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Survivor Trisha Silvers comes back to Phi Phi and the children

Phi Phi Draws Tsunami Survivor Back to Help

Sunday, December 27, 2009
One Australian survivor of the 2004 tsunami remains determined to see some good come out of the big wave that claimed thousands of lives in Thailand and around the region.

Trisha Broadbridge was on honeymoon in Phi Phi with her husband, Troy, a sporting hero to people in Melbourne who follow the top code of Australian Rules football, when the big wave swept in.

Married for just eight days, the couple were taking a romantic walk along a beach at the time.

Amid the swirl of death and destruction, Troy, 24, was killed, and Trisha, 23, was seriously injured.

''I was in the water for more than two and a half minutes, and the wave swept me along for about 900 metres,'' Trisha, who has reverted to her maiden name of Silvers, told Phuketwan.

Phi Phi was a nightmare after the tsunami. There was no medical care. Few people lived and stayed whole to help the injured survivors.

Eventually, rescuers found her and she was carried by helicopter to a hospital on mainland Krabi, where surgeons pieced her back together again.

The physical injuries proved to be the easy part. As so many survivors subsequently found, it was the emotional damage that continued to cause pain and suffering.

The death of a young football star galvanised his clubmates and supporters of the Melbourne Demons into action. Rival club followers gave generously, too.

Not content with helping to raise millions of baht, about 50 of Troy Broadbridge's teammates flew to Phi Phi.

They built a school in memory of their friend, on donated land behind the Phi Phi Island Village Resort and Spa, where Troy and Trisha had been honeymooning.

Work permits were not an issue. The school was officially opened on September 30, 2005, and young local children have been taught there ever since.

The idea of an education centre was sparked when Trisha insisted on going back to Phi Phi, just two months after the tsunami.

''I needed to see for myself what had happened,'' she said. ''It was the best thing I could have done, because that trip back to Thailand gave me a passion to help the Thai people.

''It has really given me a connection with Thailand. And the beautiful thing is, Phi Phi now feels like my second home.''

Trisha has been back to Phi Phi 11 times since 2004, and each time she enters the school to a hero's welcome from the young primary students, many of them orphaned by the tsunami.

Children having an afternoon nap on Christmas Eve quickly brushed the sleep from their eyes and mobbed her, cheering and laughing, and pleading with her not to leave them again.

As she drove away on the back of an electric golf buggy to check into her hotel room, the children chased her until she disappeared into the distance.

Trisha returned to Phuket for the official fifth anniversary memorial service on Patong Beach on Boxing Day.

Then it was back to Phi Phi, where she placed a floral tribute on the waves off the beach where she last saw Troy alive.

Back home in Melbourne this week, she will resume her tasks as a youth worker with the Reach Foundation, the charity that oversees the Phi Phi school project and pays the teachers' salaries.

Trisha has written a book about her ordeal, 'Beyond the Waves: A tsunami survivor's story.' In 2006, she was named Young Australian of the Year for her charity work in Australia and Thailand.

The road back from the brink hasn't been easy, though.

She survived a suicide attempt and was haunted by nightmares, but she says she is now stronger and more settled.

"I think one of the things that really got me through was just knowing that 220,000 people died in the tsunami and somehow I survived,'' she said.

''I met Troy when we were teenagers and we both started sports administration traineeships at Melbourne Football Club.

''He was my first love, and I will always love him.

''I admired him so much, and I still draw a lot of strength from him, even though he's not here any more,'' she said.

Trisha continues to raise money for the school through her involvement with the Melbourne-based Reach Foundation.

''The Reach Broadbridge Fund pays for the maintenance and the teachers' salaries,'' she said.

Trisha said one of the many reasons she keeps coming back to the island and the Broadbridge Education Centre is to see the kids.

''They now have some hope because of what the school has done for them,'' she said.

The primary school caters for students who lost their homes or their families and has a heavy emphasis on teaching English so they can one day find jobs in tourism.

For Trisha, each trip to Phi Phi has been a mission to accomplish something for the locals, and each visit is a new opportunity to honor Troy's memory, and heal her own pain.
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On behalf of many, many people, we say thank you, Trisha Silvers.

Posted by Graham on December 28, 2009 00:07

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We are going over next July and, as a member of Melbourne Football Club, I would like very much to visit the school.

What can I take, books pencils etc?

Thank you, Jill.

Posted by Jill Dislakis on December 31, 2009 03:45


Wednesday September 17, 2014
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