KESS has always been deeply involved in disaster relief and rehabilitation throughout the country. After the earthquake affected Latur in 1993, KESS helped to boost the economic condition of the victims by setting up income generation programs and constructed of 150 Kerala model houses - the keys of which were handed over by then Hon. P.M - Late. Sri. Narasimha Rao. We also sent timely support and relief resources when the Super Cyclone attacked Orissa in 1999 and Gujarat in 2001. For the Tsunami calamity that struck Tamil Nadu in 2006, KESS intervened in full throttle through the Keezhmidalam Tsunami Rehabilitation Project distributing nearly 50 fishing boats, constructing 37 houses, borewells, a community centre, computer centres with equipment and providing educational assistance for 225 affected children. During the 2015 Chennai flood and the 2017 Ockhi Cyclone, KESS has reached out to the affected, distributing essential provisions and mobilizing resources. When the devastating floods began creating havoc in Kerala during the monsoon of 2018, KESS quickly reached out to the affected regions of Alappuzha in July and extended its full fledged support to the entirety of Thrissur, when the calamity struck the entire state in August.
KESS has been completely immersed in its Flood Relief Mission right from the beginning of the floods during the monsoon of 2018. Aiming not just to reach back to the basic state they were, our mission was to help them reach ‘back to better’. From rescue to relief camps, re-entry to the on-going rehabilitation, we have intervened and provided sustainable solutions to the flood affected victims through a systematic and professional manner. For this, we adopted a structure which helped us intervene better. The mission was led by a Coordinator, with a team of professional social workers, regional resource centres, local volunteers and leaders from beneficiaries. As per the requests received from the flood affected victims based in each concerned area, along with the recommendation of the superiors and the local volunteers; the KESS team made the assessment of the most needy victims in need of rehabilitation support. Apart from the funds mobilized by KESS, we also arranged meetings and direct linkages of sponsors directly with the select flood affected victims so they could provide assistance personally.
KESS provided its vehicles, transportation staff and mobilized several volunteers to form rescue teams saving several helpless, stranded victims from their water filled houses and institutions in the District, taking them to the safety of the nearest relief camps or hospitals, as per their state of health. This intervention was perhaps the most dangerous, yet the most fulfilling because the people involved had no previous experience nor training, yet, they all dived into the adventure, despite great personal risk, along with us. We were blest with Godsend angels who came in at the right time, to the right places, to help hundreds of strangers - our brethren in need. We also networked with the professional rescue workers from the Navy and Army, providing full support and motivation in the form of manpower and food, as per their requirement.
During the crucial days and nights of the intense rain and the overwhelming floods overpowering the state, KESS formulated an active IT cell which worked 24 x 7, with professional volunteers, based at various regions. They handled the data of those stranded, which included their location, contact details etc, utilizing various social media and internet based platforms, following up with the rescue teams, sharing and linking information as well as coordinating our rescue operations. The team ensured that all essential information was acquired from those stuck and contacted the district control points as well as the defense personals to reach them as soon as possible.
KESS coordinated 12 camps in Thrissur, based around the most affected regions of Patturaickal, Thalore, Varandarappilly, Pullur, Pavaratty, Azhikode, Chalakudy, Irinjalakuda, Chiyyaram, Kottamuri, Kormala and Snehagiri providing shelter to 15,000 flood affected victims, through the neighbouring institutions in the locality, for the over 2 weeks. The institutions were Devamatha Public School, Patturaikkal; Infant Jesus Monastery, Thalore; Christ Monastery, Irinjalakuda; St. Joseph’s Monastery, Pavaratty; Immaculate Heart Monastery, Varandharapilly; Snehagiri Bhavan, Snehagiri; St. Teresa’s Monastery, Kottackal; St. Xavier’s Monastery, Pullur; Galilee, Chiyyaram; Carmelgiri Monastery, Kormala; St. Thomas’ Monastery, Azhikode and Kuriakose Elias Chavara U.P. School, Potta. KESS ensured the official registration of each refugee, mobilizing resources including manpower, medical assistance and basic provisions of food, shelter, clothing in these camps.
