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Village gives tsunami family a new home.

Byline: By Simon Armstrong

A group of kindhearted fundraisers have helped a family to rebuild their shattered lives one year on from the Asian tsunami disaster.

The disaster killed 270,000 people when it struck on Boxing Day, 2004, wiping out entire communities with Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia among the hardest hit.

But one group from St Andrew's Methodist Church in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea in Northumberland were so touched by their plight that they teamed up to collect around pounds 2,000, half of which was used to build a house for a family with strong links to the seaside village.

One of their congregation, Rachel Rolleston, married and moved to Cyprus 13 years ago and the couple now employ a Sri Lankan maid called Monika.

She and her husband, Janaka Priyanga-Delrukshe, were devastated when they learned they had lost 15 family members between them in their native country.

Only Janaka's parents and two young cousins survived and they were taken in by Monika's family in their small home in Columbo.

In Sri Lanka alone more than 31,000 people died and 500,000 were left homeless.

Now, as the first anniversary approaches next Monday, those remaining relatives have bought a plot of land and have built a new home with the money raised in Newbiggin.

Ann Rolleston, 58, who is Rachel's mum, explained: "Our hearts went out to everyone affected by the tragedy.

"It's unimaginable how badly they must have been affected.

"We felt we had to do everything we could and it was suggested we split the proceeds between the main tsunami appeal and helping Monika and Janaka.

"We can't thank the people of Newbiggin enough because they all really played their part in helping the fundraising effort."

The Rev Carla Hall and her congregation staged a coffee morning and a sponsored hymn evening while Hazel Dent used her creative skills to make lap quilts which she then sold. Parishioner John Robinson, 70, said: "If ever there was a message of love, then this is it. It's great to see our efforts making such a direct and positive impact.

"It's very heart-warming in that respect because we can see the improvements being made with the money."

Mrs Rolleston and her husband Alan, also 58, were given their first glimpse of the new property when they recently visited their daughter in Cyprus and a tearful Monika and Janaka showed them a photograph.

Carla Hall added: "Our thoughts this Christmas will of course be with everyone affected and our hearts go out to everyone who suffered as a result of the tsunami."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 19, 2005
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