After watching the images on TV, following endless links on the Internet and seeing the photos of destruction in newspapers, Bob Loew was convinced. He needed to find a way to help with recovery efforts from the widespread destruction caused by the December 26, 2004 tsunami. After all, he is a former engineer and could use his skills to help rebuild.
“I was very personally impacted by the news of the tsunami as I think most people were,” Loew said. “I was stunned by the stories of destruction and personal suffering.” To Loew, a former Peace Corps volunteer, the solution seemed obvious — asking the Peace Corps if there was a way he could help.
“They told me they were looking for people with language skills who had served in Southeast Asia before,” said Loew. “I understood that. So I just put the whole thing aside.”
Loew simply resumed his job as a high school mathematics teacher, relatively content to watch the relief efforts through the media coverage. But in April Loew received an unexpected, yet welcomed phone call from the Peace Corps. The language requirements initially requested had been relaxed, and Loew was soon off to Sri Lanka, where he volunteered from July 1 until September 30, 2005. Through its affiliation with the Peace Corps, Loew worked directly with Christian Children's Fund on various projects in Matara.
|Loew worked with CCF staff in Sri Lanka, helping supervise five projects in the southern district of Matara.|
Following the tsunami, the Peace Corps contacted a few other organizations, hoping to form a partnership in the heavily damaged country.
And in CCF, the Peace Corps found a perfect complement.
“This has worked out beautifully,” Loew said. “The Peace Corps has the skilled manpower and CCF has their feet on the ground in Sri Lanka already and has an established presence.”
Loew worked with CCF staff, helping supervise five projects in the southern district of Matara, one of five Sri Lankan districts in which CCF provides help. Loew was involved in the initial planning stages for three high schools - Rahula, Ilma and St. Thomas — as well as for the Matara General Hospital and a children’s park. He easily worked 10- to 12-hour days making sure the projects were designed and properly planned. It was all just an extension of his previous training.
“When this opportunity came up, I looked at it as my whole life and all my experiences converging on this one particular assignment,” he said. Loew visited each site every day or two to monitor the quality of the construction — often making visits during heavy rains to ensure proper drainage.
Ever since that December day when the tsunami crashed upon the unsuspecting shores of Southeast Asia, helping in some way is what Bob Loew wanted to do — and he got his chance.