LifeNets Sri Lanka Reconstruction Project
in the words and images of Kevin and Sonali Fiske

Updated January 23, 2022

This is one of LifeNets' major habitat projets going back to the devastating December 26, 2004 Tsunami. LifeNets was privileged to help in the rebuillidng of homes and seting up livelihood projects as well. The blog (this was before the days of Facebook) that told our story.

Kevin and Sonali Fiske returned from Sri Lanka on December 18, 2005 after completing  phase two of the LifeNets Tsunami Reconstruction Project. Please come back to this page often to see the progress of LifeNets work in Sri Lanka.

October 23, 2007

September's Walk for Hope in Long Beach, California  helps raise money for our continuing to help Sri Lanka Tsunami victims.  Sonali Fiske reports:

2006 Walk for Hope

2005 Walk for Hope

It was damp & chilly morning, with a hint of Autumn in the air. Despite a clear, sunny outlook throughout the week, the rain simply gushed forth that morning, drowning the parking lot & green grass which was to be our walk-route. Despite the downpour, our spirits remained in tact & we cohesively made this Walk For Hope another reality. It was our gift to the community & beautiful people arrived in droves to graciously accept this gift.

It was so inspiring to see the turnout coupled with the enthusiasm & love they brought with them - a cold, drizzly morning did not deter anyone, nor did it dampen their cheerful spirits. It was truly inspiring to absorb.

LifeNets, International was yet again a beneficiary of this Walk. People visited out booth with such curiosity & care - a photo collage of our tsunami reconstruction project on display; stacks of inviting brochures on the Wheelchair Project, Malawi Clinic, & Latin America Sponsorship Program; and our beautifully crafted Album for everyone to peruse.

I was overwhelmed with thoughts of goodness & gratitude, to stand honorably alongside LifeNets' gleaming banner, representing the beautiful & compassionate hearts of all those associated to this amazing organization. Underneath the shade & enclosure of the blue canopy, I answered many intriguing questions & accepted heart-felt words of support for all the many projects & life-altering programs LifeNets has undertaken.

As the rain trickled down once again, all that we could take in were the smiles, gratitude, & loving support from passers-by. It was a truly special day for LifeNets and for everyone who graced the Walk For Hope this year. And the rain poured down, once again.

July 9, 2006

We are happy to show you brief clip (6 min. 21 sec) from documentary produced by Masoud Farand an Afghan/American filmmaker called Force of Nature  about the aftermath of the Tsunami tragedy in Sri Lanka. In the photo on the right is Masoud Farand with 1993 Miss Australia Shivaune Christina and young Ethan, son of Kevin and Sonali Fiske.  Download clip.   Stream clip.  (Requires Realplayer)

February 17, 2006

Since our return to the U.S., our tsunami housing project has been progressing quite steadily. As reported earlier, we officially handed-over 3 of the 8 houses we're building for tsunami-affected families.

These houses are now being fully occupied by their respective homeowners. Their lives have greatly improved and changed since that momentous day. For instance, one of our most beloved recipients, Mrs. Evanona has experienced some improvements to her health. Although she suffers from breast cancer and received a grave prognosis from her doctor, she feels a renewed sense of energy and vitality since moving into her new home.

One of our later, 2nd phase houses... it's walls and roof are complete.

Another first phase house is finished. We will it hand it over in an official ceremony shortly.

The other two families continue to thrive and greatly appreciate their new dwellings, especially since so many thousands of families continue to endure the overcrowded and isolated relief camps.

It's truly amazing what our little LifeNets rebuilding project in Sri Lanka has been able to achieve. To simply touch the lives of a handful of tsunami-affected families alone has made this process so meaningful & worthwhile. If able, we would do it a hundred times over!

Within the next couple of weeks we hope to officially hand-over another two or possibly three homes. Stay tuned ..... .

Another Phase 2 houses - Samson's Family is working tirelessly to
 move into their new home. They are currently laying tiling on the floor

December 27, 2005

Progress Report, 12/26/05

What we have longingly anticipated and worked for all year long finally came true on Friday, December 16 we handed over three of our 8 houses to its respective homeowners. This was the first in several ceremonies that will take place in the coming weeks & months ahead.

It was a touching and poignant moment for us all to see our recipients walk into what will finally be a permanent roof over their heads, instead of the temporary shacks they have grown accustomed to for nearly a year now.

One of the phase two house's that was handed over - it's front wall just needs to be finished

The third house we handed-over - the village came out to witness the ceremony

As reported in May, one of our recipients, Mrs. Evanona, who is a survivor of the tsunami, is also suffering from breast cancer. Although she isn’t certain of her own future, she is grateful to have something to leave to her children one day. It was particularly stirring to watch her cautiously walk through the newly hung door to her new home. She held her hands to her face and sobbed quietly with her back against the freshly painted walls.

