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March 15, 2005
Muttiah Muralitharan has been helping in the post-tsunami reconstruction effort again. Last weekend, he opened the first of many homes that are to be rebuilt over the coming months by his tsunami charity, The Foundation of Goodness.
On Sunday, Murali travelled to Seenigama, a small fishing village on the west coast that was pulverized by the tsunami waves, to officially open Nandavathi Kumara's new home. Nandavathi's husband tragically died weeks before the tsunami, which then swept away her home and with it all hope for the future.
But fortunately for Nandavathi and her fellow villagers - many of whom crowded around Murali lighting firecrackers and playing drums as he opened the home - Murali and his manager Kushil Gunasekera have been running a community-based charity called the Gunasekera-Muralitharan-Vaas Foundation during the past two years.
Both Gunasekera and Murali had narrow escapes on Boxing Day: Gunasekera sprinted from the waves and sought refuge in Seenigama's temple while his bungalow was washed out, while a roadside policeman warned Murali to flee in his car while travelling down to Seenigama for a charity function.
Since the tragedy, Gunasekera has been coordinating emergency relief and now the reconstruction efforts in the village, helped by Murali who has helped raise funds and organised the supply of much-needed relief, not just in Seenigama but all around the island.
"In our village about 150 houses were totally destroyed," Gunasekera told the BBC. "We can build about 30-40 houses a month, so given that time frame to improve the infrastructure and what not, I guess I'm looking at a period of one year to put the village back on track."
Nandavathi was delighted with her new home: "I love this home and little by little I will improve it,2 she said. "My one hope now is that the water will never come back and I can live here with my family in peace."
Murali, who will travel to Chennai this weekend for his wedding, started to focus more on charity work after his shoulder injury last August. Since then he has also become deeply involved with the World Food Programme and has also helped out the cricket board's Cricket-Aid program for tsunami victims.
He took the opportunity to thank the international community for its generous contributions in the aftermath of the tsunami but hoped that all the money pledged would eventually be sent because with the monsoon season fast approaching there remains much work to be done.
"The international community and non-governmental organisations are doing a great job," he said, "but the thing is a lot of countries have pledged [money] and I want to see whether the funds are going to come."