Deerwood Kiwanis Club of Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville Kiwanis are teaming up to fund a field trip for children who survived the Asian tsunami of 2004.

One Sri Lankan village alone, Pandiruppu, suffered 1,711 fatalities--mostly women, children, and the elderly. Kiwanis clubs responded to the plight of Pandiruppu's tsunami traumatized children by launching the Visions of Hope Project in 2005.

Patrick Harrigan, the American coordinator of the Kiwanis Visions of Hope Project, recently returned to settle in Jacksonville after living twenty years in Sri Lanka. He still coordinates the project as a member of Jacksonville's Kiwanis community.

"The tsunami is just one hardship that these children had to endure," says Patrick. "They have endured poverty, ethnic conflict and natural catastrophe in a remote corner of Sri Lanka. That is why Kiwanis clubs chose to help these children."

Besides a daily nutrition program and after school tutoring, the kids also get daily directed play therapy to promote their recovery from the tsunami nightmare. For instance, to overcome their fear of the sea they learn to swim.

Once a year, says Patrick, the children are also taken on an educational field trip. In 2006 they visited a national park where they camped overnight and saw wild elephants. In 2007 they were thrilled to visit the island's central highlands with its tea gardens and waterfalls, where they felt cool breeze for the first time in their lives.

But last year their field trip had to be canceled due to intensified conflict in Sri Lanka.

Now with the long ethnic conflict resolved, 50 children and 10 adults are eagerly planning a three-day educational bus trip in late August. They plan to visit an ancient ruined capital city, a World Heritage site the Sigiriya rock fortress, and other natural wonders.

Without help from abroad, however, there would be no 2009 field trip at all for children of Pandiruppu. The cost of the field trip is not covered in the project's operating budget.

Jacksonville Kiwanis Clubs, however, are challenging one another to pledge support so disadvantaged these children can broaden their vision of the world. They have nearly achieved their goal of $850 that would meet the costs of transport, meals, and admissions for all 60 children and adults.

Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time. Founded in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan, Kiwanis International today comprises 600,000 members--men, women, boys and girls--worldwide.

See also: Deerwood Kiwanis Club web site