PITCHING IN: Sue and Steve Lewis have the support of local businesses in their plans to build an orphanage in Sri Lanka
PITCHING IN: Sue and Steve Lewis have the support of local businesses in their plans to build an orphanage in Sri Lanka

Lennox family on mercy mission

By ALEX EASTON, Chief reporter

THE Lennox Head family which outran the Boxing Day tsunami in Sri Lanka is re- turning to help the devastated nation ? and this time they're bringing friends.

Steve and Sue Lewis, with their children Shani and Sam, were staying at the resort vil- lage of Hikkaduwa when the tsunami struck, forcing them to flee on foot to escape the gi- ant waves.

Now they are preparing to go back, this time with a team of up to 20 tradespeople and volunteers, to build an orphan- age for Sri Lankan children whose parents were killed in the disaster.

The Lewis family was al- ready preparing to build an or- phanage in Sri Lanka before the tsunami struck ? the end of a five-year effort to help the nation's children.

When the waves hit, Steve and Sue used much of the money they had personally contributed to the project to give immediate relief to survi- vors, buying thousands of pil- lows and blankets, as well as medical supplies.

As the family helped survi- vors in Sri Lanka, local en- thusiasm for the project was building steam.

Now work on the first or- phanage is about to begin and the couple, backed by volun- teers, has decided to go back in August to build another.

Mr Lewis said the orphan- ages would keep supporting child tsunami victims long after the public focus on the disaster faded.

"What is happening now is the Sri Lankan Government is paying families to look after the orphaned kids, and they think that's great," Mr Lewis said. "But they're not going to look after them for 20 years, which is what we will be doing."

Since returning to Australia in January, the Lewis family has recruited cricketer Mi- chael Slater as patron of the first orphanage and has been overwhelmed by offers of sup- port.

"A businessman rang up and said he was going to buy a business but didn't need the profit from it, so he would give the profit to the orphan- age. If he ever sells the busi- ness the orphanage will get the proceeds," Mr Lewis said.

"I'm really humbled and touched by the support. It re- ally gives you faith in the good old Aussie spirit."

Also among the people of- fering to help, Ballina devel- oper and former owner of Teece constructions, Graeme Teece, has offered to personal- ly co-ordinate the building of the second orphanage.

Col Groves, owner of Col Groves Electrics, had already donated his time and the time of his staff to fundraising events, and is considering sending some of his electri- cians to Sri Lanka in August.

Mr Teece, who previously donated his time for a similar project in Uganda, said he just wanted to help.

"When I do something for those people in different coun- tries, there is a whole sense of satisfaction that comes from it that is so much more than I get from building a home," he said.

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