An upcoming Kiwi documentary recounts an Auckland woman's initiative in fundraising to help Sri Lankan fishermen hit by the Boxing Day tsunami, writes Renee Jones
Mary Taylor has dedicated almost two years to helping people in Sri Lanka devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. The Pt Chevalier woman was so moved by the disaster that she raised $75,000 to provide materials for fishermen in the Welipatanvila area to make 100 outrigger boats, calling her mission Project Oru 100. Her remarkable journey back to the south coast has been made into a documentary, Turning the Tide, by Auckland film-maker Catherine Madigan and will hit cinemas this week. It follows her return one year after the disaster to see if the money she raised over 15 months through dinner parties and donations was being used as intended. Mary knew Sri Lanka before the tsunami: from 2002 she had visited several times taking groups on her food and tea tours. It was her love for the country that motivated her mission. ''I decided pretty quickly that I needed to do something. People want to give but they want assurances as well that the money will get through. I thought, 'There must be a way of doing this.' ''They [the fishermen] had nothing?just the clothes they were wearing . . . and one year later they were back at sea. ''One man said after the tsunami he came down to the beach, looked out to sea and thought, 'What will become of my life?' He said it [getting the boats back] was like having the sun come up and put its rays on them.'' Project Oru 100 has affected around 1000 people and Mary is already working on more fundraising programmes. She says although most of the fishermen have rebuilt their homes, many still live in temporary shelters. ''It was sombre but was also hopeful. They still smile though, with that Sri Lankan smile.'' Turning the Tide, Academy Cinemas, September 7 and 16. A new scheme, Project Ice, aims to build an ice plant to allow the fishermen to trade at a fair price. Ph Mary Taylor 846 5334.