Tsunami survivor Rob Forkan and his brother Paul will be back in Sri Lanka for the 10th anniversary of the disaster that engulfed their family, but they won’t be making any kind of public commemoration.
Rob, who was 17 when he lost both parents in the 2004 tragedy that claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives, tells HuffPostUK:
“We’ll be tucking ourselves away on Boxing Day, it’s not a day for us to be working. . It’s the 10th anniversary, but every Boxing Day is difficult. There’s no need for us to do anything grand or big. That’s not what the day’s about.”
Rob and Paul Forkan back in Sri Lanka where they have experienced so much sorrow but also joy
This will be a rare quiet moment for the two brothers, who have impressively done their best in the decade since to channel their energies into something positive to come out of the tragedy, a journey out of disaster they’ve now documented in their book, ‘Tsunami Kids’ – a memoir full of sorrow, but also incredible purpose and achievement.
Rob says now, “When it comes to the Tsunami stuff, we hated doing it, but at least it’s the one thing we don’t have to talk about any more, we can just tell people to go read the book.”
The brothers back in India where they spent years as a child, after their parents decided to abandon the rat race and "live a little"
Besides this, there are lots of great anecdotes in the book about the unique upbringing the two boys experienced along with their siblings, led by parents who abandoned the rat race to go and find out about the world.
“We liked sharing all that,” says Rob now. “Being pulled out of school to live in different cultures, always exploring. We’ve had some incredible experiences, unbelievable things along the way.”
One of the great things they’ve done in the last decade is create the range of Gandys flipflops (Gandys inspired by the brothers’ time living in India, and the phrase “I’ve got a mouth as dry as Gandhi’s flipflop” apparently), often worn by the likes of Princes Harry, William and many a celeb – and worn by both boys when they met the Queen.
“We’ve definitely got into a few places we shouldn’t have been allowed,” admits Rob. “We got turned down at our local pub wearing them, but somehow we got into Buckingham Palace.”
The brothers with Boris Johnson, who designed his own pair of flipflops. £1 from each pair of flipflops sold goes to the funding of children's homes around the world
Another project they’ve put their energies into is funding the creation of a children’s home in Sri Lanka where the family used to live.
“That’s going full circle for us,” reflects Rob. “It’s great because the country was so badly affected by the Tsunami, they lost so many workers, but now they’re building, and it’ll be finished in the new year. Two and a half years we were in our bedroom with an idea, and now we’re going back to open the doors.”
Of course, all this focus on an area of the world where they suffered so much means neither young man can ever escape the memory, but Rob is intent on focusing on the positive.
“It’s always been there, anyway. We’ve just got used to it. And so much of it is in our heads, it’s about design and products, it’s always a positive energy and very much forward-looking.
“And we’ve seen our story move so many people, we just want to share our values and vision. And show that it is possible to come through struggles and dark days, and there can be light.”
“Our life has been quite crazy. We’re still pretty young. We’ve a long way to do. But if there’s one message from all this, it’s to keep resilient. If you’re persistent about what you’re passionate, you will get there.”
'Tsunami Kids: Our Journey from Survival to Success' by Rob and Paul Forkan is available now from Michael O'Mara Books - click here for info. See some of the pictures in the book below...