It is difficult to grasp what this momentous event means to our recipients having endured the tsunami’s rage, its after-effects, the extensive loss of life within their villages, and having existed under harsh conditions within the relief camps, receiving one’s own house can seem a bit overwhelming.

Through their tears, they are all so very grateful for what they call their "gift from above."

Some of the beneficiaries of the 3rd house. The housing minister, Mr. Gajadeera is pictured next to Kevin

Officially handing over the keys to Mrs. Evanona

Mrs. Evanona's new home

All the recipients of this home. Sonali Fiske and Mark Ranchigoda in the background

Each house, built 10 feet above the ground on concrete stilts, is approximately 620 square feet. It contains a total of three rooms, including one bathroom, electrical and lighting fixtures. Although they do have their own beds and a few kitchen utensils received from various non-profit groups during the initial relief effort, there isn’t much else. However, they’re hopeful that through donations and their ability to salvage used items, they will shortly have all that they need.

Yes, it was definitely a festive and moving day for all of us present. A collective effort made possible by so many caring and generous LifeNets supporters from all over.

We will write again with more news regarding hand-over ceremonies shortly.

December 18, 2005

Progress Report, 12/16/05

We are pleased to report that we have completed two very successful livelihood initiatives as part of our project here in Sri Lanka.

Our first venture was in donating a sewing machine to help supplement income to a poor family in Waduwa – a village approximately an hour outside of Sri Lanka’s capital. Gunawathi, a wife and mother of two, was desperate to create some revenue in order to help purchase food for her family. Her husband, is employed by the local police station, however his income wasn’t sufficient to make ends meet.

Since Gunwathi was a skilled tailor in her spare time, she was anxious to sew pillowcases, tablecloths, kitchen towels, and more to help stretch their budget. We purchased a Singer electric and/or food pedal sewing machine for Gunwathi to do just that. She was truly grateful to LifeNets for giving her this opportunity.

Secondly, we traveled over 5 hours to a rural and tranquil little interior village called Malvathugoda, where we were warmly greeted by all 300 of the village’s inhabitants. One of their beloved residents, 27-year old Dumitha was in dire need of some assistance.

You see, young Dumitha has been completely blind since he turned 15 and has therefore struggled to be self-sufficient and thereby support his widowed mother. Determined to do something, he began by selling local treats right out of his home. Today, Dumitha has a thriving business and sells various items from milk powder to ink pens to his surrounding villagers.

However, to truly allow his micro-enterprise efforts to soar, he needed an added tool to help generate more business. LifeNets has therefore purchased an industrial-sized refrigerator/freezer for Dumitha’s little village store. With this donation, he hopes to sell much more, including yogurt, fresh milk, butter, and ice cream. You see, this will be the first such item introduced to this entire village – this little rural community has never had a refrigerator up until now.

Some day, Dumitha tells us, he hopes to collect enough money to help patch up their leaky and decaying roof. With the help of our supporters worldwide, we have made a significant difference in the lives of an entire 300-person village and contributed to the dream of a blind yet industrious and very thankful young man.

The entire Malvathugoda Village arrived to greet us - including the media!

Young Dumitha receives his gift from LifeNets

Gunwathi receives her sewing machine

Part of Sri Lanka's beautiful pageantry - a local drummer invites us to their village

We tour Dumitha's little village shop _ position his new refrigerator in place


December 11, 2005

Progress Report, 12/11/05

We are so happy with the great progress made in constructing our two second-phase houses. House One is currently having its outer walls plastered; its inner walls are complete. Its electrical outlets have already been installed & the required plumbing will be fitted next. Within the next few days, the floors will be finished with red cement.

House Two’s brick walls are currently being erected & the walls are scheduled to be finished tomorrow. Workers are hurriedly notching and forming the coconut wood girders in preparation for the next big procedure – the roof.

The current stage of House Two

Prepping the wooden girders for the Samson House

Madusha Sanjeevani Samson and Sonali FiskeI. This small bed sleeps 3

House One's outer walls are currently being plastered

House Two’s homeowner Mr. Samson, is a carpenter by trade and he is therefore deeply involved in the building process. The Samson’s, a family of six is enduring great hardship as they await the completion of their house. Since two months after the tsunami, they have lived in a confined and overcrowded two-room temporary shack, no greater than 10 by 20 feet. Nearly a year later, they are weary of the cramped space and long for a place to call home.

