Kerala has always been extra special in the monsoons. The rains that are usually between June and September are not only a relief from the extreme summers but also bring freshness in the air, the greenery appears greener than before, and the beautiful smell and sound of rain really relaxes you.
This year however the rains were quite intense. Usually the monsoons have short thundershowers followed by sunshine, but this year downpours were different. Like always we continued our volunteer programs in Cochin throughout June and July. Most volunteers always love the monsoon weather as its a little cooler when it rains. However, the rains intensified by July and August and a state of red alert was declared by the evening of 14th August 2018, as several dams that provide hydro electricity to the state were flooding. Almost 5 dam shutters were opened to release water which caused the Periyar river to overflow. Moreover the biggest danger was that of the biggest dam in Idukki district could break due to overflow. A group of our volunteers en route to Munnar, a gorgeous tea plantatation area in the Idukki district had to turn back as news of landslides and flooding had emerged. Luckily they turned back and returned to our volunteer house in Fort Kochi as Idukki was completely destroyed within few hours(with most being air evacuated).
By the 15th August, eight districts in Kerala (including Ernakulam where Cochin is) were on red alert and the airport was shut down due to flooding. Whilst the rest of India was celebrating Independence Day on the 15th August, Kerala was facing one of the biggest natural disasters of its time in over a century. Fort Kochi (where our volunteer house is located) in Cochin was one of the few areas not affected by flooding. 20kms around us was complete devastation. The navy and army were deployed to help with evacuation efforts. Relief camps were quickly set up in most non flooded areas to give shelter to flood victims. Onam (the biggest Kerala festival( and Eid (a Muslim festival) fell in the same week as this happened and no one had the heart to celebrate anymore. Communities that were not affected were all gathering (and cooking) food, clothes and whatever they could fundraise to help those who had lost their homes and families. It was an calamity that Keralites had not witnessed in years and regardless of religion, caste, and status, everyone came together to help out.
In total 2 million people have been displaced from their homes, and floods and landslides have taken the lives of more than 400 people. Inspired by local efforts with relief work our volunteers in Kerala at the time started a fundraiser and relief efforts to help victims whose homes were destroyed. A total of £2170 was raised. Funds were spent on (in INR)
- Garments (Kids, Ladies &Gents )44,698
- Bed sheets, Blankets & Towels33,308
- Slippers (Children, ladies & Gents)1200
- Sanitary & Hygiene things (Napkins, Baby and Adult Diapers, brush, broom, wipers etc)28,090
- Grocery -Cereals, Pulses, Vegetables, curry powders etc-52,923
- Medicines 3600
- Transportation charges ( Tuk tuk & Taxi)6760
- Refreshments 300
Items have been donated not only to relief camps but also directly to victims after visiting their homes. We would like to thank our volunteer who were present at the time and helped out tirelessly everyday with relief work: Veronica & Eleanor (for starting the fundraiser), Jana, Begum, Gemma, Alice, Swati, Ana. A big shout out to our staff who coordinated all these efforts and spent long hours in field with volunteers: Geetha Raj, Aiswarya, Milka and Dony as well as Sindhu (our chef), cleaning staff (Vijaya and Mabel)and our tuktuk driver Zakeer. Most importantly we would like all of you who have donated so generously to help rebuild kerala and lives.
The Kerala Team