Chichester charity helps Sri Lankan families

Lakshman, Nalini and their son with Jill Hansford
Lakshman, Nalini and their son with Jill Hansford

A DEADLY tsunami which devastated hundreds of countries has changed the lives of a couple closer to home.

Matthew and Jill Hansford, from Chichester, have spent the past ten years helping to rebuild people’s lives after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

Their son arrived home from a cricket tour in Sri Lanka just three days before disaster hit, and the family were prompted to travel to the city of Galle to start rasing money.

“We are frequently moved and affected by the plight and spirit of the people we meet,” said Matthew. “There is little in life that can compare to being able to help a family.”

The Hansfords are currently working with 24 poor, remote schools in the rainforests of southern Sri Lanka.

They set up a charity called Extra Cover, after raising enough money to build homes, buy new mattresses and bedlinen for the hospital and support schools and households in the region.

A few months ago, the couple discovered a family who were also in need of help.

“It reduced Jill and I to an emotional mess,” said Matthew. “They live in a mud house that is on the point of falling down.”

Lakshman lost his leg above the knee in a wild boar trap and then lost both eyes in an explosion.

“He is married to Nalini, a beautiful lady who has stunted arms and a speech impediment and their son Lakshan is visually impaired and has severe learning difficulties.”

Lakshman has made his own prosthetic leg out of tin which Matthew described as looking ‘more like armour from the dark ages’.

Matthew and Jill paid for some equipment to help Lakshman make coir brushes to sell.

“We asked him how he was doing, he said he was making brushes and also helped weed and pick tea, he said he was very lucky.

“When asked if there was anything else 
they would like, he asked for a screwdriver. 
That was it.”

Lakshman said he was more interested in repairing the hole in his roof rather than the offer of a new leg. Matthew and Jill took him to see a specialist to see how much a new leg would cost.

“His wife was so happy, had a smile that could just melt your heart,” said Matthew.

They then offered to build Lakshman 
and Nalini a new brick house with an outside toilet and shower.

“It would be adapted to make Lakshman’s 
life as easy as possible and with some luxuries,” said Matthew.

“We found that this couple were quite inspirational, nothing was going to get them down, they both worked hard and their house and the area was immaculately clean.

“I cannot think of a more deserving family to have a bit of luck for the first time in many years.

“Life rarely turns up people like these, what could we possibly have to worry about in 
our lives?”

Extra Cover is aiming to raise £10,000 so the charity can continue to help impoverished communities and people like Lakshman and 
his family.

Over Christmas, the charity received £2,500 from auctioning off a cricket bat signed by a host of cricket players including Sachin Tendulker.

“Thanks to all who have been in contact 
or donated so far, we really appreciate it,” 
said Matthew.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have so many people support me and the charity.”