Sarah Oughton, British Red Cross
Power is on its way to the island of Vilufushi as the final phase of work on the British Red Cross recovery programme in the Maldives begins.
Vilufushi was so devastated by the tsunami that a land reclamation project had to be carried out prior to reconstruction. In August 2007, the British Red Cross started building 250 houses. For the displaced households, the power project brings hope – by spring next year they will be able to move back to their island and into their new homes.
Zahid Jameel, the Maldivian consultant who designed the power system, is confident of its quality. “It has been challenging and has taken a lot of time looking into all the details and working with the Ministry for Energy and Water. We have done the best from what is available and now I am happy with the end result.”
Both the power station and the treatment plant for the sewage system will require maintenance once the British Red Cross leaves the island next year.
Local people are being trained in important technical positions and the community is being encouraged to take it on as a business enterprise. There will also be jobs in billing and collection of payments.
Russell Bryce, British Red Cross utilities manager, said: “There is a lot of opportunity and hopefully it will be run like a business, but will take into account people who can’t afford to pay much, such as the elderly. The idea is to generate enough funds to maintain the systems if they need any repairs and to pay a salary to those doing the work.”
The British Red Cross is also building a new school on Vilufushi and on 7 August, a ceremony to mark the start of construction was attended by some of the children who come from the island.
“After three years and seven months I got to see my home island and I was so happy to be there. It looks so different from before,” said Aishath Naafia, studying in grade 10.
“I am proud that we will have a bigger school, better facilities and I hope, good teachers too. I had the honour of participating in the ceremony and it felt so good. It’s the first time in my life that I had an opportunity like this.”
The displaced population from Vilufushi have been living on Buruni island, where currently 410 students attend a school that used to accommodate 90.
Usman Afzah, studying in grade nine, said: “I feel so bad living in a tent like this for more than three years after the tsunami. We lost our freedom and our own space.
“But since I visited my home island again, all these bad feelings have disappeared because I have seen a completely different Vilufushi.”