KESS was able to coordinate and conduct medical camps in the various worst affected regions in the district, facilitating the availability of medical teams consisting of doctors, medical practitioners and para-medical staff. They provided medical check-ups, analyzed the medicines mobilized, prescribed and administered medications for the ill and the needy. Those who were in need of hospital services like the chronically ill were taken to the nearest unaffected medical centres and hospitals.
Trained groups of professional counselors rendered their support and time to the KESS coordinated crisis counseling service for the flood affected. The team was divided into groups who were dispatched to the affected in camps, houses and institutions, even days after the floods receded. This is with the knowledge that the effect of such an event can have life long impacts on the victims. Witnessing life threatening floods pour into the safety of their homes, everything they ever owned being carried away by the water, being displaced from their safe localities to a strange, overcrowded, comfort free relief camp with minimum comforts or privacy, the traumatic view of one’s drenched, dirt filled, dilapidated home with everything accumulated over the past years vanished in 2 days, ….these are indeed traumatic incidents that are causing tremendous psychological effect on victims especially children. There are families who have lost their only breadwinners and there are people who have lost their only means of income such as home based income generative means of farming, poultry, cattle rearing, small scale businesses whose materials are lost or destroyed. We hear cases of victims who cannot sleep, haunted with nightmares, behavioral impairments, undergoing shock, depression even suicidal tendencies, seeing no hope ahead. Our counseling team took the time and effort to provide psycho therapeutic sessions with individuals and groups of children, youth etc, providing them emotional and psychological reassurance based on their condition and need. The team met affected children in their educational institutions as well, providing special care through creative therapies of art and games.
As the floods receded, some of the drenched homes still had water within, others had garbage strewn all over including animal carcasses, unhygienic waste materials, even poisonous snakes. Rigourous, laborious cleaning of indoors especially the walls, doors and floors were required for any flood affected home to be residential. The mould filled walls, dirt filled floors, humid and moist air that it exhausts, gradually affects the internal health of children primarily as well as adults. There were homes with wells having contaminated and polluted water, broken septic tanks which are all imminent causes for a possible outbreak of waterborne diseases like cholera, diarrhea etc. KESS coordinated volunteer groups from across the country to clean the drenched and dirt filled homes, chlorinate the wells and the water clogged areas of the affected. Cleaning materials were provided with safety gears to the team, who were also oriented about the cleaning procedures and proper disposal of waste materials.
Once the families returned to their homes, there arose the greater need to give them basic provisions essential for a household to survive. We were able to mobilize and distribute family kits which contain food provisions, clothing, drinking water, toiletries, kitchenware and other household items, sourcing help locally, nationally and beyond the country. In this way, 1500 households who are the worst affected from over 20 regions in the district are being helped.
Many a times, the affected victims are ignorant of the Government programs and schemes for their welfare. We dispatched teams to facilitate a help desk at each flood affected region to inform and guide the needy on Government services for the flood affected. Our team also educated our local associates and volunteers regarding the same so they can be of assistance once we exit. This service proved to be highly useful for those who had no access to any communication device or media. They could understand all required information with ease and clarify any doubts they had.
There were a lot of houses that incurred critical damages during the floods, completely ruined or requiring repair and maintenance. For families who had lost everything in the floods, such works were an additional burden to their daily struggle to acquire basic amenities of life.
Some of the poor were living in collapsible rented infrastructures, which could not resist the impact of the floods. This ultimately made them homeless, having no land to call their own and no roof as a shelter. At the mercy of kind souls, they live in fear and sorrow, along with their families, in make shift sheds or tents.
