TSUNAMIS: FROM GRIEVING TO GIVING
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
EVERY day Steve Lewis thanks God his kids are with him.
He almost lost them when a giant wave rolled towards the beachside hut his family was staying in at Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka, on Boxing Day last year.
And every day since the tragic 2004 tsunamis that claimed so many lives in Sri Lanka and across Asia, Sue and Steve Lewis have been helping orphaned children in the devastated country.
The couple have established the Aussies for Orphans non-profit organisation and are mid-way through construction of the first of what they hope will be dozens of orphanages across third-world countries.
Recalling the catastrophe, Steve could barely hold back the tears at the weekend.
His daughter Sharni had run off the beach yelling 'Daddy! there's a huge big wave', and as he saw her running, pursued by a giant wave, Steve knew immediately what to do: Run.
But, where was his four-year-old son, Samuel?
"For a second I thought Samuel was still on the beach...then I remembered he had come back to the hut to go to the toilet," Steve breaks off, choked with emotion.
The Lewis's had already been working towards building an orphange before the tsunamis ? since then it has become even more imperative that the work is finished.
Each orphanage will be called House of Hope, and individuals or businesses are invited to sponsor a project or an individual orphan.
The first orphanage is being built in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and will become the home for 12 orphans and their two foster mothers.
The Lewis's say they have been overwhelmed by the generosity of their local community towards the project, with an eight-person committee set up to oversee the charity and a plan to have all the financial transactions clearly reported to sponsors.
"We want people to know exactly where every cent is going," Steve said.
They are now looking for people to sponsor a child for $100 a month, which will cov- er the child's food, education, housing, medical expenses and the foster mother.
"Once we get these first 12 children sponsored, we can start on the next orphanage," Sue said.
Meanwhile, this Christmas there were no overseas adventures for the Lewis family ? just a quiet family day spent at their Lennox Head home.
The family has had a rollercoaster of a year emotionally, especially seven-year-old Shar- ni, who has only recently started to express the traumatic effect the tsunami has had on her.
"Sharni's only just beginning to talk about it now and have a cry about it," Steve explained.
"And with Christmas here again, it has all come flooding back to her."
If you can help the Aussies for Orphans project, contact Sue or Steve Lewis directly on 66876004 or on 0423 555 739.