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Three Kennedy School students from countries deeply affected by December’s tsunami disaster shared their personal stories and discussed future recovery and reconstruction efforts at the Kennedy School Forum tonight.
Dharitri Patnaik MPA 05, a Mason Fellow from India, decided to volunteer in Sri Lanka because that country was ill prepared to deal with a natural disaster of such immense proportions.
“My job was to do a country assessment for relief and rehabilitation needs,” said Patnaik, who spent more than two weeks in Sri Lanka with ActionAid International. “To find out where are we going to work? Which are the issues we are going to focus on? And who are we going to partner with?”
Patnaik said despite its inexperience, the government of Sri Lanka did a remarkable job in responding quickly. “I was there four days after the disaster and things were moving.”
Ari Perdana MPA/ID 06, who is from Indonesia, reflected on his shock at the magnitude of the tragedy.
“It took me some time to realize how devastating it was,” he said. “During the past few years, the Indonesian people have seen a series of natural disasters and bombings. In terms of the death toll and the devastation, it was the worst thing to happen to the country.
“But on the brighter side,” he continued, “I was very touched to see how the international community reacted to this disaster. I’m also touched by the initiatives and the enthusiasm from many friends here and in the U.S. Maybe this is a strong base to build a new world in the future.”
Indunil Ranaviraja, an MPP student from Sri Lanka, discussed possible positive outcomes that may emerge from such a horrible event.
“As a result of the tsunami, Sri Lanka has received unprecedented attention and support from international governments, aid agencies and also the media,” Ranaviraja said. “If this promised aid and support is leveraged and harnessed properly…this could be the cornerstone for long term growth for the country and prosperity for the people.”
Kennedy School lecturer Jay Rosengard also participated in the Forum panel. He discussed the challenges facing the affected areas once the emergency phase of the relief efforts is over.
“We’re looking at transitional recovery activities for the next three to five years,” he said. “And then long term reconstruction for the next 10 to 20 years. So a lot of the most difficult works lies ahead.”
The Forum was moderated by Kennedy School Dean David Ellwood. Video of the event may be viewed on the Institute of Politics website.
Photos by Martha Stewart