A nursery school in a Tsunami hit area north of Phuket was opened Friday by the Danish Ambassador. The Tsunami is still present in the minds of children and their parents and monuments such as fishing boats still tell the tale of the destructions 2½ years ago.
Donations from far and further
When the Tsunami hit the Ban Nam Khem, close to Phuket, it killed 60 per cent of the people who were in the main street at the time. Many children at the local school lost a mother, a father or in five cases; both. 15 students never returned to school. Many buildings of the school were in such a bad shape, that they could not be repaired.
The story affected the children at St. Thomas’s School in London. They made shows in the streets of London and thereby collected 1.6 million baht for the school project. Together with Danish business men such as Jørgen Schmidt, Ole A. Petersen, Anders Schroeder and the Danish Consul General in Thailand, Anders Normann, enough money was raised to complete a brand new nursery school in the area.
French retailers, Carrefour has funded the main school building for the older children. Apparently, that donation came with a promise of teaching the children French.
The ambassadorial visit
That is not the case for the nursery school, where Danish is only spoken when there are Danish visitors such as Ambassador Michael Sternberg, who paid the school a visit on Friday May 25 in order to cut the ribbon and announce the school officially open. Anders Normann made a speech in which he assured that the world had suffered with the children during the Tsunami.
“Time will never heal the devastating wounds inflicted on the people of your village, but I want you to know that all over the World, adults as well as children suffered with you, – and they all wanted to reach out,” Anders Normann said during his speech. After the speech and when school representatives had thanked the Danish and British donors, the Ambassador cut the ribbon and admired the plate with the donors’ names engraved.
Unofficial Tsunami warnings
The ambassador took the opportunity of speaking to English teacher at the school, David Johnson, who came with his family to the school only a couple of months after the Tsunami. According to him, the Tsunami ghost still hangs over the area.
“Yesterday the school was evacuated by the parents, because they had received unofficial tsunami warnings,” David Johnson said. “It still happens, but not as often as during the first year after the Tsunami”, he says. The city of Ban Nam Khem now has a central, official warning system. “But the people’s confidence in the system is very low. Many of the parents who evacuated their children yesterday lost other children during the Tsunami in 2004”, explained David Johnson who has no plans of returning to USA. His wife teaches art at the school and his three daughters still live in Thailand.
A blue angel and an orange devil
After the opening, the Ambassador visited the children in their class rooms and visited the Tsunami sights of the village. Here he could see remnants of the disaster such as ‘The blue angel’ – a fishing boat that in stead of killing, saved a house – and the orange devil – a smaller fishing boat that came sailing through the main street of the village during the Tsunami and killed dozens on its way. Both ships are kept in the places they landed as monuments of the Tsunami.
Finally, the Ambassador and Anders Normann visited the memorial of the victims of the Tsunami. Most of the names here are Thai. “This is not a tourist area and that made it more difficult for the area to attract sponsors and donors for the projects such as the school”, says Anders Normann who has been responsible for collecting money for the school projected and is also a donor himself.
The school thanked the Ambassador and Anders Normann for their visit and gave the visitors flowers and a painting as tokens of their gratitude.