WOOSTER, Ohio –When a major disaster occurs, in our own country or elsewhere in the world, we Americans want to immediately reach out and make a difference in the lives of those affected. Some respond by traveling to the disaster site. Most, however, look for the opportunities to send dollars. Our choices are few – the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, our church's mission outreach. And while sending our check helps to fulfill our sense of responsibility, we have no way of actually knowing the direct impact our dollars have on the lives of those affected by the tragedy.
Following the devastating tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2004, claiming some 230,000 lives and wiping out coastal villages, Wooster had the unique opportunity of providing aid directly to a coastal village that had been totally destroyed. Through the efforts of Bina Venkatarman and her family and Nanditha Krishna of Chennai, India, the Wooster community was able to actually restore an entire village just 40 miles south of the Venkataraman hometown of Chennai.
Richard and Judy Seaman, David and Gayle Noble, Steve and Cheryl Shapiro, and Doug Drushal, accompanied by Bala Venkataraman and other family members and Nanditha Krishna, had a most unique opportunity to visit this village of Wooster Nagar. It was an exhilarating and moving experience for all of us.
As we drove into this small reconstructed village of 26 homes, all of which were built after the tsunami with the funds raised and sent by the Wooster community, we were greeted by the excited residents and their bright eyed and smiling children. A small band played as flowered garlands were placed around our necks and we marched down the Noble Street toward the town temple. Excited children crowded around us, eager to simply shake our hands. As Steve and I tried to capture the joy and pageantry with our cameras, the young children kept rushing in front of our lenses and were eager to see the immediate digital images of their smiling faces.
We were honored at the temple and watched the priest say his prayer of gratitude. We then visited the National City Bank Community Center and the Gault Library where two computers were available to teach the children. Next we were greeted at the one-room school facility by more than 50 excited and enthusiastic school children. Two little girls entertained us with several songs. More excitement erupted as we handed out chocolates and crayons to the joyful class.
We then walked down the cemented main street, appropriately named for the Noble Foundation's generous commitment, and presented gifts to each of the 25 households. Our journey culminated at the end of the street where a well and water tower were recently completed, funded by the Seaman Family Foundation and a challenge grant that was easily matched by members of the Wooster Rotary Club – thus providing water and improved sanitation for the entire village.
I could not resist jumping on the ladder and climbing to the top of the tower (after all, I am in the roofing business). It was an amazing sight to see an entire village below me expressing their sincere gratitude – what a treasured experience.
While we continue to be impressed by how much brick and mortar a few dollars can build in this area of the world, I think we were all far more touched by the joy and appreciation reflected in the smiling faces of the 100 plus residents. We truly felt as though we were making a difference and providing hope for the future for a village that was wiped out by the devastating tsunami.
As we departed the village, I know we were all overwhelmed by the spirit and energy of these Wooster Nagar families. We leave feeling not only as though we have made a difference, but more importantly that we now have a special kind of kinship with this little Indian community 7,000 miles away. In a country of 1.2 billion people and a disaster that took the lives of more than 230,000, our Wooster community is making a real difference in the lives of 26 families and that in and of itself is a treasured start.
— Richard N. Seaman
Chairman and CEO
For information, contact Seaman Corporation at 330-262-1111 or toll-free 800-927-8578. Seaman Corporation, 1000 Venture Blvd., Wooster, OH 44691. [email protected]