Toronto-based volunteer group creates model for successful disaster relief plan

    TORONTO, March 14 /CNW/ - Kevin Shea and Richard Boxer, co-chairs of TRIP
Canada, a Toronto-based volunteer group focusing on Sri Lankan tsunami relief
efforts, are pleased to announce the opening of Ketakalawatta, a
self-sufficient community in Tangalle, Sri Lanka, built for 24 families made
homeless in the 2004 tsunami. The opening comes after two years of planning
and the dedicated work of more than 80 volunteers from across Canada, who
traveled to Sri Lanka to pitch in with building efforts.
    In an era of unstable weather systems and political regimes, the efforts
of TRIP Canada volunteers standout as a model for successful disaster
recovery. "Hurricane Katrina was 19 months ago, yet we still see images of the
devastated property there and broken lives that followed. We still hear tales
of funding mismanagement," says Shea. "By contrast, TRIP's efforts in Sri
Lanka have been efficient and considerate of long-term development, even
amidst a looming civil war. In a very short time, TRIP has not only helped to
heal the physical calamities caused by the tsunami - by building homes, for
example - but has also set the people of Tangalle on a path towards long-term
stability, giving them the tools to grow and prosper without aide from abroad.
We feel that the model we've created can be used as a case study for other
agencies doing international relief work."

    Fourteen Months to Build a Village

    The story of TRIP and Ketakalawatta starts with Janet McKelvey, who went
to Sri Lanka immediately following the 2004 tsunami to help with disaster
relief. It turned out to be a fateful trip. She quickly realized that
effective rebuilding efforts were going to be a long-term process, and decided
to make a firm commitment to tsunami recovery. In an effort to channel money
and resources into the hands of those who could use it most, she founded TRIP
Canada. The goal was the creation of a new self-sufficient village containing
24 homes, situated outside the southern coastal city of Tangalle. In December
of 2005, less than a year after the tsunami struck, TRIP sent its first group
of volunteers to Sri Lanka where they began work on the new village of
    That first team arrived at a beautiful piece of land populated by cows,
water buffalo, peacocks, and a handful of workers. By the time the third group
of volunteers left the site in December 2006, just one year after breaking
ground, the dream of Ketakalawatta had started to become reality: most of the
homes were completed, the foundation for a community centre had been laid,
20 local builders and craftsman were employed on site, and the children of the
village were playing cricket, soccer, and volleyball in the open field.
    On February 21st, McKelvey visited Tangalle for the official opening of
Ketakalawatta. "TRIP has accomplished a lot over a very short period of time,"
she says. "We managed to raise $300,000 in contributions from our extremely
generous donors. And nothing would have been possible without the assistance
of Developing World Connections (DWC), our partner and on-site project manager
in Tangalle. We are incredibly proud of what we've accomplished in little more
than a year; not bad compared to some big international philanthropic

    TRIP 2007 - Changing Lives

    TRIP will continue to help the village reach its full potential. "We want
to give a further "hand-up" to people we have grown to love and the new
village we helped to create," says McKelvey. TRIP volunteers will be a
continuing presence in the community (work on a prayer centre and retail shop
is currently underway) and offer help to these families through programs to
enable a bright future, including sponsored English classes and skills
development programs. Fundraising efforts are ongoing and the next volunteer
trip is scheduled for November 30 to December 14, 2007. As McKelvey says,
"What started as a small group committed to building a village has grown to a
much larger team who want to help the community achieve a new level of
self-sufficiency. Our volunteers don't want to walk away from these people who
we have grown to love. Putting a roof over their heads is just the first step
in disaster relief. The next is offering hope for a better future."

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: on TRIP Canada and the village of
Ketakalawatta, and photos of the project, visit, or contact
Janet Mckelvey at (416) 458-1146

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