We were able to identify and support those who had lost their income sources in the floods, to achieve sustainable economic progress, after assessing their skill and interests on the basis of which they could start their own income generation ventures such as plantain farming, nursery sales outlet, poultry, animal husbandry, cattle/ goat rearing, detergent making, tailoring, petty shop, pisciculture etc.
Agro based IGP trainings were organized by KESS for capacity building and skill development for the flood affected. This was done with the support of professional agricultural and horticultural institutes and universities
We conducted a special ‘IGP Mela’ to introduce different options of generating income for the flood affected. Professionals trained in the rearing and development of different types of poultry, rabbit, goat, cattle and other livestock explained about each aspect in detail with live display. Those who were interested submitted applications and they are now availing this assistance
Some of the poor flood affected had barely anything to go by, let alone set apart any financial reserves towards their girl children as they approached marriageable ages. 19 girls from 17 families were assisted to lessen the burden of marriage expenditures.
School going children were some of the most traumatized victims of the flood as most of them lost all materials related to their education, which made some of them think of dropping out because of the misery it brought them. We supported 118 flood affected children providing them various education materials such as books, uniforms, bag, study furniture, bicycle, support for tuition, T. A etc. The children were also provided psycho trauma sessions on a one-to-one and group counseling basis.
A refreshing trip was organized for the children of flood affected families which helped rejuvenate their traumatized minds and helped them realize they were not alone in this suffering seeing other children like them. We motivated and helped them reflect on the lessons of the flood generating a sense of sharing and helping nature for the affected others. They were happy to experience an outing with their friends, to new places. This joyous exposure also helped them take their mind off life’s hardships and vitalize their senses.
Those who had completed their schooling meritoriously but could not further their education in professional courses of their choice due to resources lost in the floods were identified from among the victims. Support is being provided on a regular basis to 5 students who are pursuing their higher education in LLB, nursing, diploma and PG courses.
We coordinated a tour program taking the flood affected victims for a one day trip, to experience boat rides, visiting the birthplace of the social reformer-St. Chavara, and adjacent areas there which had been initially hit by the floods and to learn how they are recovering from the disaster. The trip also was a venue for the victims to share their experiences, sorrows and hope
We had identified poor families who were neck deep in loans and debt especially due to the floods. They were families who had invested their all in their homes and in the little land they owned, now at the mercy of the banks where their interests and credits were overdue, with shattered houses, barren lands and nothing else to spare. Some of them were on the verge of bankruptcy, utter depression and suicide, because of the merciless floods. We helped such families by paying off their life severing debts, and giving them opportunities to face life hopefully.
One of the primary initiatives of our province was to formulate a responsible team to take care of all the flood relief related interventions. Culminating all our funds, manpower and resources, we are still in action reconstructing our community from this tragedy. We are thankful for this timely disaster management cell which rose like a phoenix from that crucial incident and is still actively helping others to rise up from the ashes of this disaster.
Some of the victims require a regular mode of support, which we provide through a monthly provision of Rs. 1000, though a bare minimum. Though a small drop, it brings them hope when they have none. We hope to continue this venture with the goodwill of benevolent sponsors and until these poor families can stand on their own feet.
Our heart went out to the miserable conditions of the houses, institutes and residential schools assisting children and adults who require special needs, which was affected by this havoc of a monsoon. Believing they are God’s most precious gifts to us, we took it up as our special mission to help these dear soul infrastructures, special equipments, technical devices along with all the basic amenities to help them live happier, healthier and in a safer environment.
The mixture of muddy waters and the drinking water sources was one of the havocs of this monsoon disasters which required immediate economic solutions. We were grateful to get eco friendly, easy-to use, durable water filters from a U.S. based organisation, volunteers of which visited our flood affected victims, trained and distributed these products first hand.
We organized a get together and celebration during the joyous season of Christmas, spread over a week, bringing more than 1000 flood affected victims under one roof. They experienced the happiness of being together as one family sharing in the sufferings, pains, expectations, and support received when calamity struck. People shared their experiences and ventilated their stories of the flood.