The Samson’s scarcely have any furnishings; apart from two make-shift beds, a handful of donated kitchen utensils, and the few used clothes they own. When they returned to their property five days after the devastating tsunami, all of their belongings were buried in a swamp behind their home.

Due to the massive amounts of debris and contaminated water, they weren’t able to salvage anything. The Samson’s are truly hopeful that they will have the good fortune to furnish their new home. We were humbled as Mrs. Samson related: “we don’t worry about the extras – we are extremely grateful that we will finally have peace in having a permanent home.”

December 9, 2005

Progress Report, 12/09/05

Again, we were all so fortunate to present various school supplies to many of the poorer and tsunami-affected children of Sri Lanka. Derek Weis and Anya Marcum helped distribute pencils, pens, erasers, rulers, folders, crayons, colored pencils and more to children at two separate schools.

Firstly, we greeted over 45 little girls and boys aged 6 –12 at the Yala Vidyala within a rural village in the southeast part of the island. This is a greatly underprivileged school, where children share their school supplies; some children sit on floor mats and share an overcrowded, open-air classroom. We noticed that there were no desks for the children’s use, however they didn’t complain about their shortcomings – instead only expressed gratitude for the little we brought with us.

Secondly, we gifted more of the same items to over 50 kids of the Osuvinna Primary School located in Tissamaharama. The kids were on a field trip when we bumped into them in town. Their teacher informed us that many of the children had never seen a film on the big screen, so they were being treated to a local film called Butterfly Wings – a story about a boy overcoming difficult odds after the tsunami.

We express our thanks to so many of our supporters in the southern California area for donating these gifts for these children. Many of you worked tirelessly towards our donation drive and extended your hearts to make such a remarkable difference in these kids’ lives. Again, we sincerely say, thank you.

Anya distributes pencils to the school children at Yala  Vidyalaya

Derek with the boys of the Osuvinna Primary School

The kids receiving their gifts from Derek

December 6, 2005

Progress Report, 12/02/05

One by one, each house is having its roof installed and its walls plastered.

We’re certainly entering the final stages of construction.

This week, we worked on fitting yet another phase one house with its roof.

It took over three full hours to fit each sheet in its place and then fasten every sheet to a wooden girder. Metal hooks are used to further secure the 12-inch overhang from beneath the roof. Each sheet weighs approximately 70 pounds apiece and therefore required much effort to carry them up to the roof level, over 25 feet above ground.

The plastering of one of the four houses is almost complete. This process takes approximately four days to finish. The method of plastering is a highly tedious task in itself. Firstly, the sand used for plastering is extracted from a local riverbed. Then, it must be painstakingly sifted through a 1/8 inch grid screen so the sand is suitable for plastering.

Thirdly, this sand is hand-mixed using buckets and hoes using cement and water.

The necessary scaffolding is built using coconut wood and tied-off with coconut (coir) rope. Shortly, the plastering on yet another house will be completed.

A total of 26 roof sheets are needed per house

Putting the roof on


Sifting the sand in preparation for the cement

Kevin and Derek helping to get one of our work trucks out of a rut created by heavy rains.

Preparing to install the roof sheets

The painstaking task of plastering the walls


November 30, 2005

Progress Report, 11/25/05

Our first-phase houses are starting to look more complete now that the roofs are being installed. It takes a lot of work force to set the coconut girders and roof sheets in their proper place. The local coconut wood is highly fibrous and dense and therefore requires more labor to carry and place it within its groove. Each groove is carefully notched to match each individual girder. These aren’t your average 2 by 6’s commonly used in the U.S.; the girders and rafters are laboriously hand-shaped and therefore require much careful preparation.

Remember… there are no power tools in use!   [read MORE after the photos below]

The roof is up!

Anya and Derek hand out milk to the children

Tying the wooden girders with coconut rope

Setting the girders in place in preparation for the roof

The children say good-bye and thank you!

Little children waiting their turn to receive powdered milk

One coconut girder spans the width of the house and extends an additional 2 feet on either side. The essential girders support the rafters that will eventually hold the roof sheeting in place. The highly durable 4 by 6 corrugated roof sheets are made locally at a nearby roofing materials yard.

Once again, we were able to visit the Thallarama Relief Camp located just minutes from our job site in Matara. There, we distributed over 67, one-pound packets of powdered milk to benefit 67 families with small children.

When they discovered that we came bearing powdered milk, the children were jumping for joy – Sri Lankan children have grown accustomed to drinking milk as part of their regular diet. The volunteer coordinator at the camp informed us that these kids haven’t had milk for nearly a week. One particular mother said she had prayed that morning for someone to send milk for her baby. When we arrived with our bags of milk, she was certain it was a miracle.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving Season, this day gave us a whole lot to be grateful for. More from our job site on Monday….

