A Red Cross volunteer from Ames leaves Monday on his second disaster relief mission this year to Sri Lanka, which is still recovering from the December tsunami. Ron Matthews says much progress has been made in the months since the tidal waves wiped out entire villages, but the region won’t be “normal” again for a long time. Matthews says most estimates for when they’ll get anywhere near back to normal is five to ten years. That’s why he’s going back, he says, as the rainy season is about to strike there in May, prompting a serious problem as thousands of people are still living in tents. Matthews says it’s amazing how the people in Sri Lanka have moved on around the devastation. He says “They have built 20-thousand temporary living units already. They’ve got another 17-thousand planned, just in the area that we were in.” On his next trip, Matthews says instead of taking along relief supplies, he’ll just be taking cash to buy supplies there. He says the U.S. dollar goes much farther in Sri Lanka as when he was there the last time, 50-dollars bought school supplies for 16 children. Matthews has volunteered for Red Cross International since retiring as executive director of the Ames chapter in 2003.
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