Raleigh, N.C. — A survivor of the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in Sri Lanka was in Raleigh this weekend to say thank you.
Eroshan Weerathunga was 18 years old when the tsunami devastated his community in Sri Lanka.
His father, grandparents and other relatives were killed, and he, along with his mother and brother, were forced to live in a camp with other homeless victims of the storm.
Several months later, Dr. Betty Webb, the now-retired director of International Programs at Meredith College, came across Weerathunga during a visit to Sri Lanka. As part of the school’s relief efforts, an anonymous employee send $30 a month to send Weerathunga to college.
Weerathunga did so well in school that he earned a scholarship to a university in Ontario, where he earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering.
He now lives in Toronto and works for General Electric.
“What I want to say is, without that help, I wouldn’t recover from tsunami at all and without their help, I wouldn’t come this far and I wouldn’t enjoy my life again and I wouldn’t get past that destruction,” Weerathunga said.
Weerathunga still has family in Sri Lanka that he visits every few years and he said his community has finally recovered from the tsunami.
This weekend, he and his wife are meeting the anonymous donor who sent him money for three years to send him to college.
“One of the reasons I was excited about this story is that it does make the point that sometimes we don’t do anything because we think we can’t do enough, but even a small, consistent support can be transformative for people when they’ve been in these kinds of tragedies,” Webb said.