British tsunami brothers use funky footwear to help children

Mon Dec 22, 2014 1:11am EST
 
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When British brothers Rob and Paul Forkan survived the Indian Ocean tsunami 10 years ago that killed both their parents, they knew they had to use their lives to help other children in need.

On Dec. 26, 2004, the then teenagers awoke in a beachside hotel room in Sri Lanka as a wall of water ripped through coastal communities in 14 countries, claiming 230,000 lives.

Their parents, Kevin and Sandra, had taken the brothers and two of their four siblings out of school for four years to travel and volunteer on humanitarian projects in India and were spending Christmas in a fishing village called Weligama.

When disaster struck, the family was split up. Rob and Paul stayed together, clinging to trees, and eventually found younger siblings Matt and Rosie but their parents were swept away.

The siblings hitchhiked their way to safety, despite having no passports and no money, and managed to get a flight back to Britain where they were cared for by one of their elder sisters.

Realizing how lucky they were to survive and to have family to help them, the brothers' desire to give back led them in 2011 to set up Gandys, an ethical footwear company that makes colorful, funky flip flops from natural materials.

The company, that has gone from strength to strength this year, channels 10 percent of its profits into funding projects for orphans and underprivileged children.

Using this money, bolstered by fund-raising and donations, the brothers are marking the 10th anniversary of one of the most devastating humanitarian disasters in recorded history by opening a center for children in Sri Lanka through their Gandys Foundation that runs their "Orphans for Orphans" mission.   Continued...