Tsunami Fishermens Relief Fund
Tsunami destruction in Nam Kem, Thailand
Lifting fishing boats from tsunami destruction



- Graeme Killen
- Jhon Koppa
- Saijer Ketkliang (Pon)
- Ivonne Suryana

Intensive six day start-up

Day 1

- Organizers and friends brainstorm ideas and prepare an outline plan for the project. The thinking is that if the local fishermen see some action starting - if they can see boats on dry land in for repairs, hear the saws and hammers from the repair project - they might start to think more about getting their own boats back into service. If a small spark of life can be established in a very conspicuous place, it might attract a few more who, in turn might attract a few more. If a critical mass of activity and optimism can be achieved, it could influence enough people that it might start a wave of interest in returning to life throughout the village. At the very least, it will get a few boats built and get a few of the fishermen who are ready to begin to get back on the water and making a living.

Graeme's temporary dwelling (a rented garage/shop) is further utilized by being put into service as the project office as well as living quarters for all four founders.

Nam Kem Destruction

Day 2

- Pon arranges for the use of a prime piece of land where boats will be built and repaired. She also contacts one of the village leaders (Ao Po Tao) to inform him about the project. Pon's brother-in-law makes banner signs for the project to be strung in front of both the office and the sea side work area.

Making TFRF's Banner

Day 3

- Arrangements are made with the Thai Army to clear debris and flatten a work area on the land with their heavy equipment. A potential donor requests that some boats be brought onto the site as evidence that something is really happening - to show that it's not just a nice idea but a functional project. The word is put out and several fishermen agree to tow their boats tomorrow when the high tide will allow them to get to shore.

Day 4

- We decide we'd better wake up early and get over to meet the Army crew first thing in the morning to make sure they don't get diverted by another project of higher priority. We arrive at their headquarters at 8:30am to find nobody around. Turns out they were already at our site looking for us! The project area is cleared of broken concrete, trees and other heavy debris and then graded level. Two boat launch areas are also graded.

- The fishermen miscalculate the high tide and no boats show up at the work area. It has been 6 weeks since they have last been on the water and they have lost touch with the rhythm of the sea.

Thai Army Helps Clear TFRF's Work Area

Day 5

- The fishermen catch the tides and 8 boats arrive in tow for repairs. The Thai Marine Department brings in a large crane and all 8 boats are pulled out of the mud and put onto the dry land of the repair site.

- A Swedish press entourage covers the story and the lifting of the boats.

- Relief Volunteer workers stop by - they have heard about the project and have committed to provide a large shelter structure for building boats.

Thai Marine's Help for Putting Boats on Land

Day 6

- A team of 20 Korean relief workers clean rubble, stone and loose debris from the work area by hand. The work area becomes one of the first pieces of land to become restored and habitable.

- Nine monks from Bangkok perform a ceremony at the freshly prepared work site to bring a good future for the fishermen and the project. At the end of the day a small bit of life has returned to Nam Kem village.

Photo © Jhon Koppa

February 20:

With the help from the Tsunami Volunteer's Center in Khao Lak (28 KM down the road) a shipyard style work shed has been constructed. Tsunami Fishermen's Relief Fund has received enough private donations to acquire the tools, construction site, sheltered work area and timber to commence work. The start-up work crew of 5-6 carpenters is working full time repairing the boats that have been brought into the yard. Roland Selzer (Germany) signs on to perform fund-raising strategies and assume miscellaneous director's tasks. Work begings to create the TFRF web site.

Nam Kem work area shelter

March 8, 2005:

We received our first significant international donation and another large contribution of cash for timber from the Ao Nang Divers at the Krabi-Seaview Resort. On March 2 we saw the launch of the first boat repaired back to the water. As repairs to the other salvaged boats advances, we are beginning the transition to construction of new boats and searching for more qualified carpenters to expand our production capacity. Good boatsmiths are becoming more difficult to find as other areas start to employ all available tradespeople in a wave of rebuilding that is finally getting underway throughout the country now. Working in a triangle among three continents, Ivonne in Indonesia assembles text and photos sent by Jhon and Moira in Thailand which are then sent to an internet server back in Madison, WI. USA and the TFRF.org web site is assembled, refined and up and running under its own domain.


March 28, 2005:

18 boats have been repaired and returned to the water and construction has begun on 2 new boats. Timber prices have doubled in recent weeks as boat construction projects have gotten underway along the entire west coast of Thailand, creating huge market pressures on the cost of new wood. The cost to build new boats has increased by approximately 70% because of wood shortages and the strategy of buying used boats from other areas of Thailand not affected by the Tsunami is explored.

April 14 , 2005:

A large international relief organization has approached the Tsunami Fishermen's Relief Fund suggesting they may be interested in taking over the operation of the program.