Hope replaces terror
By JOSIE SERGANT
SEVEN-YEAR-OLD Sharni Lewis, of Lennox Head, has returned from the terror of the Asian tsunami and is settling back into Australian life by getting ready for the new school year.
Memories of the 'big wave' she alerted her parents to are fading, but Sue and Steve Lewis worry about the long-term effects on their daughter and their son Sam, 4.
"We don't like to see our child in distress, but we are positive people and I'm sure that'll rub off on Sharni," Mrs Lewis said.
"She said to me that she's really looking forward to going back to school."
The Lewis family believe that if Sharni hadn't seen the 'big wave', the outcome of their tsunami ordeal could have been a lot different.
"We're lucky Sharni has good eyes," Mrs Lewis said.
"Had it been five or 10 minutes later, we would've been back on the beach."
Steve and Sue were in Sri Lanka to pursue their dream of building an orphanage.
Mr Lewis said that his daughter Sharni alerted him to the wave and he remembered hearing a rumble.
"I looked out and it was more like a tide coming in, but it had furniture and all sorts of things in it," he said.
"Straight away I knew something was wrong. It must've been instinct telling me it was a tsunami."
The family fled through the jungle, where they said locals were taking in tourists.
"I saw a side to the Sri Lankans I'd never seen before," Mr Lewis said.
"They were taking in all the tourists, they were taking anyone in."
Mr Lewis said he was up all night listening for more waves.
"There were rumours going around that there were more waves coming and we had no idea if it was true because we had no information," he said.
The increased need of orphanages since the tsunami has fast-tracked their project.
"We know there are over 1000 new orphans since the tsunami," Mr Lewis said.
"But the real figure could be at least two or three times that."
The family is working with another couple, Oscar and Violet Bakos, and have bought an existing orphanage with enough land attached to build three or four more.
"There are already 50 kids in the Home of Hope, and we've drawn up plans to build a second one with a capacity of 40," Mr Lewis said.
Mr Bakos said that it depended on funding and support as to how many buildings could be erected.
"We could double, triple or quadruple in size, it's just a matter of getting funding," he said.
Mr Lewis wanted to thank the community for all the support they had received so far.
"We've had many individuals ring up and make donations, or to offer their time to come over and help build," he said.