by Sumudu Sanjika Perera, Communications Officer, ChildFund Sri Lanka
At 4.30 a.m. Susantha’s day has already begun. He is up before dawn preparing his speech for the student assembly in his school. Later, he will go to the Kataragam sacred shrine. It’s Perahera (pageant) season and thousands of Buddhist devotees will flock to the site. Susantha, along with other youths, will be volunteering at the First Aid center.
The eldest child in his family of five, Susantha joined his local youth club supported by ChildFund in 2004. “I was very different to the person I am today,” he recalls. “My friends and I never dreamt big. We never participated in the community. I was shy. Then came ChildFund,” he says.
“The real change came after I participated in the life-skill development programs,” he confides. “I enjoyed taking part in trainings and camps, which helped me become a leader, interact with others, speak in public and set targets for myself. Now I am confident and I am comfortable in leadership roles. For example, my friends and I painted Buddhist temples, organized a Densala (free food distribution) and arranged a cricket tournament in the village. Recently we had a camp for other children and youths. We organized that,” he emphasizes with pride.
Providing youth with opportunities to engage in leadership and build self-confidence is a key ChildFund initiative. We know that skilled and involved youth will carry that expertise into their professional and personal lives.
“Youth have great potential and they are ready to contribute their energy, idealism and insights to a community’s growth and progress,” says Devaka Amarasena, ChildFund area manager for Hambantota. “When they are given the opportunity to become engaged, young people take on a sense of responsibility for the common good. The most important step is to equip them with necessary skills so that they can make an effective contribution to society.”
Susantha’s youth club actively plans and designs its own programs. Club members identify and discuss issues in their community, and raise them to the parent board of directors’ meetings. Susantha has proved to be an excellent facilitator in the youth group discussions and has been selected as a member of the club’s children/youth board of directors.
“Today I feel very confident and focused,” he says. “I have a target now. I want to do my higher studies and enter a university. I also want to do good things in my community.”
by Jeff Ratcliffe, ChildFund Humanitarian Response Specialist
I traveled to Northern Sri Lanka this week to look into post-conflict projects our national office wanted to accomplish. The destruction was heartrending as I found people trying to find solutions to the many needs that must be addressed following conflict: food, water, security, jobs and shelter – to name but a few. I was cheered by the positive attitudes of the Sri Lankan people as they work to improve their situation.
I met with youth, teachers and parents to better understand the problems that exist with their schools and how the community is proposing to address those issues. ChildFund is committed to helping after consultation with the Sri Lankan people.
My meeting with the youth was most insightful. I posed this question: “What would you like to do when you grow up?” Several youths mentioned that they would like to be teachers. A few mentioned that they want to work in the market.
One girl, however, shyly raised her hand and did not speak until I called upon her. She said that she would like to be a doctor. To test the young girl’s awareness I asked her what she needed to study to be doctor. She replied that she needed to study science and anatomy.
It is moments like this that give development staff hope. I see that despite the long civil war that Sri Lanka’s youth are thinking about rebuilding their lives—and we at ChildFund will be with them during this difficult journey.
by Virginia Sowers
Our three-part series on recovery efforts following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami continues with an update from Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka, ChildFund National Director Guru Naik recalls 70 staff being redeployed and 1,000 community volunteers being mobilized to handle the humanitarian crisis five years ago. In the first three days following the tsunami, assistance was provided to 102,000 children and 12,000 adults who spontaneously gathered in makeshift shelters in the surrounding countryside.
Early childhood development activities, health and nutrition programs and child-centered spaces were top priorities.
In the five intervening years, the effort has shifted to reconstruction and rehabilitation activities, and reassessing the needs of the most vulnerable, still mostly children and women.
To augment recovery, ChildFund Sri Lanka focused on civic work projects, micro-enterprise development to help communities reestablish their livelihoods and vocational training for youth in high-demand skills such as three-wheeler repair, cell phone repair, electrical wiring installation and pottery and Batik painting.
Today, the areas in which ChildFund Sri Lanka works have regained some degree of normalcy, Guru says. “Communities are happy and carry on their activities freely, and children enjoy the facilities now extended to them in a good environment.”
Tomorrow: Working in 35 villages, ChildFund India set up child-centered spaces, where children were given health care, nutrition and other creative activities to provide psychosocial support.
By ChildFund Sri Lanka Staff
He runs to his mother and father returning from the paddy fields and clutches their hands. The toy drum hangs from his neck. His energy and smiley face soon fade away the tired look on his parents’ faces. He starts to beat the drum and sing a song bringing a new life into the tired parents. He is Kolitha, a 4-year-old boy who lives in a remote village in Anuradhapura district of Sri Lanka, the next stop of our “31 in 31” blog series.
Sri Lanka, a country we have worked in since 1985, is a war-torn country where good news can be tough to find. This, however, is a story we have shared with visitors to our traveling toy exhibit, “The Power to Play – from Trash to Treasure.”
Kolitha’s parents are farmers working in paddy cultivation. The income they earn from farming is very low. This makes it hard for them meeting the needs of the family. They can provide their children only with basic necessities. So Kolitha and his sister always make improvised toys and sports equipments when it comes to play.
With a born enthusiasm to explore things, Kolitha is always a busy child. He loves to play with the children in his village. He loves to sing songs with his friends. Kolitha attends an education center in the village supported by the ChildFund project. The teacher at the center describes Kolitha as a very enthusiastic and creative child. She says that he actively participates in singing, dancing and other group activities at the center.
Kolitha’s inspiration for his bamboo drum came from attending his sister’s dancing class conducted by the project. One day, Kolitha came with his mother to watch his sister dancing. The drum played at the class impressed him so much that he first started to beat at the table when he went home. Then he started to try to make a drum that looked like the one at the dancing class. He had heard about bamboo drums at the education center. He pestered his tired father to accompany him to the stream where bamboo trees grow and brought home a piece of bamboo.
At home, his sister dances to songs he sings beating the drum. His parents also join the children clapping to songs. Kolitha takes the drum with him when he visits his friends. They sit under the shade of a tree and sing songs until their parents start coming looking for them. The bamboo drum that Kolitha made has attracted his friends to make their own drums. Kolitha has helped his friends in this and each of them has one now. He says happily that he wants to be a musician one day.
More on Sri Lanka
Population: 21.3 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 750,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of rubber. The rubber industry took hold in the country in the late 1800s, when the island was known as Ceylon and was ruled by the British.