Pain lingers for tsunami survivors

Pain lingers for tsunami survivors

Donations and other forms of aid relief may have helped survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami rebuild their lives, but they cannot fill the emotional void that comes with losing a loved one.

That was one message that Singapore Red Cross (SRC) volunteer Irvin Tan, 32, tried to capture in his photos, part of an exhibition commemorating the disaster's 10th anniversary, at the National Library Building.

Mr Tan's photos focus heavily on Ms Sanjeewani, who was just 17, newly married and pregnant when the tsunami struck her town of Hambantota in Sri Lanka. It killed her husband.

"She may have got a new house from relief funds, but you can tell she's still hurting from it," said Mr Tan, who visited Sri Lanka in September.

"I wanted to show that, yes, donations have helped, but there's always more we can do. Our aid should not end with the money," added Mr Tan, who owns a creative agency with his wife.

The exhibition, which runs till Dec 30, also features pictures taken by fellow volunteers - Straits Times journalist Hoe Pei Shan, 26, and humanitarian professional Carlo Heathcote, 44. They documented the lives of other tsunami survivors in Indonesia and the Maldives respectively. "Many people focus on the destruction and aid, but these photos are about the survivors, and how they are rebuilding their lives," said Ms Hoe.

At the exhibition's launch yesterday, Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin recalled a recent visit to Aceh. "I was struck by the resilience of those who lost their family members in the tragedy - their ability to transform their initial pain and despair to strength, hope and courage in times of adversity," said Mr Tan. He was the commander of the Singapore Armed Forces Humanitarian Assistance Task Force in Meulaboh in 2004.

Singapore contributed close to $89 million to the Tidal Waves Asia Fund, the largest donation received by the SRC.

This article was first published on Dec 16, 2014.
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