On the coastal road to Auroville, you will find the “boat engine hospital,” a neat, well-organized workshop; it is a tsunami rehabilitation project the goal of which is to repair the damaged boat engines so the fishing can resume.
“Engine Repair Service for Fisher Man Community” reads the banner in English and Tamil. The smell of petrol welcomes you. Dozens of engines are waiting in a row for repair or transport back to their owners. There is a remarkable atmosphere of quiet, concentrated focus, pride and serious productivity.
Boomi and Patrick are the organizers of this project. Boomi, who runs a technical training center in Auroville, selected four experienced mechanics and four helpers. Patrick, a French student who came to help the tsunami-affected people, went with Seenu, a technical assistant, to the “Panchayat” of the various villages to organize the collection of damaged engines. The first tasks were to assess the damage, make an estimate of the spare parts necessary and then to order the parts. In only one week the first eight repaired engines were returned to their owners. By February 23 rd , 25 engines had been repaired and returned to the villages, completely free of charge to the fishermen.
For the work in the next villages, it was decided to ask the owners to pay a small contribution according to the size of the engine. Participation of the villagers is required for all projects which are organized by Village Action, in an effort to give more responsibility to the people who are involved.
Collaboration between Auroville and the local population is progressing: villagers have helped to build Auroville and now Aurovilians are working with the villagers in many different ways.
A measure of the success of this project took place at the end of February, when the Auroville Tsunami Relief team met with fishermen and villagers to resume fishing: three boats and 15 fishermen went back to the sea and caught thousands of fish and approximately 200 people gathered to share a big fish feast! For Patrick and the team, this was the biggest “thank you” and the most joyful event since the Tsunami Relief & Rehabilitation work began. Other positive feedback has been the excitement of individual fishermen in getting their engines back. Negotiations and communication were difficult at first but through the “paalam” structure in Village Action, the fishermen came to trust and appreciate the team and communications went increasingly more smoothly.
The work continues: at the end of March, 100 engines had been repaired! Seventy more are lined up. A new location with a larger workspace that will serve as a workshop and training facility has been chosen. A survey for the future repair of fiberglass and wooden boats has started, awaiting the government decision on the replacement/repair of the boats.