BBC TV newsman backs University rehabilitation scheme in Sri Lanka
(16 December 2005)
BBC TV news presenter George Alagiah is giving his personal support to a remarkable University project to help with the rehabilitation and reconstruction of a community in Sri Lanka struck by the East Asian tsunami last year.
George Alagiah, an award-winning journalist who was born in Sri Lanka and is a Durham University graduate, visited Southern Sri Lanka earlier this year and sees the University scheme as an important part of the reconstruction of the community at Palana West. The Durham University scheme is thought to be one of the most comprehensive university schemes in the UK with elements of fundraising, teaching and research included and partners involved from across the University and the North East region. On his visit to Sri Lanka, Alagiah met people who had lost everything but he also witnessed determination to rebuild their communities. It was obvious that long-term help and support is needed to enable people to restore their lives and livelihoods. George Alagiah said: "After some fifteen years covering crises around the world - whether it was in Somalia in the 1990s or Sri Lanka after the tsunami - I know just how crucial emergency aid can be in saving lives. But I have also learnt that some of the most important work goes on after the cameras have left and the headline writers have had their say. Without quiet, unheralded, long term help communities can be permanently set back. That is why I support the work the students and staff of Durham University are doing in Palana West." As part of the scheme, fifteen Durham student volunteers have been selected to spend eight weeks in Sri Lanka to engage in a wide range of activities including working in a pre-school at Palana West which will be built and equipped from funds raised by these students and the Durham University Charities Kommittee (DUCK) over the next six months. The Durham students will also help with the teaching of fellow students at the University of Ruhuna, at the heart of the tsunami-devastated southern province, and in a school at Moraketiara. Professor Joy Palmer-Cooper, Director of the Centre for Research on Environmental Awareness and Management and Project Sri Lanka Leader at Durham University has just returned from Sri Lanka where she set up the student placement scheme. Professor Palmer-Cooper said: ?We are absolutely delighted to have the enthusiastic support of our former student George Alagiah for this critical long-term work. ?We are planning to adopt and help to support, revitalise and rebuild this entire community, making an impact on the lives of every person within it in some way, and on the future of the young in particular. We aim to ensure that all children in the area, regardless of whether or not they were orphaned by the tsunami, have access to a complete education to the age of 16 or 18.? Long-term links between the Universities of Durham and Ruhuna are being developed as part of this project with an exchange of academic staff between the two institutions initially in the areas of geography, engineering, business, biological sciences and health. Staff will collaborate on a wide range of research in areas including community health, environmental understanding and bio-medical engineering, and contribute to curriculum development in the Department of English Studies at the University of Ruhuna. ***Durham University is the Sunday Times University of the Year for its world-class academic strengths, graduate quality and progress in widening participation.*** Notes to Editors George Alagiah joined the BBC's Six O'Clock News in January 2003, which he co-presents with Sophie Raworth. Before going behind the studio desk, George was one of the BBC's leading foreign correspondents, reporting on events ranging from the genocide in Rwanda, the plight of the marsh Arabs in southern Iraq and civil wars in Afghanistan, Liberia and Sierra Leone. George joined the BBC in 1989 after seven years in print journalism with South Magazine. He is a specialist on Africa and the developing world and has interviewed among others Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. George Alagiah has won several awards including: the Critics Award and the Golden Nymph Award at the Monte Carlo Television Festival (1992); award for Best International Report at the Royal Television Society (1993); commendation from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (1993); Amnesty International's Best TV Journalist award (1994); the One World Broadcasting Trust award (1994); the James Cameron Memorial Trust award (1995); and the Bayeux Award for War Reporting (1996). In 1998 he was voted Media Personality of the Year at the Ethnic Minority Media Awards. In 2000 he was part of the BBC team which collected a BAFTA award for its coverage of the Kosovo conflict. George Alagiah was born in Sri Lanka in November 1955. His primary education was in Ghana where his parents moved in 1961. He attended secondary school at St John's College in Portsmouth, England and graduated with a degree in Politics from Van Mildert College at Durham University. For further information, Keith Seacroft 0191 334 6075 firstname.lastname@example.org Dionne Hamil 0191 334 6078 email@example.com (Weds pm, Thurs, Fri) Rebecca Turnbull 0191 334 6075 firstname.lastname@example.org at the Media Relations Office at Durham University.