In 2004 a friend sent me some items together with an old, working transistor radio. I included this with the gifts going to the poor in Galle, Sri Lanka. The nun in charge always comes up with something creative when she gets one-off items, as it is often difficult to distinguish one poor family from another.
To solve the problem she often organizes a small tea party for families when the gifts are distributed. On this occasion she handed out free “lucky numbers” from a ticket book. Even purchasing a ticket is beyond the reach of these people. They drew numbers out of a hat for various items and the transistor radio was won by an extremely poor family, the father being a roadside cobbler repairing shoes, umbrellas and handbags. They were overwhelmed. Never in their lifetime would they ever be able to obtain such an item! The man and his family not only shed many tears of joy but fell down on the floor and stretched out to the nun, a Sri Lankan custom amongst the Buddhists and Hindus in particular where it is customary to honour your parents and elders. All this happened on the 22 December 2004.
On December 26th the tsunami hammered Galle and most of the children and families who had received gifts not only lost them but many lost family and their little shacks as well. The Cobbler and his family had now become refugees and had told the nun in their distress that they had lost the precious radio. As things turned out, following the tsunami I started collecting clothing and items to ship to Sri Lanka to help those who were hit by the tsunami. Whilst packing these gifts I mentioned to a couple of friends standing around me the story about the Cobbler family who had lost their most precious transistor radio. One of them piped up “I bought 2 wind up little transistor radios several months back just on a hunch as I saw them at a bargain shop.” My friend had no idea why she bought them – as she was not aware of any need. She was more than willing to donate one of these 2 radios to the Cobbler! I was overjoyed by this news and a year later when I visited Sri Lanka and happened to be present at a Christmas party at the orphanage when the Cobbler’s wife turned up with their “wind up” transistor radio with the cardboard box still intact. She was extremely grateful for the replacement radio. It was such a simple thing but it meant so much to them.