Sri Jayendra. They are still a constant influence and inspiration to many of the students who are now studying there.
They often come back and visit Sri Jayendra, I think they regard it as a home, a source of stability, friendship and love. So we continue to care and take interest in their amazing life story.
Most went off to university and some have already completed degrees in Computer Science, Business and one in Hotel Management and Catering. The boys are all excellent basketball players and one, Surya, is, we hope, en route to play for India.
THE “NEW TSUNAMI KIDS” - SARREN, VEL, ANBU, SANTOSH AND JEEVA
There are currently a group of new “Tsunami kids” at Sri Jayendra, five boys even though they were not affected by the Tsunami, they are children who need some extra love and care due to life circumstances. The name has stuck as these children are more than happy to live under the same title due to its prestige within the school. They have been taken in, are being educated and nurtured for by Sri Jayendra school, aka - ‘The Jayendra Family”.
Anbu the youngest at seven years old is ridiculously inquisitive, five minutes can not pass without Abu having asked a million questions. His constant curiosity could be confused with being irritating, but it’s Anbu and he has a cheeky, mischievous grin which always wins you over. Therefore he pretty much gets away with anything. He has an abundant amount of energy and tends to hop, jump and bounce everywhere instead of walking.
Vel, who is eight, is quiet but tough. Strong yet vulnerable. He is independent, doesn’t seek your attention, however, anytime you praise him a huge smile lights up his face and you can almost see the praise being consumed by and puffing out his small but sturdy body.
Jeeva has just turned twelve, he is very a gentle soul. He is Anbu and Vels big brother and takes the role very seriously. He seems to have an inbuilt paternal and protective gene. If we are out late, on the return bus journey Anbu often falls asleep. Jeeva without waking him quietly picks him up then carefully carries his younger brother up the stairs to bed.
Santosh, ten years old, needs a lot of attention. Neither the youngest or the oldest, he hasn’t yet found his place amongst the gang. Yet, every day with each little success he is growing with confidence.
Sarren, Santosh’s older brother. He’s way too cool for school. This year he’s been a little distant and aloof- likes to think of himself as the man of the clan. I guess this is pretty standard for a boy who’s just turned fifteen and is trying to establish himself in the world.
Even though they standing like five tough guys with the powerful force of the waterfall in the background, there's something about their drenched and disheveled look that allows each boy's identity to be revealed. I can see who they really are, how far they have come and how far they still have to go.