TUESDAY TALK: Tsunami of smiles in a land of sorrow
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is very familiar and appropriate to retired Methodist minister, the Reverend Keith Rowbottom and his wife Christine.
After seeing the devastation caused by the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka on Boxing Day 2004, claiming more than 36,600 lives, the couple - who both attend Spalding’s Broad Street Methodist Church - had to act.
Christine and I are two out of hundreds of other people who are supporting the work of Ocean Stars Trust
After visiting Sri Lanka in May 2005, Keith and Christine became involved with the charity Ocean Starts Trust, which helps provide pre-school education to some of the familes affected by the disaster.
Keith said: “A friend of ours, Sri Lankan Methodist minister, the Reverend David Jebb, lost 11 members of his family out on the east coast.
“When David invited us to join him on a goodwill visit by British Methodists to Sri Lanka in May 2005, we accepted and spent three weeks visiting various churches along the country’s east coast.
“Christine and I were supporting the churches in the work they were doing within the devastated communities.
“When we came back to the UK, we raised about £15,000, a lot of which was used to provide resources to nursery schools opened by the churches.
“It was important to us that the money went back to the people we knew were working for the communities.
“Then two or three years after our visit to Sri Lanka, we learned about a church in Hampshire, where a friend of David’s had set up a charity.
“That’s how we joined in with Ocean Stars Trust because they were a group of people who were doing the same work that we had been fundraising for.”
Ocean Stars Trust now supports nearly 20 preschools in Sri Lanka that educate some 750 children, aged between three and five.
Christine, a former chidren’s nursery worker, said: “One of the way in which we helped the charity was by taking lots of photographs and making a DVD as a way of raising awareness and money for Ocean Stars Trust.
“We didn’t want to come back from our visit in 2005 and forget the people of Sri Lanka, although it was very hard to walk away and not do something for such warm people.”
Keith and Christine flew out to Sri Lanka again on Wednesday, October 18, to see first-hand the work that their fundraising is helped to continue.
What started out as a national rebuilding exercise has blossomed into a fully-fledged humanitarian effort, including pre-school education, construction, child sponsorship and cultural links between UK and Sri Lankan schools.
Keith said: “Christine and I are two out of hundreds of other people who are supporting the work of Ocean Stars Trust.
“This purely a personal thing for us but we’ve received lots of support from people who are very interested in what we’re doing.”
You can donate to Ocean Stars Trust at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/keithandchris-srilanka