Overview - Stella Homes
 

Persuing Charity

30 Houses for 30 Homeless Families

30 Houses for 30 Homeless Families

On December 26th 2004 Federico and Renata Stella were at the Maldives airport when all of a sudden they found themselves  - as thousands of men and women all around south east Asia – being at the mercy of the rage of a massive tsunami wave.

After luckily surviving this disaster, Federico Stella felt the need to do something to help the people who lost everything in that terrible moment. This is how the idea of building a whole new village for the families affected by the tsunami started to grow in January 2005.

 

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It was through Jimmy Marathy – a friend of one of his sons and a witness of the destruction caused by the Tsunami in Sri Lanka, that Frederico learned more about the massive devastation experienced by the Sri Lankan population, on top of all the problems that the civil war was already causing the country.

After coming back from a trip around Sri Lanka, where he gave his help to the survivors, Jimmy explained how the Southern and Eastern coast of the island appeared after the Tsunami: dead bodies floating down the streets, wrecked houses, floating mutilated dolls with no children to play with them. But this was not all.

The most horrendous thing, Jimmy recounted, was the number of people that lost their homes and families in the water. Crowds of people were crammed into tents, where those who had nothing for themselves, tried to help those with even less.

 

It was now clear to Federico Stella that something tangible and concrete had to be done.

 


Those were the days of buzz and social activism in which the world’s population was moved to raise funds for the tsunami affected countries. The general rule applied where money was donated to NGO’s and charity/non profit organizations who used it for their different projects.

Federico Stella did not want to follow this rule. He wanted to be in control of his project so he could be sure that his money would be used precisely for what he had in mind: the construction of a whole new village for homeless people.

What was now needed was the right location and a site to start the construction of the houses. We also needed to think about the development of a real project.

During his trip around Sri Lanka, Jimmy saw that one particular area was even more devastated by the water’s rage: the Ampara District, a place already struck by the violence of the civil war.

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One village of the District , Thirukkovil , had been completely destroyed by the Tsunami. There were thousand of deaths and evacuees in this fishing village and essentially, this brought their local economy to a standstill.

This part of the country was also under the LTTE control, which meant that the government of Sri Lanka never sent any aid or money to help with the reconstruction.

Having checked different options the choice was finally made, and a piece of land donated by a former minister was selected as the right place upon which to build.

This choice was reinforced by the fact that the land was a couple of kilometers inland and it was above sea level. As such, the village people would have assurance that the site would not be flooded in the event of another tsunami.

 

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Federico authorised a local architect, Prasudi, to design a model of a house that adhered to all local architectural customs and rules. After some discussions, he decided to sponsor the construction of a whole village, as it was possible to do so at a reasonable price due. This was how the construction of 30 houses began.
 

Construction began in April 2005 and by the end of that year all houses were almost finished: the only parts missing were windows, doors and some roofs.
In 2006 however, the civil war resumed.
 
This had a big impact on the project, as the area was no longer safe for workers. Additionally, the Tamil population of the village did not agree with non Tamil people working there.
 
In the summer of that year, work was completely interrupted and the houses were occupied by soldiers who used them as a shelter.
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In the meantime, in July 2006, Federico Stella died in Milan, after his last long fight against his last disease.

The war and the Professor’s premature death cast serious doubt about the completion of the project. However, in 2008 things started to turn around: Thirukkovil fell back under the government’s control and the civil war moved north.

The Stella family organized a new visit to the site in June to understand whether another donation would be able to start up the project again.

 

7 houses out of 30 had been completely destroyed. The other 23 were still standing, even if they looked more like skeletons of bricks and dust. In the past 2 years they had been completely ransacked by the locals who stole all valuable parts of the homes to sell them to other organizations nearby.

In August 2008 a second trip to the site took place and the project officially resumed, the new team leader was Surendra Wijerathne.

The family signed a contract with him in Colombo giving him the mandate to complete the project with funds provided by another donation.


A year later the houses were all completed and occupied by the beneficiaries, after another 12 months of problems and delays.

Federico Stella’s dream finally became real.

 

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