Canadians still helping 5 years after deadly tsunami

It's been five years since countries on the shores of the Indian Ocean were devastated by a deadly tsunami, and Canadians continue to play an important role in the rebuilding process.
Residents stand on a flooded street in Lhokseumawe, Aceh province, Indonesia, on Dec. 26, 2004. Tsunami waves swamped villages in countries on the shores of the Indian Ocean after a massive undersea earthquake. ((Associated Press))
It's been five years since countries on the shores of the Indian Ocean were devastated by a deadly tsunami, and Canadians continue to play an important role in the rebuilding process.

Pamela Davie, a Red Cross employee from Ottawa who went to Sri Lanka days after the Dec. 26, 2004, disaster, arrived to find people standing in stunned disbelief amid the ruins of their homes, their lives changed forever.

"Many of them had lost children," she said, "because many children were killed in this disaster, so they wanted to talk to you about their loss."

More than 200,000 people in several nations were killed in the disaster. At that early point, Davie said, the Red Cross focused on the immediate needs of the survivors— food, shelter.

There's a village in Indonesia that was cut off from the mainland. They were relocated and rehoused and they've decided to call themselves Canada Village.

In Canada, the Canadian Red Cross raised a record $360 million to begin the rebuilding process. Davie's work took her to India, Indonesia and finally back to Sri Lanka.

The Red Cross rebuilt hospitals, and trained disaster response volunteers in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives. As well, the Red Cross has built approximately 6,500 homes in those countries, with walls and roofs sturdy enough to last generations.

"We've ensured that they have a higher-quality house so that it is disaster resistant," Davie said, "because we have to remember when disaster strikes, it's often the most vulnerable who are affected — and it's because they have poor-quality housing."

As important, Davie said, was to help people adjust to their changed lives, and Canada's help in the aftermath of the disaster has left a real legacy.

"There's a village in Indonesia that was cut off from the mainland," she said. "They were relocated and rehoused and they've decided to call themselves Canada Village."

The villagers have extended an invitation to all Canadians to visit them, Davie said.

Davie said she plans to finally come home next year when the Red Cross is scheduled to wind up its work.