No one will ever forget the Asian tsunami which struck on Boxing Day four years ago. The earthquake under the sea killed more than 230,000 people in 11 countries around the Indian Ocean. It claimed the lives of 151 people from the UK.

Indonesia, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka were hardest hit.

A group from the Hampshire-based Brendoncare charity for the elderly has returned from Sri Lanka, where they saw shocking reminders of how waves up to 100ft high wiped out entire coastal communities. The death toll was more than 40,000 in Sri Lanka, while millions were made homeless.

Eight members of staff and supporters from Brendoncare spent two weeks in Sri Lanka carrying out a range of DIY projects to help improve the structure and facilities at the Piyadigama Home for Destitute Men.

Before they set off they had to raise a minimum of £2,650, which included a donation to Brendoncare, so they have been helping senior citizens both at home and abroad.

Months of hard work went into fundraising through fetes, raffles, concerts and games evenings.

The Brendoncare Sri Lanka challenge was organised in partnership with Marchwood-based Different Travel.

One of the team members, Julie Lamont, Brendoncare’s Winchester-based volunteering manager, said: “Like all air travellers, our first introduction to Sri Lanka was through the roads that led from the airport towards Colombo, then its main route south through the outskirts of the city. We saw roadside graves, empty houses, vacant plots, water damage high up on buildings, trees growing at odd angles – all the effects of the wave. We saw these things every day on our trip, and the horror of it stayed with us.”

The tsunami was never far from their thoughts as they went about their work at the Piyadigama Home, which has been a shelter for homeless older men since 1957.

“We had been there for several days when we admitted to each other that we were all keeping an eye on the sea, not trusting it. The hotel we were staying at was right on the beach at Unawatuna. Water had raced through its open restaurant and bar area and into the reception, reaching a height of at least 9ft.”

On the first full day in Sri Lanka the Brendoncare team met the Old Boys – the nine elderly gentlemen who live at Piyadigama. Julie said: “We were told the various jobs that needed to be done and that a small team of local contractors would be on site to do the heavy building work and plumbing.

“It was extremely hot so we were glad that work was not starting that day. That gave us a chance to acclimatise.

“The only man in the group, Nick Harvey, who just happens to be a builder, quickly got into the thick of it. Building knows no language barriers it seems.

“The rest of us soon had our own jobs, including moving rubble using wheelbarrows and bowls.”

The Brendoncare team carried out work including preparing vegetable patches, building an indoor sink, repairing part of the roof and replacing a floor.

They also decorated walls with murals and self-portraits.

After putting the finishing touches to their work, the Brendoncare team bid a sad farewell.

Julie said: “Language difficulties had prevented conversations of any length but these elderly men had been the focus of our lives for two weeks – 18 months if you include planning time – and suddenly it was all over.

“We all had the feeling that they too were going to miss us.

“Perhaps they would miss the noise of seven women and one Englishman teasing, cajoling and supporting each other through backbreaking work and potential heat stroke.”

Julie recalled: “There were tears in their eyes as we said ‘ayubowan’ – a Sri Lankan greeting – for the last time. There were tears in our eyes as well.”