Nate says he felt a kinship with all the people in Sri Lanka who, he says, are very resilient.
"It was a veneer of survival that I think everyone has when they've experienced something like that, but it wasn't wafer thin," Nate says. "It was living life again with a sense of purpose, a sense of forgiveness for having survived."
Part of Nate's mission was also to report back on the progress of Oprah's Angel Network's tsunami projects, led by three international charities. Mercy Corps is helping small businesses get back on their feet and boost local tourism. When the tsunami hit, there were only five hotels left standing. One year later, there are 42 hotels and 53 restaurants.
Thanks to Mercy Corps, this 70-year-old widow can run her tea shop on the beach, serving breakfast to fishermen. And a baker whose shop was flattened is back baking 600 loaves of bread a day.
Donations to Oprah's Angel Network also went to the local Habitat for Humanity, where volunteers are building 150 homes for those who lost everything. Happy families have moved in to 50 houses so far. One new homeowner, who lost his wife and 4-year-old daughter in the tsunami, says, "I have the greatest satisfaction and security now that I have moved into the new house."
"This really represents a future for him and his family," Nate says. "That's why I'm back here conquering my own fears, dealing with my own issues, to walk the streets again and see exactly what's been done since I left last time."
Free The Children built the Oprah's Angel Network Center for Learning, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. The school is built entirely of galvanized steel, strong enough to withstand another tsunami. Of the 200 students in attendance, half are women.
One 20-year-old student says the classes have offered her the chance to learn outside of the home that typically is not encouraged by her culture. "Because of the center, we would be able to get our certificates and work and take care of our families," she says. "This makes us really happy. It is a really big blessing for us."
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