On Boxing day 2004, Rob, Paul, Matty and Rosie Forkan tragically lost their parents in the Boxing Day Tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka. Aged from 8 to 17, they subsequently faced a harrowing and solitary 200km trek across the decimated country to get home to safety.The bravery, ingenuity and resilience they displayed was the result of their unusual upbringing. Taken out of school at a young age, they received an unconventional and global education, learning independence and resourcefulness whilst carrying out voluntary work for charities in India alongside their parents.In the decade since the tsunami, Rob and Paul have achieved an incredible feat. They have created a multinational brand, Gandy's Flip Flops, based in the front room of their rented flat and endorsed by entrepreneurs including Richard Branson, and set up Orphans for Orphans, a charitable organization that uses 10% of the profits to support children deprived of education, nutrition and medication.This is a heartbreaking, engaging but ultimately uplifting journey from the streets of Sri Lanka to the boardrooms of London, Downing Street and beyond as told by two inspirational survivors.
Tsunami Kids was published in hardback by Michael O'Mara Books on 13 November 2014.
There can't be many people who don't remember seeing the television coverage of the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day, 2004. The sheer enormity of the devastation, the horror of the news footage, there was nothing we could do but watch in horror as more details emerged.
Rob Forkan and his family were staying in Sri Lanka. Four children and their parents, their two elder siblings were back at home in the UK. Their parents did not survive the tsunami, but these four amazing, resilient youngsters not only survived but have gone on to make a huge success of their lives, and there is no doubt that their parents are the drivers in their lives.
The book opens on Boxing Day 2004, in the bedroom that Rob and his younger brother Paul were sharing. His description of what happened that morning is vivid and terrifying, and must have been extremely difficult to put into words.
Rob's story goes back to when his parents met first, their ideals and beliefs. How they raised their children, always encouraging, adventurous and unusual. The family travelled, the children came out of school, but what they learned from their parents and their travels was probably a far better education that they would have got at home. They didn't stick to the tourist areas, they visited real people, children's homes, they played with local kids, they did charity work. This is the background that has formed their future.
Returning to the UK after the tsunami, and after trekking for miles through devastation and death, at first the family were not sure of what lay ahead of them. Gradually, Rob realised that he wanted to help other people. He wanted to create a social enterprise that would benefit orphans; 'orphans for orphans'. And so, Gandys was born. A brand of flip flop that echoed everything that they believed in with the profits going to provide a children's home in India.
Rob and Paul are two amazing guys. Tsunami Kids is written with honesty and warmth, and throughout the story, it is so obvious to the reader of the impact of their parents. The boys were determined that everything their parents had done for them and had taught them would not go to waste, and have created a successful, well-known brand that is in turn, creating opportunities for children who have nothing.
This is a moving and quite humbling story. This family are astounding and they really have turned tragedy into positivity.
To find out more about Gandys and check out their fabulous range of flip flop, check out their website www.gandysflipflops.com