What women are doing for post-tsunami Sri Lanka

I’m fortunate enough to know a lady who has the time and resources to fly around the globe helping others. She works with organizations to bring medical supplies to communities that need them. The work they do makes lasting improvements in people’s lives.

Today, she sold me a couple of very cute and well-crafted monk bags that were made in Sri Lanka by an organization of women called Suba Ude:

Suba Ude’s mission is to organize long term sustainable and participatory creative programs for tsunami affected people. Suba Ude is an organization that functions independently under the wing of its parent organization, the US-based non-profit private organization, A Place Called Home (www.apch.org), whose headquarters are in South Central Los Angeles. Suba Ude is funded by private donations, raised independently of APCH.

In February 2005, Heather Goodwin and Stephanie Bleyer formed Suba Ude in the southern town of Matara. The original mandate was to provide creative and physical outlets to children residing in emergency welfare camps. Since its inception, Suba Ude has built playgrounds, produced marionette shows, painted murals, set up Child Friendly Spaces and Sewing Centres for their mothers, taught swimming classes, and organized sports and arts days. In April Suba Ude’s focus turned to long-term sustainable creative projects. Suba Ude renovated a primary school and started Sase! – a foundation for children’s arts education. Suba Ude also partnered with USAID to provide multi-media training for war-affected youth on the east coast of Sri Lanka. Today, the MonkBag is Suba Ude’s focal project.

Each monk bag is made by a woman who is, through Suba Ude, developing the “skills, resources and confidence” she will need to rebuild a successful livelihood. This is a case not of charity, but of privileged women helping underprivileged women help themselves and their community. (*From the copy on a tag that comes with the bag.)

I doubt I can comprehend what it was like for those who experienced that tsunami a little over two years ago. Besides the enormous loss of life, the damage to property and infrastructure was devastating. Entire communities were displaced. Orphans found themselves living in emergency camps. Suba Ude is working to mitigate the psychological and cultural impact of the disaster, which is just as important as the physical rebuilding.

I don’t know if the bags can be ordered online, but donations can be made at their blog.


  1. says

    This is such a fantastically wonderful idea. I feel as though more initiative on the part of thrid world countries that are in this vein should be established and encouraged. For example, I spent a semester abroad in India and while there, we visited the Barefoot College in Tilonia. It is not a college in the traditional sense but rather a space in between a bunch of very rural, very poor, very “country” (for lack of a better term) villages. The “College” encouraged villagers to come to this space to learn sustainable skills ranging from water management (a huge issue in India and most thrid world countries), solar power management (the participants were taught how to create devices to capture and use solar power), to classes on how to better market native crafts. Most of the participants were women. It was really amazing to see the amount of power that these women were able to take not only for themselves but their communities.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    That’s pretty awesome. Empowering individuals usually has a sort of “trickle-up effect” in which they strengthen their communities. Positive energy can spread like a virus, just like negative.

  3. says

    I have been put in touch with Heather as we too have set up a similar project called Bags of Appeal and to date we have made over 25,000 bags since March of this year (2008). It has the same principles to enable women and families to become self sustaining. The village our women come from have a major problem we are trying to help with. They have all be relocated after Tsunami into what appears at first glance to be a lovely new village. However when the rain starts the houses flood with sewage! the NGO who built the houses built onto land that was and is a swamp and in a geographical dip! Staggering but true. The NGO does not want any more to do with this problem so we are trying to help by enabling the families to earn money and try and put some into a central pot that will help this problem.

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