ChildFund staff member Lindsay Bennett interviewed families in Sri Lanka during the launch of a new project to give families small loans. Here she shares the story of just one amazing family she met.

Lindsay visits schools in Sri LankaLindsay visits families and preschools during her trip to Sri Lanka

If you ask Kiwi teenagers what their dreams for the future are, they will likely tell you they want to have a good job, own a nice house, and someday buy a bach. They can think beyond their daily lives and create big dreams. After spending two weeks in Sri Lanka, my hope for teenagers and children here is that they will gain the ability to look ahead and dream big.

After decades of conflict that tore apart this beautiful country, followed by a disastrous tsunami and serious flooding, families have to focus on getting by one day at a time. This leaves little room for thinking about the future.

I spoke to one 19 year old, Thanika, whose father passed away when she was 10. Her mother has raised four children on her own for 9 years and has managed to open a small shop to support the family. This daily income allows the family of five to eat 2 meals a day.

Thanika and her mother Santham in Sri LankaThanika and her mother Santham

After asking about the family’s health, Thanika’s mother Santham admitted she has been suffering from frequent chest pains. She has been told to get these checked at the hospital but explained that it wasn’t an option. Not only does traveling to the hospital and paying for medicine cost more than she makes in a day, she also loses that day of work and would have no way of paying for food for her children. So, she simply lives with the pains.

Santham tells me “I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what I would do if something happened to me. Since I have a heart problem, I am worried about what would happen. There is no one to take care of the children.

Thanika helps her mother prepare food for her shopThanika helps her mother prepare food for her shop

When I ask 19 year old Thanika what her dreams are for the future, she says “I support my mother. I want her to reduce her work so that she will stay healthy and take care of us.” Someday soon, I hope Thanika will feel secure enough to think about her own plans.

Thanks to an exciting new project in Sri Lanka, 3,000 families like Thanika and Santham’s will soon have access to loans that will allow them to build more stable incomes and create more security for their futures.

I was lucky enough to sit in on a community workshop that included men and women from 26 villages in the Batticaloa area. They worked together with ChildFund staff in Sri Lanka to decide how the loans should be given out, what types of families should get the loans, and how the repayments will be tracked. This is just the beginning.

ChildFund staff lead a community workshop in Batticaloa, Sri LankaChildFund staff lead a community workshop in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

As the loans are repaid, new ones can be given out to more families, extending the benefits even further.

As I sit in front of Santham and her beautiful daughter Thanika, I go over the questions I’ve asked and try to think of one I’ve missed. “What would you do with more money?”, was the best I could muster in the intense heat and humidity.

Santham replied, “I would like to improve the house and put doors and windows on it. I get scared at night being alone with my children. I am afraid to leave my children home alone.

With no door, Santham worries about leaving her children at homeWith no door, Santham worries about leaving her children at home

I turn around without thinking, and see that her house has no door, just a woven mat to be placed in front. And the windows are covered with tarpaulin. I suddenly want Santham to receive a loan so very badly. Imagine what she could do if her business could expand, if she could afford to stop working for one day and see a doctor. Imagine if Thanika could dream of her own future, instead of having to wish for her mother to stay healthy. I hope someday soon she can dream big.

You can Donate Now and help provide a loan, and the chance for a secure source of income, to a family like Thanika and Santham’s.  Find out more and meet another family Lindsay met on her trip by visiting the Sri Lanka Livelihoods page on our website.

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