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First the Tsunami, Then Fire in the Camp: India


 Image of teepee-style tarpaulins in Karigal Nagar, India
The 2,500 families residing in Karigal Nagar are now living under teepee-style tarpaulins.
Caroline Jenkins, communications manager for CCF-Australia, spent three months in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia as part of CCF's effort to tell the story of tsunami survivors. “First the Tsunami, Then Fire in the Camp" focuses on the efforts of five tsunami-ravaged communities in India as the people within survive two fires in their internally displaced persons camp.


A never-ending stream of laughing and screaming children rush from under the sagging canvas of a tent, which is their play space.

Two teen youth volunteers do their best to restrain the children as they jump in front of the camera. For the time being, the children are oblivious to their dire surroundings.

A month earlier, fire destroyed the entire camp of Karigal Nagar where these children and their families have been living since the tsunami destroyed their homes on the coast of India.

There were two fires in this camp.

The first one affected only half of the camp. The second destroyed everything, including the temporary shelters made of rubberized asbestos. 

The 2,500 families residing in this fire-wrecked camp are now living under teepee-style tarpaulins on small slabs of cement.

And Christian Children’s Fund is again distributing emergency relief items.

Each day, children stand in line to collect water from the delivery truck and carry the pots – six per family – back to their tents. There are no toilets.

But CCF Child Centered Spaces offer a bright spot in this otherwise bleak, familiar picture. 

“We work here every day,” says an exhausted K. Manju, who is one of two volunteers running the morning and afternoon activities for 200 children attending the Child Centered Space. “I’ve learned about what the children living here need and, as a volunteer, how to help the children through community participation.”


 Image of volunteer K. Manju and children
Volunteer K. Manju (back row, wearing black) works with 200 displaced children.


CCF is helping the children through:

  • psychosocial support
  • exercise
  • personal development
  • health and hygiene
  • the provision of learning materials
  • structured and recreational activities

Five different fishing communities moved to the Karigal Nagar camp – 1.5km inland – because they were unable to remain within the government-declared coastal buffer zone, reaching 500 meters inland from the beach. The government has declared this area off limits for rebuilding. Thus, the country’s fishing communities have to wait to see where their new homes will be built.

The disputes that initially arose from inter-communal living – competition for humanitarian assistance and differing beliefs – are now the least of parents’ worries. Now, they worry about health- and hygiene-related illnesses, malnutrition and new urban problems such as drugs, prostitution and HIV/AIDS.

CCF continues to reduce these risks to children through Child Centered Spaces and parental involvement in Child Wellbeing Committees. But life is difficult for these communities, which are having to start over for a second time. First, from the tsunami and now from the fires.