- Title: Indian couple devotes life to orphans after losing children to tsunami
- Date: 19th December 2019
- Summary: PHOTOGRAPH OF THEIR TWO DAUGHTERS AND SON
- Embargoed: 2nd January 2020 06:27
- Keywords: Choodamani India Nagapattinam Nambikkai Paramesvaran care home orphans tsunami
- Location: NAGAPATTINAM, TAMIL NADU, INDIA
- City: NAGAPATTINAM, TAMIL NADU, INDIA
- Country: India
- Topics: Disaster/Accidents,Earthquakes/Volcanoes/Tsunami,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA006BAS5CUF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A south Indian couple that lost all three of their children to the deadly 2004 tsunami turned their personal grief into a beacon of hope by setting up a shelter for children orphaned by the disaster.
Children at the Nambikkai -- meaning "hands of hope" -- shelter in Nagapattinam, were mostly orphaned after their fishermen parents were killed by the tsunami. But thanks to Karibeeran Paramesvaran and his wife Choodamani -- who goes by one name -- the children have found a permanent home.
Paramesvaran and Choodamani lost their two daughters and a son along with seven other close family members on the fateful morning of December 26.
The couple were stricken by grief and depression, and even contemplated suicide. Three days after the tsunami struck, the couple took a walk to see the situation in neighbouring villages and found several children without parents or homes.
"They didn't have the hope to live. They were just literally crying on the road and then I thought, let's see, I lost my children, and why not I take these children and give them shelter," said Choodamani, sitting at her beach home.
She said initially they decided to bring four children home, and quickly converted it into a shelter for orphans. Within days, the number expanded to 36 children and the couple found a new purpose to their own lives.
Now, 15 years on, they can look back at their lives with a sense of fulfilment.
"So, we don't want to make any orphans on the road. So, this mission will continue for lifetime - till the earth is moving. Because we want to honour our own children to go and help the children - that is our mission," said Paramesvaran.
Many of the older children have now moved out of Nambikkai and are pursuing higher education or working, with some joining multinational companies. Other have grown up and taken up jobs outside Nagapattinam and travelled abroad.
But their connection with Nambikkai shelter remains strong.
Sangeetha, 21 now, who was brought in as a 6-year-old orphan after losing her mother, said she left her job as a quality control supervisor with Nokia to come back to work at Nambikkai, as she felt much happier working among the children.
Sukanya, who was two when she lost her father in the tsunami and a current resident of the shelter, said, "the environment here is really good and I feel happy here."
Of the more than 12,000 people who died in the 2004 tsunami in India, more than 6,000 of them were from in the southern Nagapattinam alone. The disaster killed a total of more than 230,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and nine other countries.
(Production: Bhushan Kumar, Sunil Kataria)
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