FAQ for Tsunami Reconstruction Volunteer Project

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Tsunami Humanitarian Project

How can I join the program?

Due to the large volume of emails we are receiving for our tsunami programs, we suggest you apply ASAP and reserve your place. Application forms can be found on the Global Crossroad website at www.globalcrossroad.com. Simply fill out an application form and submit it on-line, or post or fax it to the address provided.

Where is my arrival destination?

Colombo International Airport in Colombo is the major international airport in Sri Lanka.

When should I arrive?

Volunteers should arrive ONE DAY prior to the start of the project. Global Crossroad offers accommodations/meals from the first to the last day of the program. You are responsible for arranging your own lodging and meals if you arrive earlier than the scheduled start date or stay after the completion of the project. Please contact our in-country coordinator for advice in finding affordable accommodations if you plan to arrive earlier than the scheduled start date.

How will I get to my prearranged Global Crossroad volunteer accommodation from the airport?

Please do not forget to send your final flight itinerary to Global Crossroad and to our in-country coordinator. You will find his e-mail address in your placement details. Our coordinator or one of our staff members will be waiting for you at the airport terminal and holding a sign saying “Global Crossroad.” If you arrive before the first day of the project, he will take you to a hotel near the airport. (Please refer to our list of hotels.) You are responsible for arranging and paying for your lodging and meals prior to the first day of the project. Transportation to the volunteer accommodation site in Galle is explained above (see Airport Transportation.)

Please do not forget to bring telephone numbers of our coordinator along with the contact hotel address and telephone number in the event you miss your connection. This is provided in your placement details. If you arrive in Colombo very early in the morning or very late at night, please wait until morning to call.

Is it possible for friends to stay together?

We try our best to place all friends together.

What vaccinations will I need for Sri Lanka?

We recommend the following immunizations: Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, influenza, and polio. We strongly advise our volunteers to consult their doctor concerning vaccinations prior to traveling. Also, volunteers should get a prescription for an anti-malarial drug since there is a risk of malaria in Sri Lanka. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully—many of these medications should be taken prior to leaving and for a short time after you return home.

What do I need to know about traveling and sightseeing in Sri Lanka?

If you are planning to travel to Sri Lanka either before or after your scheduled volunteer program, you will need extra money. However, you will be pleased to discover that Sri Lanka is an inexpensive destination. You will be able to purchase interesting gifts for your family and friends in easy-to-find locations. Major currencies and traveler's checks are easy to exchange in the airport or with any other exchange agent in heavily populated areas. Please discuss your travel plans with our in-country coordinators. Debit cards are accepted in most ATMs. Lonely Planet books are an excellent resource for further information.
You will most likely use tuk-tuks (three-wheelers) as a method of transportation while in Sri Lanka. They are inexpensive, but remember to haggle to get the lowest price before you begin your journey. If you feel that you are being quoted a fare that is too expensive, get out and start walking . . . you’ll be amazed at how quickly the price will drop.

What kinds of clothes should I bring?


Evening clothes: Rural Sri Lanka is quite conservative, and volunteers are expected to respect the local customs, traditions, and dress. Women should not wear shorts, mini-skirts, see-through garments, or sundresses when visiting temples. Humidity is high, so lightweight clothes such as linen are best. Bring white clothes to wear for special occasions, such as Full Moon Day.
Work Clothes: The most practical clothing items for women are modest T-shirts, light cotton shirts, shorts or pants. For men, please bring shirts, T-shirts, and Bermuda shorts or pants. Hats are also very important. Closed-toe shoes (preferably work boots) are advisable for construction and relief work.

Will the program provide any sort of insurance for the volunteers involved?

Global Crossroad’s program covers insurance for our volunteers. Please contact us for more information.

Questions related to houses:

Where are the houses being built for tsunami survivors?

Some houses are built on their original sites. Often the existing foundation is cleared and inspected for stability. In some cases, the existing foundation has to be removed. This is done with crude tools and manual labor.

Some of the homes have to be relocated because the government no longer allows houses to be built closer than 100 meters from the ocean.

Manual labor is the methods used for digging a foundation in Sri Lanka:

1. The house plan is roped off with sturdy branches and twine
2. The digging and clearing is done with a “mamoty” (a large hoe), a pick axe, straight crowbars, and square shovels. This is very strenuous work. Sri Lanka has few excavators, and they are difficult to rent.

How is the foundation built?

