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The overgrown volunteer centre in Khao Lak this week

Tsunami Volunteer Centre Up for Sale

Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Photo Album Above

THE hillside land on which the tsunami volunteer centre stands near Khao Lak is being sold.

Four years on from the tsunami, an important piece of local history will probably disappear with the sale.

This is where as many as 6000 volunteers from across Thailand and around the world came to stay while helping the villages along the Andaman coast to rebuild and recover.

It was probably one of the first places in Thailand where the then unusual Japanese word ''tsunami'' was painted on a wall in large letters.

It was also the home of a trend that grew into a movement, spawned a new word, and helped to revitalise the coastal businesses in this area.

Someone christened it ''voluntourism.''

The Thai owner, Khun Saroj, said the site was originally the Khao Lak Nature Resort when the wave swept in, causing substantial damage.

The property has a beach frontage on the other side of the hill, extends across between nine or 10 rai, and is going for around 60 million baht.

Other buildings associated with the tsunami time are also changing.

The boatyard on Cape Pakarang where volunteers and locals built and repaired nearly 70 craft is now the beachside Boatyard Restaurant.

It was the brainchild of Scott Cater and a couple of friends. Scott, an American, had never been to Thailand and had a job to return to in California.

But he came when he heard about the tsunami and stayed on in Thailand, working hard until every fisherman in the region had a boat.

Then he built one of his own. His plan to sail around the world did not materialise, but his volunteer's dream to restore the livelihoods of hundreds of locals did.

If he returns one day, he will never be short of a meal or a place to stay.

Under the arrangement, the owner of the land allowed the volunteers to work there on condition that they got to keep the building.

Change is everywhere around the region now. Some of the volunteers are probably seen in the streets these days, having returned to Khao Lak as genuine tourists.

Along the road to the handsome boatyard, near the award-winning Sarojin resort, work has begun on what appears to be a new resort dotted with lagoons. Khao Lak is back.

Are you a one-time volunteer? Please tell us your story through the Comment box below

Here's how one volunteer, Australian Michelle Taffe, described the experience: ''I arrived in Khao Lak, Southern Thailand, in late February 2005 as a tsunami volunteer. Though the popular 'tropical paradise' had been tranformed into something resembling a war zone, the Thai people's strength in the face of their adversity was amazing. Working side by side with local Thai people slowly rebuilding their lives, I got to know them and their suffering, which in general was borne with a stoically positive outlook for the future. Having suffered the loss of my older brother in a traffic accident five years previously, I had something in common with the Thai people, many who had lost family members. On leaving the Khao Lak area I received many thanks and much gratitude from the villagers I had worked with in helping rebuild their houses. But I felt the lessons I had learned from these people about dealing with life and death far outweighed my contribution. As a result of this experience I try to live life on a more day to day basis and have a different attitude to obstacles and problems that once may have seemed insurmountable.''

Thailand Tsunami: Essential Reading

Tsunami Wave Carries Powerful Memories
Photo Album
Phang Nga was the epicentre of the big wave that devastated the Andaman coast on December 26, 2004. Four years on, the region reflects on the significance of the tsunami.
Tsunami Wave Carries Powerful Memories

Tsunami Missing: Families Still Waiting to Hear
Tsunami tears will flow this week for the dead, and for those still missing. Despite a forensic triumph that identified most of the unnamed victims, families still seek closure.
Tsunami Missing: Families Still Waiting to Hear

Phuket Wall of Remembrance Now a Disgrace
The world gave to Phuket and the Andaman coast after the 2004 tsunami. Now the island's Wall of Remembrance sits in a disgraceful state, with some flags of 45 countries blown away.
Phuket Wall of Remembrance Now a Disgrace

Tsunami ID Cremation Mixups Trouble Families
Photo Album The return of the wrong bodies to families of some tsunami victims is believed to be making the highly praised Thai Tsunami Victim Identification process even more complicated.
Tsunami ID Cremation Mixups Trouble Families

Bodywork: How Tsunami Victims Reclaimed Names
The work by international police created the greatest forensic detective saga in history. Here is a report from the first 100 days.
Bodywork: How Tsunami Victims Reclaimed Names

The Man Who Waits in The Cool Container
Lost and found. Those three words tell a tsunami story that applied to thousands of victims. But for one of the lost and found, there has been no reunion with loved ones. And there may never be.
The Man Who Waits in The Cool Container

Water and Fire: A Tsunami Reunion
The poorest unidentified victims of the tsunami in Thailand are the ones who still have yet to be reunited with relatives. Here is a report of one reunion.
Water and Fire: A Tsunami Reunion

Tsunami Warning Test: How Safe Are We?
Warning drills for a tsunami are easy in sunshine. But the unpredictable arrival of a big wave in the middle of the night, when telephones and television are switched off, leaves us asking: How safe are we?
Tsunami Warning Test: How Safe Are We?

Tsunami Warning: 'Resorts to Blame'
The lessons of the 2004 tsunami have not been learned. And for the first time, the reliability of the big wave warning system is being questioned. An adequate answer is essential.
Bodywork: How Tsunami Victims Reclaimed Lives

US Calls For Tsunami ID work To Continue
A US grant to Thailand of up to $1.5 million to assist in restoring names to victims of the Asian Tsunami expires on March 31. But a scandal continues to obscure the future of the identification process.
US Calls For Tsunami ID work To Continue

Thai Official Accused of Tsunami Corruption
Accusations of corruption by a Thai official take the edge off a generous international tsunami project that involved about 40 countries and gave names back to thousands of unidentified victims.
Thai Official Accused of Tsunami Corruption


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