Sri Lanka

Update from the Field

February 21, 2006

Dr. Martina Fuchs

Tangalle is a small town in the south of Sri Lanka, where most families were affected by the tsunami of December 2004. The main income of the majority of the families is fishing. Some income is brought in through tourism for the families who live along the coastal line. The average monthly income is less than $30 for more than 75% of the families.

Today, more than a year after the tsunami, the situation is still difficult for many families; and the children are the ones who suffer most. As Tangalle is becoming the center of education for the whole area, most students from remote villages travel to and live in Tangalle for their advanced education. Some of these children are from poor farm lands and travel 50-60 miles per day to attend school. Sometimes, these children have to rise as early as 3 or 4 am to travel to school. Consequently, they come home late in the evening, exhausted and tired. Their families don't have enough money to afford boarding places for their children near the school.

In Tangalle, most of the tsunami-affected families are still living in wooden preliminary houses. One of these groups of houses consists of 30 small wooden houses, with two or three outside restrooms that are shared among all the families. Since the culture in Sri Lanka doesn't allow girls to get undressed in public, it is nearly impossible for the girls to have a bath and get ready for school in time.

The girls are the ones who are neglected the most and are especially dependent on our care and protection. Because of this, we want to especially support the girls' chances for a good education, and to do this we need to provide accommodations in addition to education.

The plan is to integrate tsunami-affected children from the Hambantota district and other remote areas into this school. The plan is also to extend and change the pre-school into a hostel to offer support for more tsunami-affected children, who are still living in preliminary wooden houses.

Since we initiated the project last fall, we have been fortunate to secure the land necessary for the school through government resources. We are also able to use a building that is pre-existing, only needs cosmetic renovation, and can be expanded. This benefit represented a savings to the overall project budget. With this savings we have been able to expand the scope of the project to accommodate more students.

The location is close to the city and main schools in Tangalle. Right now, the space is sufficient for 14 children. These 14 children, ages 3.5 to 4.5 years are already taught in the building. All the kids have been affected by the tsunami. There are 2 rooms available. The children are currently receiving breakfast, tea and snacks, lunch, school supplies, and toys.

With expansion this house can accommodate 20 to 25 children. It is equipped with three toilets, a big kitchen, and a living area, and water and power are available. One side of the house faces the main road, the other side a temple – an ideal place for studying.

Currently, we have hired three teachers who are interested in working with us long-term: one is already being paid a salary, two more are volunteering with the prospect of getting hired with pay.

We also have strong partners on the ground overseeing the project: Dr. Peter Seibert (GTZ, and Dr. Manfred Meinecke (owner of Palm Paradise Cabanas

We are now ready to expand the building and provide capacity and space for 20-25 children. In the course of the upcoming months, we plan to paint and clean the whole building, fix toilets, establish a washing and shower area, extend water lines, build a wire fence with concrete poles.

Since we need to offer the option of boarding for the children who must travel from very far (sometimes 2-3 hours away), we will expand the existing facilities to accommodate 20 to 25 children and purchase beds with mattresses, sheets, pillows, mosquito nets, cupboards, tables, chairs, ceiling fans, and table lamps for them.

We would at this point specifically like to thank the Dalbey Wealth Institute for your generous donation which made it possible to initiate this project. In the name of the children and their families, thank you with all our hearts!

As suggested by the principal teacher of the school, Mahendra, these are some of the acquisitions we are planning for the very near future:

  • Iron Gate (3m wide) so that the children are protected towards the main road.Drawing board for the children. (They love to draw and to paint.)
  • Rack to store toys and stationeries.Gas cylinder and gas cooker to prepare breakfast. (Now one of teacher prepares breakfast at home and brings it to the school.)
  • Electric kettle to boil water.Electric juice mixer. (We can give the children juices during fruit season.)
  • Games and toys.It would be fantastic to have a computer, for children are totally unaware of this new creature.
  • We need something to cover the cement floor. (Tile or carpet. Now the floor is scratched and children cannot lay on it.)Ceiling fan.
  • A television and DVD player. (These children have never seen the new world yet.)Water filter. (Tap water is not clean.)
  • Garden cabana (For the children to play, when it is rainy or really hot.)Washing area with toilet amenities. (We already have a room for this.)
  • Changing and rest room for the teachers. (Cupboard and other amenities)An open place for the children to play. (We have only a little room for all purposes, i.e. preparing breakfast and tea and also for the children to dance.)
  • Outside playground.