The Smyrna Church Tsunami Relief Fund was a voluntary, ad hoc group of individuals who came together following the tsunami to raise funds in the United States that would help support the relief and rebuilding efforts of the Smyrna Church in Galle, Sri Lanka. One of the towns severely impacted by the tsunami in Sri Lanka was the southern small city of Galle. Many of the tragic images the media broadcast from Sri Lanka in the weeks following the tsunami were set in Galle, where many perished and countless lost their homes and businesses. The Smyrna Church of Sri Lanka, founded in the 1950's by Swedish missionaries, has a long-standing history of community service and relief work. The Smyrna Church branch in downtown Galle was preparing for service when the first wave hit that fateful Sunday in December 2004, the day after Christmas. Pastor Titus Nanayakkara and his son Mark, themselves caught in the flood, managed to escape and quickly began triaging the crises. From that moment on, they and other Smyrna Church affiliates in Sri Lanka worked tirelessly, providing emergency food, shelter, clothing, personal items and medical care, as well as school books and supplies. Family members and supporters of the church here in the States and elsewhere mobilized to offer what support they could. Determining that financial support was the most cost-effective and most important resource we could provide, the Smyrna Church Tsunami Relief Fund formed as a means of directing donations from individuals in the U.S. efficiently to the Smyrna Church in Galle.
Quickly realizing the importance of long-term planning for rebuilding and reconstruction, Reverend Nanayakkara began accumulating donations in a building fund. Within two months following the tragedy, work was underway on construction of permanent homes for families left homeless. The church originally hoped to build seven homes. Three years after rebuilding began, the Smyrna Church had completed thirteen permanent, strong, comfortable homes. Twenty-six adults and twenty-seven children have permanent homes as a result of the tireless labor of Reverend Nanayakkara, his son Mark and others at Smyrna Church, and the generosity of strangers around the world. And the church's work continues. Many families in Sri Lanka remain homeless, due in large part to the failure of large-scale recovery efforts by the government and relief organizations. The church has begun expansion of a vocational training program, designed to retrain many left jobless in professions that will enable them to find employment and participate in the rebuilding of the community.
Inspired by the success of fundraising and rebuilding efforts and the commitment of donors, founding members of the Smyrna Church Tsunami Relief fund incorporated in 2008 as a new charity, A.C.T. - Aiding Children Together, Inc. A.C.T. supports community programs that promote health, safety and education of impoverished children and families in Sri Lanka. Click here to learn more about A.C.T. - Aiding Children Together.