• Large boulders are delivered to the site. Workers place them into trenches; smaller rocks are placed between the boulders to make them more solid. The trenches are 12 inches deep by 12 inches wide. The corner posts are dug by hand, 3 feet deep by 3 square feet.
• Cement is mixed on the ground by measuring sand, cement and water. The sand and cement are formed into a volcano-like shape, and workers bring buckets of water from the well to pour into the center of the sand mixture. Mixers use shovels and hoes to blend the concrete.
• Workers carry concrete to the mason, who pours it around the rocks in the trenches. Gradually, more rock and concrete is added to build a 1-foot-high foundation wall.
• Approximately 1 foot of cement is poured into the corner posts, and then rebar is placed in the center of each post hole.
• Rebar is cut and shaped by hand.
• Concrete is then poured into each corner post over the first layer (dry) and around the rebar.
• An engineer is on site to oversee each step.

How are the houses framed?

• All of the walls are made with concrete (cinder) blocks.
• Blocks are delivered by truck to the site. Workers form lines and pass blocks down the line to the appropriate space.
• Blocks are placed and cemented together to form walls. A plastic hollow tube is filled three-fourths full with water and used as a level.
• String is used to keep each level straight.
• The concrete is applied using a metal pan, a trowel, and a block of wood to keep the concrete in place—one brick at a time.
• When the walls are approximately five feet high, spaces between the blocks are made to hold scaffolding.
• Using machetes, workers cut long poles of bamboo approximately 4 inches diameter. These are used to be the scaffold frame which later holds on which workers stand.
• Walls are built 7 feet high.
• Peak (lintels) are built with the blocks

How are the roofs constructed?

Global Crossroad’s in-country staff learned of the possible health risks involved in working with asbestos. Although most homes in Sri Lanka have asbestos roofing, the World Health Organisation advises against building new structures with asbestos. Global Crossroad is committed to providing safe housing to Sri Lankans and is presently making arrangements to switch to tile roofing.

Is electricity installed?

Yes. Just before the plastering, workers use hammers to create indentations in walls and ceilings according to electrical plans, drawing and digging out squares for outlets, fans, lights, and switches. Plastic pipe is installed and wire is pulled through to each outlet, then to the breaker panel. Up to one week after inspection, electricity is connected.

What kind of plumbing is installed?

In the bathroom, the toilet, sink, and shower are installed with plastic pipe which is inserted through holes and indentations made with hammers (as electrical). The shower is installed in the room with the floor slanted to a drain. The kitchen has a sink only.

Does each house have a septic tank or sewer system?

Houses are serviced by a septic tank. In the new site, a hole 6-by-4 feet in diameter is dug by hand and a tank is installed with a pipe running through the garden.

Do the families participate in the building process for their own homes?

In some instances, some family members do participate in the unskilled aspects of the building. Neighbourhood children and some adults enjoy participating as well.

How are the houses finished?

• Plaster is applied to the walls inside and out. The mixing of plaster is similar to the mixing of concrete, the differences being that the sand is sifted by hand to make a finer finish and plaster compound is added.
• At this point in the project, there are usually different people assigned to each task.
• Sifting sand: one person shovels sand into the sifter (wooden frame with handles on two sides and metal mesh on the bottom). Two people then rock the sifter back and forth with a brick inside to help force the fine sand through the mesh.
• One or two people mix the plaster
• One person takes a bucket of plaster to the plasterers.
• Note: This process is most effective when workers rotate the jobs.
• Windows and doors are made with wood and installed after plastering is complete.
• The next step is painting. This is a very basic procedure. Brushes and rollers are used.

How are the floors finished?

The floors are leveled with dirt and stone taken from the trench digging. Then, a finer soil or sand is applied and tamped down. The tampers are generally made from a thick, straight branch or wood pole, with two short pieces of 2x4 attached horizontally to produce a flat surface. The worker starts at one side and sidesteps, pounding the floor surface as he goes.
Concrete (fine) is poured by the bucket and leveled by hand. The surface is a smooth, colored cement.

What should I bring for gifts to kids or tsunami survivors family?

• Kitchen Utensils – Pots, pans, Cutlery
• Kerosene/Gas cookers
• Fans
• Furniture – Tables, Chairs, Beds
• Personal Hygiene items for men, women and children
• Toys/Games – preferably toys without batteries
• Construction tools – Trowels, Pickaxes, Shovels, Mamoties, Crowbars, Chisels, Mason spoons, Levelers, Hammers, • Screwdrivers
• Food (one of the orphanages suggested that fresh vegetables are regularly in short supply)
• Clothes (during the Monsoon season, raincoats and umbrellas would be extremely helpful) – Please do not send heavy/winter clothes as the temperature in Sri Lanka is quite warm all year round.
• First Aid Supplies
• Shoes, Flip-flops/Slippers


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