November 22, 2005

Progress Report, 11/22/05

Second-Phase Houses

Both our second-phase houses are coming along very nicely. They are both located next door to each other within the rural village of Paramulla in Matara. House One has its walls erected and its roof will be installed within the week. Unlike our first phase houses, this particular dwelling is made of red brick walls and consists of two stories.

It will accommodate a large family of 9. This entire family was very fortunate to survive the attack of the tsunami, yet some of their members suffered injuries to varying degrees.

Second phase house ready for its roof later this week

More recipients of of our second phase housing

Little Sanmal with his father, _ Kevin on the left. Mother, Seetha remains bedridden.

The slab is curing. Its walls will be installed shortly

One particular member, young Seetha, was six months pregnant when the perilous wall of water attacked their village. Whilst climbing onto a half-broken roof in order to avoid the onslaught, she was bitten by a King Cobra, a highly venomous snake found in many parts of Asia.

Miraculously, Seetha survived her harrowing experience. However, since she wasn’t able to receive immediate medical attention, she continues to experience pain in her nervous system and remains bedridden. Despite all this, she is grateful to have given birth to a healthy baby boy, Sanmal, a mere three months later.

House Two, had its living level slab poured on the 17th of this month and the cement is currently curing for a period of 10 days. We will start building its block walls on Friday, November 25.

We are very happy at the successful collaboration we have with our beneficiaries. We are constantly reminded of their gratitude each time we visit the job site. They are so very appreciative for the incredible gift they are receiving, especially since so many families go without. They wish all LifeNets supporters to know that they are indebted to all of you. Their only regret is not being able to fully reciprocate your kindness and generosity.


November 17, 2005

One of the many pleasures of our tsunami housing project here is in visiting some of the numerous temporary relief camps along Sri Lanka’s coastline.

Recently, we had the privilege of spending time with some of the displaced children at the Thallarama Temple Relief Camp located a mere 2 miles north of our job site.

The kids show off their art work

The children were ecstatic as Derek Weis blew
balloons for them

Children singing songs for us

Some of the orphaned kids (note Ethan on the left with cap)

Anya Marcum hands gifts to the children

Anya has fun with the kids

There, we greeted over 50 children; some orphaned by the tsunami, with various gifts donated from friends, family and overall LifeNets supporters from the U.S. Each child received a gift bag filled with: 24-pack crayons, pencils, erasers, ruler, stickers, balloons, and candy.

The kids sat excitedly on colorful floor mats, with their hands outstretched, smiling and giggling as we distributed their goodies. It truly touched our hearts as we watched them carefully open their bags with delight. We heard one child utter: "Is this all for me?" We then collectively joined the kids in a little arts and crafts project using construction paper, crayons and stickers. They loved the opportunity to color and have a little fun!

To show their appreciation the kids held hands and sang sweet songs for us.

Little Nirmala sang: "My mother and father have gone away in a big wave of the sea. I await by the shore, knowing they will come back to me." We sat mesmerized and filled with emotion at their precious little offerings.

It wasn’t easy getting back in our car and returning to our job site.

November 13, 2005

We are very happy to welcome two of our Church youth and fellow LifeNets supporters with us from Garden Grove, California. Anya Marcum and Derek Weis are volunteering their time and helping out towards the tsunami rebuilding effort in Sri Lanka. We love their company and truly appreciate their youthful energy and enthusiasm towards our work here.

Yesterday we worked on the final stages of the block walls. It takes a lot of effort to heave these chunky cement blocks up on to the living level of the structure, especially since they are saturated with water after the countless rain showers we’re continuing to experience here.

Preparing to cut/size the coconut rafters

Derek Weis lending a helping hand

Working Together - hauling cement blocks to prepare the walls.

The ridge and girders are on!

It takes several hours to let the walls cure and set until the next stage of building – the roof. Today, the coconut wood rafters were cut, notched and chiseled in preparation for installing the roof. The ridges and the rafters were hand-hewn with an axe-type hand tool, which is a tedious and time-consuming task in itself. Today, this task alone involved up to five hours of labor. At the end of the day, the crew perfectly sized and placed the rafters for all the houses.

The last concrete staircase was poured today as well.

In addition, the corrugated roof sheets are presently at the job site and will be installed within the next couple of days. The windows and doors are on order and should be on site in about a week.

All this is being achieved amidst spells of heavy rain showers due to a prevailing southwest Monsoon season. There has been a dominating rainstorm and consequent flooding in southern India, hence Sri Lanka has dealt with the tail end of this storm for the past several weeks.

On Friday, we will update you on the phase-two houses currently being constructed.

Kevin and Sonali



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