For most, the 2004 Asian tsunami seems a distant tragedy. But in the Lam Kaen-Kuk community of Phang-nga, Thailand, it's very real.
The tsunami killed fishermen, destroyed boats and equipment, and slashed the local market for their catch for more than two years.
Three years after the tsunami, the community is rebuilding with help from the Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative, a joint program of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and Kenan Institute Asia (KIAsia).
One visible result is the new Lam Kaen Fishing Pier and Boat Repair Center, dedicated in January. KIAsia and local fishermen, led by Chuan Sripanang, developed the facility with support from the initiative and its major funders, the Bush-Clinton Tsunami Relief Fund and William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust.
"May this facility give you the tools you need to rise above the heartbreak and build a brighter future for yourselves, your families and your community," former U.S. President Bill Clinton said in a letter read at the opening ceremony.
The pier and center provide a safe and cost-effective place to dock and repair boats, unload fresh fish and eventually attract tourists. A new pulley system lets fishermen hoist their boats for repair.
Judith Cone, vice president of emerging strategies for the Kauffman Foundation, was among the visitors present for the dedication.
"I was very heartened to see this approach to economic development because it's very much in tune with the character of the people and the respect they have for their environment," Cone said. "The ceremony to launch the new boat repair facility was great for the people. They were so proud to show us what they had been a part of rebuilding for their own community."
The recovery initiative has focused on building local capacity for economic growth by promoting entrepreneurship in a variety of occupations and educational programs that can create a local sustainable tourism industry.
The Tablamu Praratchathan School, for instance, received a grant from KIAsia to develop a recycling bank and manage a mangrove forest learning site behind the school. This effort aims to teach youth how to conserve their community's environment.
In addition, environmental activities are integrated into the curriculum. The school is launching a practical recycling bank that will provide small amounts of revenue while helping students learn. In mathematics class, students can calculate the value of recyclable items. In art, they can develop an attractive campaign to persuade the public to understand and cooperate.
Thomas S. Kenan III, a trustee of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, took a student-led tour of the mangrove forest and was struck by the ability of even the youngest children to learn from the activities. Children as young as first grade sorted crayons, pencils and pens for the recycling bank.
"They have sort of learned accounting," Kenan said. "They have this enormous pile of rubbish that they were cleaning and sorting and keeping ledger books on. It was incredible because they were so young. The students were just delightful, and they are being trained how to appreciate and protect their natural environment."
Fishermen demonstrate the new boat lift at the January dedication of the Lam Kaen Fishing Pier and Boat Repair Center. It is a visible symbol of economic recovery after the devastating 2004 tsunami.
Laoa Saguantai's family lost their home and livelihood when the tsunami struck Phi Phi Island in southern Thailand. Now she leads a community-savings group organized and funded through a KIAsia program. (Photo by Neil Caudle/Endeavors)
Thomas Kenan, trustee of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, visits the Tablamu Praratchathan School in Phang-nga, Thailand.
UNC journalism students capture the people, culture and beauty of the tsunami-stricken area in a multimedia project called "Andaman Rising."
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