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2004 Boxing Day Tsunami Anniversary

Photographer: Barbara Walton


Morning dawns with meditation for children who study and live at Yaowawit School, perched on a hill in Kampong area of the Phang Na district, a safe distance from the shores of the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand. Sleepy children yawn, others, wide awake, play games and chase each other across the brightly colored floor with painted human footprints. Laughter reigns. Breakfast, assembly, meditation and raising of the Thai flag, is the morning ritual before the rush and clatter to classes for the 120 under-privileged children who call Yaowawit their home.


German philanthropist Philipp Graf von Hardenberg, shocked by the scale of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, that swept away more than 5,000 people’s lives in Thailand alone, and shattered local communities living and visiting the idyllic coastal beaches of the area, asked friends and colleagues to donate, and launched a fund raising program to start the home school.


Now, ten years after the tsunami, most communities have rebuilt and many tourists returned. Yaowawit continues to grow and offers home and primary education for under-privileged and disadvantaged children of the area.


The project that grew out of a terrible disaster has grown and strengthened and helps children at risk and who need a home and good education. The school has grown to include an active hospitality training program, teaching the children life skills in the service industry and runs a small lodge which can house 40 guests. An active foreign volunteerism program exists and foreign volunteers are integrated into the operations of the school and actively assist in classes and projects, like tree planting on the 20 ha grounds where vegetables and fruit and fish are farmed, power is produced through their own solar park, or playing soccer on the sports grounds and joining the Yaowawit children in the swimming pool.


The boarding school, a ‘Children’s World Academy’ Foundations Germany and Thailand project, is a government approved, charitable institution for the poorest children in southern Thailand. The school's aim is to move more and more towards self-sufficiency in a model which follows the proposals by the much revered Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.