It was a terrifying ordeal to go through, having to experience a tsunami, classified as one of the world’s worst natural disasters, and losing your parents in that calamity as well. But British brothers Rob and Paul Forkan did not allow that tragedy to get the best of them. What follows is the story of the human spirit’s resilience and how one can rise up in spite of all the challenges one may go through.
The Forkan family was vacationing in Sri Lanka in December 2004 when the tsunami happened. Rob and Paul, 17 and 15 years at that time, woke to loud shouts and screaming while they saw their parents moving to bring their two younger siblings up the roof. Rob was able to go up the building and find a bar to hold on to while clutching Paul in his other arm. Their siblings Mattie and Rose were kept safe in the roof. However, their parents Kevin and Sandra were not fortunate.
Despite their loss, the Forkan brothers found a way to get over their grief. In 2011, Rob and Paul put up their own flip-flops company called, “Gandys.” The firm is tied up with a charity they also spearheaded, “Orphans for Orphans,” where 10% of profits from their flip-flops business are donated.
For the moment, their charity is involved in a project in Sri Lanka to create homes for orphaned children. The two will return to Sri Lanka next year to check on undertaking. It was not easy for Rob and Paul to go back to the place where they lost their parents. “Initially, we did not want to go back, but now it feels like the right time,” said Rob. He added, “We went back last year to do a project and we have dealt with it, we have gone back and faced it.”
Not only is the company a means to support them and their siblings but for Rob and Paul, it symbolized their parents handwork and legacy. Kevin and Sandra left great careers in the fashion industry to pursue humanitarian efforts as they travel. This has given the brothers a different kind of education, when they learned outside their schools. Rob, Paul and their siblings saw real life when their parents first brought them to India. “Our flip-flop business and charity encompasses our values and vision, and our parents’ legacy all into one,” noted Rob.
After putting up a children’s home in Sri Lanka, the brothers hope to come up with a school that will be situated in Mau Gama near Colombo. They hope that it will be a way for the people there to get educated and fight off poverty, which is prevalent in the area. “Doing the volunteering work we always saw children worse off than we were,” said Paul. “Now we just want to grow Gandys so we can open another center after this one and then more,” he added.