Sri Lanka Orphanage Project
SRI LANKA ORPHANAGE PROJECT
I was doing a lot of research on Sri Lanka and houseless children before coming here and found out there were a few children's homes in the town Batticaloa - area particularly affected by the civil war (1983-2009) and the tsunami (2004). I remember the words of Petra Nemcova, model, tsunami survivor who started a foundation Happy Hearts Tsunami. She said many people are ready to help right after the disaster but help is most needed when we "forget" about what happened.
Doing my research, all I found was the name Patrick... who seemed to be the person who helped creating the children's homes. I contacted him and he advised to call the home directly. I did call but with no luck - nobody spoke English there. Patrick said that's it's best to just "show up."
February 12th, 2015
I arrived in Batticaloa late afternoon and was debating if I should go and find these homes still that day or the day after. I wanted to postpone it, I seriously didn't feel comfortable with just knocking at children's homes. My tuc-tuc driver and I arrived in front of an orange home 10 minutes later. I let him do the knocking. Three teenage girls opened. As we were asking if their caretaker, a pastor was around, some other girls started coming to the door as well. We couldn't communicate well but after some time the girls asked us to come in. I came into a big room full of girls sitting at the tables. They all stood up when they saw me. This moment was so touching. I asked them to sit down and then one of the girls invited me to their table. Some barrier has been broken. It was as if I was supposed to show up there and then. A few girls spoke English - we chatted about hobbies, siblings, school - the usual girl stuff.
Then the pastor and his wife came and greeted me warmly. We left the room and started talking about the details how the house was run and where the funds were coming from. I found out these girls had food and clothes but not much else. Most girls had at least a mother or a father, some had grandparents, a few of them were orphans.
We then started talking to the girls. I asked them what they felt the house needed. They said they needed an iron.
February 13th, 2015
The pastor, his son and I entered a store that the owner opened only for us because we were in the Muslim district and it was a Friday. I bought two irons for 4,200 RPS - roughly $30. I handed him 45,000 RPS and the store owner looked at me surprised. "Too much, that's too much" he said. Well then I guess all my efforts of not appearing like a rich white person coming to town were for nothing. "Thank you, I'm not used to seeing the 5,000 bills" - I tried to explain my tenfold compensation try.
February 14th, 2015
We got on a bus at 9am and off we went to the beach. We had to stop at a store to get large mats to sit on. The girls owned only 1, which was not enough. There were some "no need" reactions but I just couldn't picture 40 girls sitting on the sand. The girls were very excited, they were going to use these beach mats later for sleepovers. I also got everyone heart keychains since it was Valentine's Day. The keychains were a hit.
The beach was an hour bus ride from the Girls' Home. I ordered a buffet style lunch for them and when we arrived I was beyond words surprised how much these little ones eat! The ashram place, which made food for us was recommended to me by someone who works at the hotel I'm staying in. I was so glad I ordered lunch in advance. I was really not aware what managing (even really well behaved) 40 girls means. You can't just walk into a random restaurant. I'm so glad I made a plan. After lunch we swam - fully clothed. Basically the girls got into the water the way they traveled on the bus - pants and tee-shirts on. Everyone else seemed to be doing the same and I followed even though I thought it was completely wasteful to get my dress wet having a swim suit underneath. There was not a single person on the beach in a swim suit though.
We celebrated Grina's 10th birthday having a cake on the beach. We chatted, the most common question was about my parents, their names and my family. After the stop at an ice cream truck, the girls were ready to go.
February 15th, 2015
I still haven't seen Frozen. I downloaded it on my iPad at the guesthouse to have a movie session with the girls.
This is what it looked like! 30 pairs of eyes turned towards the iPad on the chair. We all enjoyed the movie. So much! How cute. The movie broke the language barriers and was easily understood. I then saw both irons that I got for the girls, they had numbers 1 and 2 on them and two girls were assigned to manage them.
"How to use?" - they said. "What do you mean?" "No table" - they said. I felt like the author of "Three Cups of Tea" who focused on building a school in Pakistan without realizing he should have thought about building a bridge to get to school first.
That's right... a table. I looked around in search of a table, any table. There were some plastic picnic tables where they sit daily to do their homework but that was it.
So here is what I did the next day. I got them these two beautiful ironing tables.
February 17th, 2015
Ah the last day was so much fun. We had a questions and answer session. I asked the girls what they wanted to be in the future, they all said they wanted to be doctors or teachers. I told them that it was really important for their future to study English. The girls asked me why I wasn't wearing any earrings. Very perceptive the little ones! We had cake, played badminton and took a lot of pictures.
Summing up, here is what I spent for the Sri Lanka Girls' Home:
3 large beach mats - 1,295 RPS each - 3,885 RPS - $30
1 day bus rental for the beach day - 9,000 RPS - $70
lunch buffet at the beach day - 180 RPS *42 = 7,560 RPS - $62 with tip
4 cakes for the birthday - $10
ice cream for 48 people - beach day - 2,400 RPS - $18.50
beach balls - 400 RPS - $3
48 heart key chains for Valentine's Day - 1,200 RPS - $9.25
2 irons - 4,200 RPS - $32.25
2 ironing boards - 3,000 Rupees - $23
ice cream for 45 people $17
4 cakes and sprite for the last day - $20
It's amazing how little it takes to make an impact...