Earlier this year, Kerala was hit with the worst flooding the state has seen in almost a century.
We’re lucky here in Varkala to have been largely unaffected, but many areas further inland have been completely devastated by the disaster. We’re open for business, as are most other businesses locally – but there’s still a huge amount of work to be done to get the rest of the region back on its feet.
We caught up with Paul van Gelder of SISP (Sebastian Indian Social Projects), a not-for-profit operating in Kovalam, a little further down the coast from us, to chat to him about the work the charity is doing, and what comes next…
It’s been a few months now since the awful flooding hit Kerala earlier this year. You guys have been there since the very first days of the disaster, what’s your take on how is the area doing now?
Slowly life is picking up again but it will take years for tens of thousands to get back to where they were before the floods. Hundreds of thousands had managed over the past decades to come to low or medium middle-class life but lost everything in the floods: their agriculture land, their animals, their house … Luckily there is a great solidarity to help each other.
Thousands of houses that could be cleaned and repaired are housing families again. Keralites are enormously resilient and have already set-up new small eateries, shops, hotels, workshops and so on.
What are the priorities for Kerala in helping the state and its communities get back on their feet?
The government states that efficient assessment of the damages and the costs is the first priority followed by finding the billions it will take to rebuild. Restoring tourism, infrastructure, industries, hospitals and schools and housing.
Can you tell us about the work that SISP has been doing to support the relief effort?
SISP is not located in the flood area so our work was limited to crisis flood relief (collecting and distributing relief goods, sending teams to clean up houses). For now we are back to focus on our own work in this area that was already badly affected by cyclone OCKHI in December 2017.
What next for Kerala, and for the work that you’re doing?
SISP has for the past 20 years always been giving great importance to free education of school drop-outs, to women’s empowerment, family welfare and creating employment for the disadvantaged combined with working toward a greener society. The same will be needed for the whole of Kerala and the rebuild works will profit from this as well as the start of a new beginning.
For people at home wanting to help, what’s the best thing to do?
Kerala is and stays a beautiful country, tourism has been one the main incomes of the state. Tourism is back on its feet again and people should come and visit Kerala. It is safe to visit and one the best holiday destinations. By holidaying in Kerala you will help the rebuild of the State.
All NGOs in Kerala are working directly or indirectly on the rebuild of Kerala, your financial support will give them the means to continue their works.
#KeralaIsOpen – by Samsonite:
If you’re interested in donating to support the continued relief effort in Kerala, you can do so online here.
And if you’d like to visit us in Kerala, we’d love to show you all there is to love about this beautiful part of the world. Get in touch with us here.Back to Journal