There was a royal-style Sri Lankan welcome for the founders of Pembrokeshire charity Start, when they recently visited the country.

As Paul and Jane Cowper, of Tenby, arrived at Kadurupokuna School, they were greeted by applause from a line-up of every pupil, together with music from the school band, which Start had paid to re-equip following the devastating tsunami.

"We were totally unprepared for a royal welcome," said solicitor Paul, who escaped the disaster while on a family holiday. "It was a humbling and exhilarating experience."

Start - Sri Lankan Trust to Aid and Rehabilitate Tangalle - has raised over £60,000 in its first year, and money goes at least four times further than in Britain. A donation of £10,000 was given to Kadurupokuna School, some of which will pay for large buildings to be partitioned into classrooms, and for electrical and plumbing work.

The charity is also hoping to help a small primary school, Unakawura, by providing a new building.

Paul and Jane were also delighted to see the improvement in the conditions in Tangalle Hospital, where Start gave a contribution of £5,000.

"This was very rewarding, as our donation enabled the hospital trust to make early progress and this has been so impressive that the Government has decided to make Tangalle an area hospital," said Paul.

There is still an urgent need for replacement housing, with non-governmental organisations providing funding for building, but not the purchase of land.

Explained Paul: "Many people still remain in temporary houses, and as they are mostly constructed of wood with tin roofs, these become uncomfortably hot.

"Priority for re-housing is given to those who live within 100 metres of the shoreline. This arbitrary figure leaves those just outside the area, but nevertheless affected by the tsunami, at a considerable disadvantage."

The charity now hopes to be able to buy land - at around £2,500 a time - for a small number of families.

Added Paul: "It was very rewarding on our visit to see that our donations so far have been put to such valuable use.

"Because of renewed tensions between the Tamil Tigers and the Government, very little aid money has been spent in Sri Lanka. This makes the sort of help that we, and others like us, can provide so important. We know that every penny we give is being put to good use. We can rehouse a family for £2,500.

"We plan to continue raising money through Start for as long as we can make a difference."