A FORMER Huddersfield woman has made a moving journey to tsunami-wrecked villages in Sri Lanka.

And now Debra Hindle and husband John, who live in Sri Lanka, have promised to do all they can to help the suffering villagers.

They also want to encourage people in Britain to continue to provide money for emergency aid and to make sure the money gets sent to the stricken areas as soon as possible.

Debra and John, formerly of Skelmanthorpe, moved to India in 2002 with their children, Tom, now 14, and Alice, 12.

They later moved to live in Sri Lanka, where John works in finance.

Debra said: "As an ex-pat living on Sri Lanka, I am very lucky to lead what can be described as a charmed life.

"The tsunami has only served to widen the gap between the have and have-nots in Sri Lanka.

"I heard many horror stories from both Sri Lankans and ex-pat friends.

"So when I had the opportunity to visit the town of Galle, in the south of the island, I jumped at the chance. I have very good friends who have just moved there from the capital, Colombo, and they invited me.

"The journey was horrific. The roads are now cleared but the train that was derailed by the tsunami still lies at the side of the track.

"It is believed there are many more bodies to be discovered in the wreckage," added Debra.

"What was once a row of thriving shops - homes, businesses and livelihoods - was destroyed. In many places a row of shops will have some buildings still standing, but others in the same row have been swept away.

"In many areas families were sitting on the concrete base of what was once their home, with only plastic chairs to sit on and a plastic sheet acting as a makeshift roof.

"Tents that have been provided by aid agencies but they are too hot for people to use during the day. They are just used for sleeping in.

"I visited a refugee camp that my friends were supporting. It was a community of maybe 100 people who had all been fisherman or made their living from the sea, boat builders, net menders, fishmongers and the like.

"The people were living in a disused warehouse in the middle of what had once been their village, about five minutes from the centre of Galle.

"The `road' was so bad the driver would not believe that it was a road fit for motorised vehicles. He was very reluctant to drive a van through all the wreckage.

"As we arrived we were met by many children and the women of the community. There were very few men left, only the elderly and the younger boys had survived as most of the men had been outside working.

"The people had cleaned out the warehouse and were living communally, sharing the cooking and cleaning, with each family having a mat and a mosquito net - provided by my friends - to sleep under."

Mrs Hindle said she was moved by the spirit of the people in the camp.

"Every single member of this community had lost at least one close member of their family in the tsunami.

"The people did not want pity. They were struggling to do their best to look after themselves and their children in very difficult conditions.

"I had heard that the women were concerned that the children had not had any fruit since the tsunami, so we bought apples and oranges for the children.

"It was heartbreaking as the children lined up, the smallest first, to be given fruit. I wanted the women to distribute it, but they insisted that I give it to the children myself so they could all thank me individually."

Debra added: "My visit was probably one of the most moving experiences of my life. I cried all the way back to my friend's house as we drove through the devastation.

"I had expected the road down to be one long stream of lorries carrying supplies to people, but this was not the case. My friends and I spoke at length about what had happened.

"To see devastation on such a huge scale was unbelievable. We see so much tragedy on television that I am sure we become desensitised to it.

"But to see it, feel it and smell it is something I will never forget. "

Debra said it would take a long time for Sri Lanka to rebuild and for the economy to recover.

But she urged tourists to visit the area, as beaches were clean and safe again in the tourist areas.

Debra concluded: "My visit was one I will never forget. I have visited again and me and my family will all be going at Easter with a van laden with tools and supplies."