B'nai B'rith joins effort to rebuild Sri Lanka

Organization will help restore country's system of cooperatives damaged in tsunami of 2004.

B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider will travel to Sri Lanka Thursday morning as part of a continuing project to rebuild the south, which suffered widespread destruction in the tsunami of December, 2004. In conjunction with the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (NISPD) and representatives from the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), B'nai B'rith will unveil 10 distribution centers in Sri Lanka which serve cooperatives, an essential part of the Sri Lankan economy. "We are going to be inaugurating 10 distribution centers that were damaged by the tsunami," said Schneider. "We have refurbished and rebuilt these centers for the cooperatives." Schneider explained that members of the cooperative bring their produce to the centers. Over 93 distribution centers that serve many cooperative societies were damaged during the tsunami. Over 800 million people internationally participate in cooperatives. In Sri Lanka, a country of over 21 million, 6 million people are members of cooperatives. These organizations provide services ranging from distribution of agricultural goods, low cost banking and credit services to participants and supply basic necessities to villages. In addition to rebuilding the centers, the organizations will train cooperative managers in business strategies and economic plans with the hope of "raising the economic level of the cooperatives significantly." NISPD chairman Yehuda Paz spoke enthusiastically about the reconstruction work the project hopes to accomplish. "The main thrust of the project will hopefully leave the cooperatives stronger than before the tsunami," said Paz. "We hope to reach 1,750 cooperative managers and officials drawn from 400 cooperatives." Paz said that the project was done in the "spirit of tikkun olam" and provided a "concrete expression of support" for the people of Sri Lanka.