Public Concern International-India is a well-funded NGO-supported by USAID, UNICEF, Save the Children, United Way, etc. It’s a non-religious organization. The Nagapattinam coordinator, Mr. Malim has a degree in social work and so does the associate coordinator, Mr. John Henry. Mr. John was a social work college professor when he resigned to join PCI and to do relief work. PCI staff consists of psychological counselors, social mobilizers, etc. The local staff runs the re-location temporary camps in fishing villages that are several hours apart from each other. We went to two of these village camps. Mr. Malim and his team were doing AIDS work in another city at the time of the tsunami. They were re-assigned by PCI to do tsunami relief work, and they expect to remain in Nagapattinam for a long time to execute long-term recovery work. PCI’s emphasis is on psychosocial work, now that the immediate physical needs of shelter and safety caused by the tsunami have been met.
We met self-help women’s investment groups. These women are wives of fishermen who have lost much of their fishing equipment due to the tsunami. In the self-help groups, women contribute savings, open a bank account, evaluate applications for loans, and give out loans to group members to start small businesses. The women have elected a group chair, secretary, and treasurer. At our meting with one such group, the women wanted PCI to help them open a ready-made garment shop. They also requested a computer center for their children. When Gargi asked the women how she might help them, they said they wanted to reduce their fear of another tsunami, be more hopeful, and learn to be prepared for another tsunami.
We visited a crèche for babies up to the age of four. Those who can speak, sang Tamil nursery rhymes. The children were happy and sang loudly, being led by a pair of two-year-olds. In a men’s self-help group, men were repairing fishing nets. We saw much strength and resilience in all men, women, and children. This has been amazing for us.
Our orientation to help matches the psychosocial approach used by PCI. However, regardless of their different approaches, PCI, Seva Bharathi, and NalandaWay are having positive effects. We hope to continue our collaboration with all.
Gargi Roysircar-keeper of keys, gatekeeper, watchdog, and chief spokesperson Linda Lee-accountant, alternative thinker, water carrier, telephone carrier, and photographer Kristen Robinson—expert on all things electronic, scout of internet cafés, restaurants, and directions, menu reader and interpreter for Linda and Miko, and photographer Miko Ishibashi—super-expert on all things electronic, pirate of Internet connections, puppet maker, and video-camera operator.