Sarosh Syed (Sri Lanka)

Sarosh Syed (Home for Human Rights – HHR – Sri Lanka): Sarosh is from Karachi, Pakistan. He moved to the United States in 1995 to attend Northwestern University where he received a BA in Math and Art History. After graduating from NU, Sarosh went to work for the software industry specializing in language translation and localization software. After a brief stint of traveling in Europe, he turned to the non-profit world. He worked with environmental organizations such as Conservation International, the Public Interest Research Group and social justice organizations such as the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union. Most of his Ngo work concerned marketing and communications. At the time of his fellowship, Sarosh was studying for a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree at Georgetown University.

Vulnerability Personified

09 Jul

This week, after a week spent searching for a translator and waiting for higher level decisions about the tsunami project, I began to visit a few more of HHRбпs current beneficiaries. Each of them has been through turmoil beyond my comprehension, but one story in particular was almost too heartbreaking to tolerate.

This HHR beneficiary was a slight man, probably in his mid-thirties. He lost his wife, his daughter, his home, and all his possessions in the tsunami. He now lives with his remaining daughter in a temporary house smaller than my storage space in Washington. He looked tired; not the way one looks after a hard dayбпs work, but the way one would look anticipating the hard days ahead. He managed to smile every now and then, but the obvious effort behind the smile made him look even more tired.

His exhaustion disappeared for a moment when he introduced me to his three-year-old daughter. She was clearly the focus of his life now. He placed all the cash compensation he received since the tsunami into a savings account for her education. He did not use any of it for his livelihood. To make ends meet, he washes clothes on the weekends and builds other peopleбпs houses during the week.

He had one, determined reply to all my questions about his future. б░Somehow we will manage,б▒ he repeated, wrapping his arms around his daughter. He did not know how or when he would be able to find a permanent house, replace his belongings, or overcome the trauma of his losses. All he knew was that he would continue building houses and washing clothes until he did.

Despite his belief in himself, one canбпt help but wonder what will become of this man. How much longer would he have to live in his tiny temporary house? How would his ordeal affect his relationship with his daughter? Would he survive if anything were to happen to her in the conflict areas and the minefields that litter Sri Lankaбпs east coast? Will they ever manage to find security and stability or will the Sri Lankan civil war resume and open a new chapter of turmoil in their lives?

I doubt I will ever be able to answer these questions. All I can do for now, I suppose, is wish him my best and hope and pray that his determination will prevail over his exhaustion.

Posted By Sarosh Syed (Sri Lanka)

Posted Jul 9th, 2005

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