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Home Feature Stories Great Love After Asia Tsunami Their Future Home - Designing in Sri Lanka

Their Future Home - Designing in Sri Lanka

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Their Future Home
Designing in Sri Lanka
The ceremony
The model home
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Designing in Sri Lanka
Within days after the tsunami wreaked havoc on Sri Lanka, Tzu Chi volunteers and the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) began helping survivors. Tzu Chi free clinics provided services for over 27,000 people, distributed relief supplies to over 70,000 persons in need, and built nearly 300 tent shelters for the homeless. In May 2005, Tzu Chi was contracted by the Sri Lankan government to build a Tzu Chi Great Love Village in Siribopura. By planning the overall structure of the new community and building about 1,000 of the 2,500 planned houses, Tzu Chi volunteers hope to bring true and lasting peace to survivors.

A multinational team of architects has been assembled to plan the new community at Siribopura. Taiwanese architect Guo Shu-sheng, Filipino architect Felino Palafox, and Sri Lankan engineering consultant Monchito B. Gayos are bringing the vision of the Great Love Village to life. Siribopura is a low-lying region of about 101 hectares (251 acres). Set among gently rolling hills, the site for the Great Love Village was formerly a jungle. When the three-member architectural team came to inspect the construction site, they saw an opportunity to design the village as a beautiful community following the gentle contours of the land.

After consulting with the provincial government of Hambantota, the Urban Development Authority, and other relevant government departments, Guo, Palafox and Gayos created blueprints for the 1,000-home development. In addition to private residences, their plans included a day-care center, offices, a library, a community center, a health-care facility, a job-training center, a shopping mall, and a school.

As principal architect, Guo has planned to build three smaller neighborhoods within the overall community. He hopes that residents of each neighborhood will work in harmony for the good of the overall community. "We can promote family-sized factories and train people with technical skills. This will help make Master Cheng Yen's livelihood plan a reality," said Guo. Palafox added, "By planning convenience stores or co-ops here, we are hoping the income can be reinvested into a community management fund."

The architects recognize that planning the physical layout of the town is only the first step in a long process of development. Transforming their vision into a successful community will take time, effort, and cooperation among the residents. Guo observed, "The physical design of the village is only a foundation. To manage the community well will require the residents to work together over a period of time. After their lives have improved, they must come to a consensus among themselves and work to create their future."
 
Preparing for the groundbreaking ceremony
Seven Tzu Chi volunteers specializing in construction, carpentry, plumbing and electricity arrived in Sri Lanka from Taiwan on June 21, 2005. Their tasks were to oversee the project, maintain high construction standards throughout the building phase, and arrange for the groundbreaking ceremony that would mark the official beginning of the Great Love Village. They were well equipped for their roles. "We have gained a lot of experience from Tzu Chi construction and landscaping projects elsewhere," said team leader Zhang Shi-wen.

The volunteers arrived just in time, too. Although estimates predict that the new homes will be ready as early as next year, a model home was built on the construction site in time for the groundbreaking ceremony. The model would allow residents to get a better idea of the good things to come. The volunteers from Taiwan arrived just in time to help put the finishing touches on the building.

Since the model house had to be finished in time for the groundbreaking ceremony on June 25, the volunteers sweated under the sun to speed things up. The working conditions were very difficult. It is not uncommon for daily temperatures in June to hit 37oC (99oF). The site was unprotected, and wind, dust and sunlight forced the volunteers to keep their heads down. Thorny weeds pricked the volunteers as they went about their work. A lack of adequate tools slowed their progress, but did not discourage their nimble movements. The volunteers simply imagined that they were working back in the early days in Taiwan, when many things were done by hand.

"I haven't held a hoe in 50 years," said Zheng Bang-yuan, still looking healthy at the age of 70. Zhou Ji-dun, head of a big construction company in Taiwan, said with a smile, "At home, I just order other people to do the work." Lin Wan-lai, who specialized in construction materials, echoed, "We normally do our jobs with only one finger [pointing out things to be done by subordinates]."

From dawn until dusk, the seven volunteers cooperated to accomplish each task one by one. They put the bricks, sand, and all the construction materials scattered around the showpiece home in order; they used hoes to plant trees and shrubs; they laid a walkway in front of the model home. They even erected a large billboard and used wires to secure the supports for a presentation platform. Eventually, the home was ready for the groundbreaking ceremony.


 

" The journey of a thousand miles begins with one first step. Even the saint was once an ordinary human being. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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