Tsunami orphans open Sri Lanka home
Two brothers orphaned in the Boxing Day tsunami 10 years ago are set to open a children's home dedicated to their parents in the country they lost their lives.
Robert and Paul Forkan were in Sri Lanka with their father Kevin, mother Sandra and two younger siblings when the massive 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck in the Indian Ocean, triggering deadly tidal waves which battered coastlines across Asia.
Robert, who was 17 at the time, survived the disaster along with Paul, then 15, brother Mattie, 12, and eight-year-old sister Rosie, but tragically their parents were killed.
Now, a decade later, the older brothers are preparing to officially open a children's home in Mau Gama, Sri Lanka, in the new year with funding from their own flip flop business, Gandys.
Speaking at the company's office in Southfields, south west London, Robert, now 27, said Boxing Day would be "slightly more poignant" this year on the 10th anniversary of the disaster.
"We spend Boxing Day differently every year," he said.
"Some years we've been out in India volunteering, some years we've had a family one in the UK.
"Every day we've had to live with it for the last 10 years but i t will be slightly more poignant.
"For us that happened 10 years ago, but to be now building our own children's home, at least something positive will come from it.
"Gandys is a distraction for us and something we're passionate about. It keeps us busy."
Describing their story on Gandys' website, the Forkan family, who were living in Croydon, south London, before the tsunami, were woken on Boxing Day in 2004 by screams and huge waves tearing through their hotel rooms.
Parents Kevin, 54, and Sandra, 40 struggled against the mass of water to put their two youngest children on to the roof of the hotel building. Robert managed to climb up the building and grab a metal bar, while clutching Paul with his other arm.
That morning would be the last time they saw their parents.
"We don't really like talking about the day as you can imagine," Robert said.
"It's not a nice thing to talk about. What we saw that day, you can't describe in a few words.
"We know a lot of people are fascinated by our story but there were a lot of other people that were there and saw it as well.
"We almost just switch off and focus on the positives."
Robert and his brother launched Gandys Flip Flops in 2012 after taking inspiration from their "unique upbringing" and set up the Orphans for Orphans movement to fund children's projects for less fortunate youngsters.
"We spent years travelling and volunteering across India and the sub-continent and we wanted to do something that uses the values and vision that our parents gave us," he said.
"It seemed like the perfect opportunity to express the vibrant upbringing we had.
"We had our own tragic experience as well so we wanted to create the Orphans for Orphans movement using the passion we had before of our personal circumstances."
Robert said he and his brother did not share their story when they launched Gandys but they had a "vision" t o build a children's home in memory of their parents for the tsunami's 10th anniversary.
"We set up our own foundation in which 100% of any donations made goes to any of the projects we work on," he said, "Then we also give back 10% of what we do through Gandys.
"We're going back out to Sri Lanka for the second time since the tsunami. We went back out there last year, when we funded a children's home for the next three years.
"We're really excited now to go back there to help finish building our children's home. In the new year, we'll be back to officially open it."
Asked how he thinks his parents would feel about their children's work, Robert replied: "They'd certainly be proud of what we're doing and the hard work we put in."