Almost as quickly as the tsunami hit shore in December 2004, millions of dollars flooded global relief funds. Unfortunately, even months after the world’s most devastating disaster, millions of people were still waiting for that support to rebuild their homes, their communities, their lives.
This was not the case for 42-year-old Kiyas Nasrudeen of Galle, Sri Lanka. Just three weeks after Betterment sent an email to our network to share his family’s tsunami story, more than $9,500 was collected to help Kiyas rebuild his home.
Kiyas was so inspired by the generosity of the Betterment Network that he shared a great deal of his gift with his neighbors to rebuild his entire community.
“I would like to give my heartfelt thanks for your great contribution to my family. I am still trying to overcome from the turmoil, but with your gift, I have given food items for the victims as it was an urgent need at that time,” said Kiyas. “And I’m hoping to help more because many people are waiting for their help to come because they don’t have a place to stay yet.”
According to Bob Chamberlain, Kiyas’s friend and Betterment advocate, Kiyas spent more than a month working with other Sri Lankan men who wanted to help their fellow countrymen in need. Because he could not afford to take a car, Kiyas traveled by bus and train to meet with Sri Lankans he knew who were not affected by flooding to ask for help. He received about $10-15 from each person, and in total, collected about $1,500 to buy basic items like bottled water, food, soap, etc. He and his friends then rented a truck to drive to remote areas where people had not received any aid at all to share these necessities.
“These people were very grateful for the assistance Kiyas and his fellow friends provided,” commented Bob Chamberlain after speaking with Kiyas. “Corruption was rampant. Donated money often never reached the people who needed it. However, people who lived far away from the flood area who had no damage, received money.”
For Kiyas personally, the Sri Lankan government gave his family only $53 a month for two months ($106 total) for aid. Kiyas had to stand in line for six hours each month to receive this small payment. However, his Betterment support made the difference for him and many others in his community.
“How could I rebuild my house and not help others as well? I am so fortunate,” said Kiyas whose wife and two sons survived the tsunami with near brushes with death.
The foundation of Kiyas’ home was able to be salvaged, and his family’s new home is now under construction with the cinder block walls recently completed. However, many of Kiyas’ neighbors are still living in 3-room tents with two other families. The mosque located between Kiyas’ house and the sea is still being used as a shelter to house approximately 200 children who lost their entire families.
The loss of life of his friends and neighbors, and the destruction of his home and possessions bring tears to his eyes. Still, according to Kiyas, he can count his blessings for he has his family