Four years ago on Boxing Day, killer waves devastated a long stretch of the Sri Lankan coast and left more than 40,000 dead and half a million people displaced.
Today, while most restoration work on the southern coast has been completed, progress in the east sorely lags behind.
The Rice Project started off as an idea by veteran photographers Triston Yeo and Alex Soh, who run The Red Tree, an agency that focuses on promoting fine art photography and creating public awareness on less fortunate places around the world. Using photography as a medium, they wanted to bring attention to those still recovering from the tsunami and encourage others to discover the beauty of the island’s natural wonder.
The project kicked off with a photography competition that required participants to submit a photo essay on the theme of “Living”. Instead of cameras or cash, the prize was a 10-day photo expedition to distribute rice in Sri Lanka and document the living conditions of its people in Trincomalee and Batticaloa, two of the worst hit areas in the east.
Open to all Singaporeans and PRs, the contest took place from June 15 to July 10 and was promoted mostly through mediums like Facebook and ClubSnap. The public was then invited to vote online from July 11 to 14. Judges’ feedback made up 70 percent of the decision while voting determined the other 30 percent. Entries were judged on their creativity, storytelling, composition and originality. A total of six winners from the open category (18 years old and above) and student category (16 – 25 years old) were selected. Two other videographers and four members from The Red Tree also went on the trip.
“This is just a small step towards rebuilding their lives,” says Alex. “We believe that rice is the catalyst that will trigger off the restoration of the houses in the area.”
Working with Habitat for Humanity, a non-governmental organisation that specialises in building affordable, decent housing, the Rice Project team distributed a total of 16,000kg of rice to more than 500 families in villages and refugee camps that needed help. Having their homes wrecked by both the tsunami and civil war, it is a tough battle for these people to pick their lives up. This is why their stories need to be told, and where The Rice Project comes in to help.
The Rice Project photography exhibition features the works of 10 photographers who want to use their images to turn the spotlight back on the Asian Tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka, some of whom are still waiting for new homes five years on.
From February 13 to 22, a major exhibition will be held at VivoCity in Singapore to share the Rice Project with the public. The works exhibited will be used to raise funds which will go towards restoring more houses in the areas the team visited. Donations are also welcome.
For more information, visit //www.thericeproject.com/index.php