Give any amount, today, to 2 special projects in Sri Lanka!

I’ve never made one of my causes public, not even Give2Asia.  And due to age more than anything, I’ve never been a racer for causes.

But this year, we have a cause: helping some of those most in need in Sri Lanka, and I ask you to take 5 minutes to give $25, $50, or any amount to the Tsunami Renewal Fund (

Sri Lanka was the first stop for this T+10 personal research project exploring the philanthropic legacy of the 2004 tsunami.  It was a remarkable trip, and if you haven’t seen it, check out the trip video we are so proud of:; thanks to Mayra Padilla for all her insights and photo/videography.

Conflict still divides Sri Lanka, and while the war is over and things are markedly better, there remain disparities between the Sinhalese/Buddhist South and the former Tamil conflict zone in the North and East.

We can’t solve these problems but we know two organizations that can help families and youth in different ways.  More detail is in the previous post, and we are raising just $10,000 for 2 projects: the FOUNDATION OF GOODNESS and the 181 individuals in Neethipuram Village to the North, and SRI LANKA UNITES, which works with youth on reconciliation across the country.

In addition to what we’ve put into Tsunami+10, we’ve made our own gifts to the Tsunami Renewal Fund (  My 3:1 match from work helps!

Why now and why Sri Lanka?  There are some things you give to simply because of inequality and great need.  Neethipuram counts, with families earning barely $100/mo and the traumas of conflict fresh.  We know exactly where our funds will go and who they’ll help.  These are gifts for concrete hope, into a tough but ready environment, and we know that FOG has complementary commitments in the village and the North.  We can trust both organizations to keep us updated over time.  

This once (and perhaps next year for Aceh, Indonesia!), give what you can, and any amount matters.  The TSUNAMI RENEWAL FUND is only for grantees and programs (not Tsunami+10 itself), and is tax deductible.  Click:

In any event, best wishes!

Mike, with Mayra

Tsunami Plus 10 — an invitation to a global story of recovery and philanthropy

I invite you to do the unusual: to revisit a faded disaster; to stick with it for 2 1/2 years, adding your ideas and opinions; and to make the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami more meaningful than just poignant Christmas coverage.

I’ll be joined by advisors around the world, including Mayra Padilla as fellow protagonist and photographer.

Why disasters, and why philanthropy?

It could be that natural disasters are picking up steam.  Three of the century’s deadliest have occurred in the last ten years (the Haiti quake, 2004 tsunami, and Cyclone Nagris).  The most costly are also within easy reach of memory (the Tohoku quake/tsunami, Sichuan quake, Great Hanshin/Kobe quake, and Katrina).  And if you believe the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, extreme weather events may be the norm for a while.

Charitable giving to disasters is how we respond, with a check, click or text. One survey showed 47% of households gave to 2005 hurricane relief, for which $5.2 billion was donated in the US.  Giving USA reports that 2010 giving to international affairs surged 15.3%, the largest gain of any cause, driven by the Haiti quake and other crises.

Disaster giving is a tremendous resource for lasting change, not just band aids.  Yet it is messy: contributions are given emotionally and spontaneously, used under extreme conditions, and usually donated in a short span to pooled funds, with few strings attached.

What can we learn and accomplish?

I want to investigate the impact of our dollars.  Who did we help?  What difference did we make with the grants I supervised, donated by hundreds who trusted their tsunami gift to Give2Asia?

How do contributors feel about the money’s long term impact, and what can be learned to boost effective and satisfying giving in the future?

I want to learn what Give2Asia and others did well — and less well.  How effective were our local grantees and how do they best complement international aid agencies?

I want to see how the two hardest hit regions, Sri Lanka and Aceh, fare today: the tsunami interrupted civil conflict and violence in both, and each took a different path to the relative peace of today.

We want to source and share knowledge with the global community — and the greatest test of success will be tsunami gifts from those reconnected to these places and wishing to act anew.

Why the 2004 Tsunami?

I was once warned by a mentor about the word unique but I’ll risk any tsking here: the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami was unique among disasters.

Compared to events since, the 2004 tsunami reached across thousands of miles and took its 230,000+ lives from 14 nations. It ranks as the 5th deadliest natural event in the last century.

It triggered historic disaster giving: an estimated $13.4 billion in worldwide pledges.  In America, $3.1 billion was donated in a country that gives only lightly beyond its borders. The disaster brought two former US presidents across the aisle in support of places few Americans could spot on a map.

The tsunami also came on the cusp of a new media age.  Online giving came into its own; thanks to Groundspring (now part of Network for Good), my own organization was accepting online gifts by Dec. 28.  The images were powerful and pervasive even then, before Facebook, YouTube and the first tweet.

Who are we?

Mike: I’ve had the honor of working in philanthropy for more than 15 years.  In addition to Give2Asia, I’ve grown in various roles and am currently part of the exciting College Ready division at the Gates Foundation.   I’m also a one-time journalist who has a fresh itch.

Mayra: a marketing consultant and photographer who is, first and foremost, a global citizen. Photography, travel, new connections and witnessing triumph over adversary are among my greatest sources of joy. Join us for the stories we’re about to uncover.

Who are you?

A far more interesting question! Please let us know: show yourself and follow us on Twitter; Like the Facebook page; subscribe via email.  Most of all, post comments and questions.


Enough prologue.Stay tuned for more preliminary research from Sri Lanka, donor perspectives, and findings from a lit review on tsunami recovery. 

An August trip to Sri Lanka will be here before we know it.

Thushara’s story — a Chef’s Guild trainee 7 years after the Tsunami

Thushara might be in the army today if it wasn’t for the tsunami.

He lived in the fishing village of Hungama in southern Sri Lanka in 2004.  Nineteen and having just completed his O-Level examinations, Thushara knew he didn’t want to fish like his father and three elder brothers or his younger sister — and he was working on a hunch that his build and mind would suit the Sri Lanka Army, though at heart it was an economic decision. “It was simply to earn some money.  The army pays well.  What my father earns isn’t sufficient for the family.  In the army, I’d have a regular income and some perks to help the family out.”

Today Thushara is a sous chef at Bliss Chocolates, a premium confections enterprise in Bangalore, India. 

His course began to shift at a presentation at the Don Bosco Catholic center near his village for a new culinary training program by the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka.  Thushara was one of the first 25 students in the six month course that covered food preparation, hygiene, safety standards, and accounting.  It also included three months of English, as well as a commitment by the Chef’s Guild to help their graduates secure employment. 

For Thushara, the technical skills seemed to come easily — it was the social skills that stretched him.  “I really learned how to interact with different people in a professional setting during this time.  I attended a boys school in my village and interacting with girls wasn’t natural for me.  In the course we were compelled to look at women the same way we do men.  I began to change my traditional attitude and gender bias.”

Thushara quickly secured employment at the Colombo Hilton, after which he made the  move to Bangalore. His family has been supportive throughout, from when he enrolled in the local Hungama course, to the transition to Colombo and the jump overseas.

Thushara is thriving thanks to the Chefs Guild project made possible by a $20,000 grant which trained 100 students in culinary arts.

So far we’ve tracked down 9 others and their stories will illuminate the full range of outcomes when opportunity meets tradition.