Sri Lankan student moved by devastation in homeland

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    By Katie Evans

    Himal Rathnakumara, a BYU student from Colombo, Sri Lanka, has reconsidered his career plans in light of the recent South Asian tsunami tragedy.

    Rathnakumara, a junior studying physics with an emphasis in mathematics, wanted to be a scientist growing up, but he is contemplating obtaining another degree so that he can help his people more effectively.

    ?In addition to being involved in physics and mathematics I would like to get an MBA or an MPA so that I can help in the improvement of education as well as improving the quality of life among people in the third-world countries including Sri Lanka,? he said. ?After seeing the disaster I have thought of ways of blessing the lives of these victims, including the orphans that have been left behind.?

    Life quickly changed for Rathnakumara when he received a phone call while driving home on the evening of Dec. 26.

    ?I heard about the tsunami around 6:30 p.m., but I didn?t know it was that big,? he said. ?My friend?s grandma called and told me that Sri Lanka was hardly hit at all.?

    As he gradually realized the damages were greater, he also remembered that his parents were planning on visiting his mom?s sister in Galle, located on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, from Dec. 23- Dec. 26.

    Galle was greatly destroyed by the tsunami. Hundreds of bodies were found in the marshes, banks and shores of Galle days after the tsunami hit, the national press reported.

    Luckily, his family was in the inland part of Galle and was unharmed. However, they couldn?t return home to Colombo because the tsunami hit the morning they were supposed to leave and destroyed the bus system.

    Rathnakumara was able to talk to his family on the phone a couple of days ago.

    ?My family got a ride from my cousin?s husband to go back and took a different route,? he said. ?They needed to go back because my brother had classes he needed to get back to.?

    While life continues for some, other Sri Lankans suffer in tragedy.

    ?Some people don?t have anything,? he said. ?Their homes are ruined. A lot of poor people live around the coast and depend on fishing for their living.?

    While Rathnakumara wonders what he can do to immediately help, he hopes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can touch people?s lives. He said there are only about 100 members in his branch in Colombo and he hopes the peace of the gospel can come to all the people of Sri Lanka.

    ?I would like to see these people know in their heart by the power of the Holy Ghost that they will know that there is a way for them to meet their loved ones and will be able to spend time with them for eternity through the power of the priesthood that has been restored through the prophet Joseph,? he said.

    Rathnakumara heard in the news that different places need different things. He said he feels like there is a two-fold mission to provide emotional and physical relief.

    ?I think the people that are affected will feel this for a long time, but if you are not feeling empathy for them, after awhile you might think they are all right, but they might not be,? he said. ?They need the help coming for a long time.?

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