A mother from SOS Children's Village Sri Lanka, holding a smiling child.
SOS Children's Village Piliyandala in the capital of Colombo in Sri Lanka hosted about 200 children from the SOS Care Centre in Chettikulam refugee camp last month where they experienced family bonding and enjoyed their first homemade food in months. They were overwhelmed by the hospitality extended by the SOS families.
SOS Children's Village Piliyandala hosts Sri Lankan refugee children
SOS Care Centre in Chettikulam refugee camp in the northern part of the country near the city of Vavuniya has been housing 197 children (89 boys and 108 girls) since August this year. After the civil war ended, more than 250,000 people were staying at the camp; some of them were allowed to return to their homes. But for those children considered unaccompanied, it was a difficult time until SOS Children's Villages received consent by the court to take care of them.
SOS Children's Villages made all effort to reunite the children with their families, and 27 of the children have been successfully reunited until today. However, until children are reunited with their families, they need proper care and special protection. The SOS Care Centre has prepared a place where everything needed is provided to have children grow up in a normal, healthy environment.
Education and activities: All 197 children attend school and some of those who would sit through the secondary level examination attend special classes. After living through very unfortunate situations, it is quite an achievement that the children are back in school - the first sign of the return to a normal life.
The children planted mango trees along the fence and other decorative plants along the path. They love swings and slides in the open space and also play cricket.
SOS Children's Villages has partnered with like-minded government and voluntary agencies to provide help and nurture the children the right way. Children participated in an Art exhibition organized by UNICEF on the theme of 'personal hygiene' within zone 4.
'CARE International conducted a one-day counselling programme for all our children. This was very interesting and useful for the youth. They openly expressed their concerns and fears and also discussed about their future ambitions and aspirations,' said Divakar Ratnadurai of SOS Children's Villages Sri Lanka.
Respect and freedom: Venerable Yatirawana Wimala Thero, a Buddhist priest, donated a statue of Lord Ganesh (a Hindu God) to our project and it's paved the way to providing an environment where children are respected and free to observe their religious faith. 'With this gift we thought it would be nice to establish two places for worship, one for Christians and another for the followers of Hinduism.
Health : Colonel Namal Bandara, who is the officer in charge of security for this zone, has been very helpful throughout these past couple of months. He organised an 'eye and dental clinic' for all our children and care staff. The doctors' came from Kandy, the hill capital of Sri Lanka about 200kms away from our project. They were accompanied by several professors of Peradeniya University Medical Faculty.
Educational tour and outing: A trip was organized for the children to visit Colombo. The SOS Children's Village in Piliyandala acted as host. The children got a chance to visit the Parliament of Sri Lanka, the Zoological Gardens in Colombo and the Museum. 'It was the first time we learned about how television programmes are produced when we visited Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and the State TV Channel Rupavahini; we have seen studios and met many presenters in person we only knew from the screen,' said an excited Narsimhan.
The Venerable Rahula Thero, who is also the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of SOS Children's Villages Sri Lanka, hosted the children for dinner on the first night. On the second day, a cultural evening was organized at SOS Children's Village Piliyandala where children from both Piliyandala and Chettikulam performed together. This reflects a sense of hope and confidence which ignited among the children.
'This was a memorable outing for the children as for the first time in their whole life they have travelled passed the city limits of Vavuniya and were given the opportunity of visiting many places of interest and drawing on first-hand experience of travelling in and around Colombo. They also had the chance of visiting the village in Anuradhapura on their way back to Chettikulam,' Divakar Ratnadurai added.