Tag Archives: Tsunami

Novice Monks of Sri Wewekarama

Between 2003 and 2009, I made 6 trips to Sri Lanka. The first was a month long trip to visit the ancient Buddhist sites and included a 1 week meditation retreat. The other 5, beginning a few weeks after December 26, 2004 were to help rebuild a village on the southwest coast that had been leveled by the deluge.
I spent most of my residence living in the Sangapala (monks’ quarters) of the small temple, Sri Wewekarama, in the village of Godagama. If you want to know where that is, Copy and paste these coordinates into the “Search” box of Google Earth.  6°10’52.00″N, 80° 4’45.41″E. You’ll be directly in the center of the temple complex.

If you want to know how I happened to be there and what I was doing, I have posted a few of my “letters home” at https://johnrobertsphotography.me/journal/letters-from-sri-lanka/ on this web site.

(In the photo at top, Nalanda and Nalaka are finishing the laundry by laying all the monks’ robes out to dry on the lawn in front of the preschool)

6 Aug 2010  Nalaka found a wounded bird and was nursing it back to health. He was a little bit more mischievous than this somewhat cherubic photo implies.  Sri Wewekarama, Godagama, Sri Lanka
Nalaka found a wounded bird and was nursing it back to health. He was a little bit more mischievous than this somewhat cherubic photo implies. Sri Wewekarama, Godagama, Sri Lanka
12 Oct 2010 Nalaka was setting by the cook fire that the novices had been using until the new residence was completed. He was eating yogurt when I walked around the corner of the lean-to and surprised him. Twelve at the time, his mother had asked the temple to take him in to protect him from an abusive father.
Nanda was setting by the cook fire that the novices had been using until the new residence was completed. He was eating yogurt when I walked around the corner of the lean-to and surprised him. Twelve at the time, his mother had asked the temple to take him in to protect him from an abusive father.
Novice monks on their way to pirivena Many poor families place their sons with temples so that they can receive an education that they otherwise couldn't afford. Larger temples in an area will maintain a monks' school or pirivena. These 3 young novices walk about one mile each way to school and back each day.
Novice monks on their way to pirivena
Many poor families place their sons with temples so that they can receive an education that they otherwise couldn’t afford. Larger temples in an area will maintain a monks’ school or pirivena.
These 3 young novices walk about one mile each way to school and back each day.
Subodhdhamma Thero and Dickie Dogs wander everywhere in Sri Lanka. Most seem unattached to people but do have a favorite spot on the road to lie in. They aren't abused but they don't have their ears scratched either. Dickie is lucky in that he must be the most loved (and most washed) dog in the country.  Subodhdhamma, a 12 year old novice at Bellanwila in Colombo, and Dickie are constant companions.
Subodhdhamma Thero and Dickie
Dogs wander everywhere in Sri Lanka. Most seem unattached to people but do have a favorite spot on the road to lie in. They aren’t abused but they don’t have their ears scratched either.
Dickie is lucky in that he must be the most loved (and most washed) dog in the country.
Subodhdhamma, a 12 year old novice at Bellanwila in Colombo, and Dickie are constant companions.
novices -15-9
Working to keep the temple compound well maintained.

In Memoriam

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26 December 2012,  marked the 8th anniversary of the devastating Tsunami that took untold lives around the Indian Ocean. After 4 weeks of fund raising here at home, I arrived in Sri Lanka in early February to join friends there and from Singapore to help rebuild lives and homes for a small village on the southwest coast. The photo above is of a mass burial site. With hundreds dead from ‘my’ village and over a thousand from an inundated train nearby, large burial pits were hastily dug with bulldozers. Buddhists monks did their best to perform last rites as body after body was placed in this pit and covered with beach sand. This grave, on a narrow strip between the coast road and the ocean contained hundreds of bodies. Later, many were exhumed and reburied more traditionally.

The earthquake was caused by subduction and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (98 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. Imagine the effects of Hurricane Sandy multiplied a full 1000 times.

I went on to spend a total of 2 months there in 2005 and another 4 months over the next 5 years. So each Boxing Day my thoughts turn there. Through a computer school and internet center that I helped set up, I still stay in touch with some of the villagers. The village is doing better now but it can never be the same. If you are interested to know more, I created a website to report back to donors and chronicle the progress of the project. I haven’t updated it in several years but you can find it here: http://kuruppukanda.wordpress.com/