14 June 2006
by Kerry McQueeney
Tsunami volunteer: Civilian police worker Emma Linney has recently returned from a trip to southern Thailand where she helped in an orphanage. (From: This is Local London)
Civilian police worker Emma Linney recently returned from a five-week trip to southern Thailand where she helped out in an orphanage full of children who lost their entire families after giant waves devastated coastal resorts across south-east Asia in 2004.
The 28-year-old case clerk, who works in the criminal justice unit at Croydon police station, was so moved by the orphans' plight she now plans to do more voluntary work in other countries.
Emma, who lives in Bromley, said: "Like everyone else, I'd seen what had happened but wanted to do something to help so I went out there to volunteer.
"I went to Khao Lak, the worst-hit area, where 6,000 died. Out of 68 resorts only 10 are still there.
"Even now, the extent of the devastation is shocking. Seeing it on television doesn't compare to being there. Towns and villages have been wiped off the face of the earth. Those poor people didn't stand a chance."
Many children in Thailand and in the other countries affected by the enormous wave were orphaned in the disaster.
Orphanages are now packed with youngsters who have no one else in the world to look after them.
The extra demand for assistance means many are struggling.
The help of selfless volunteers like Emma has enabled them to cope.
"The kids in the orphanage have no one. They lost their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. The youngest child there was aged 18 months while the oldest ones were about 15 years old.
"Many of them saw the big waves and are now terrified of the water. They won't go anywhere near the beach so the orphanage has built make-shift swimming pools there to try and get them used to the water again."
Croydon police gave Emma an extra five days paid leave to go to Thailand and her office raised £75 which was spent on gifts for the children.
Emma added: "The children are traumatised by what they saw but they are happy in the orphanage.
"I want to go again, but to another country. In Thailand the children are well cared for and are coming to terms with what's happened.
"But there are children in other countries who are a lot worse off, who don't have the relative wealth Thailand's tourist industry has."