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A Great Love Village in Sri Lanka
Imagine once again cooking for your family in a bright, clean kitchen, or chatting with friends while standing under the eaves of your home, or sitting outside in the evening as a gentle breeze caresses your face, or planting crops in your garden. A few months ago, these dreams would have seemed impossible to the victims of the tsunami in Sri Lanka. But Tzu Chi is now helping to make these dreams come true. Just six months after the disaster, work started on a Tzu Chi Great Love Village in Siribopura. Homes, a community center, stores and even a school promises to bring new vitality to a community devastated by the tsunami. In Sri Lankan, the name Siribopura means "beautiful city." For those that are witnessing the birth of the Great Love Village in Siribopura, the future is indeed very beautiful.

The tsunami that occurred in the Indian Ocean on December 24, 2004, destroyed over 70 percent of the coastline of Sri Lanka. One of the most devastated areas was the low-lying coastal district of Hambantota. This region is located on the southern coast of the island, about 240 kilometers (400 miles) south of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. Once popular with tourists for its pristine coastlines and beautiful beaches, Hambantota looked more like a war zone after the tsunami. The giant waves left thousands of pulverized homes, upturned vehicles, and uprooted telephone and telegraph lines in its wake. It was so powerful that even houses located one kilometer inland were demolished. When the waves finally receded, countless corpses floated in nearby lagoons and mangrove swamps. Official reports put the number killed at around 4,500, but the true death toll may never be fully known.

The perfect coastline no longer exists, and the ruins that remain are a grim reminder of that fateful day. In reaction to the devastation, and in an attempt to reduce the damage from future tsunamis, the local government has stipulated that no homes be rebuilt within 100 meters (328 feet) from the coast. Furthermore, to help survivors put their lives back together, the government has planned to relocate the remaining residents of Hambantota to Siribopura, a district located three kilometers (1.8 miles) from the coast. The government has pledged to build permanent homes there and help survivors begin again.

The relocation plan was announced within a month of the tsunami. On January 19, 2005, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga attended a monument unveiling ceremony held to inaugurate the construction of the new community in Siribopura. At the ceremony, she publicly invited international NGOs to build 2,500 houses. Tzu Chi, engaged in the reconstruction efforts in Sri Lanka since days after the tsunami, is playing a key role in this new endeavor.