This is the first in a series of three profiles of Sri Lankan families who will be benefiting from the micro-loans generous New Zealanders make possible. The first is 19-year-old Anojan whose family depends on him.

Young Anojan is the breadwinner for a family of 8Young Anojan is the breadwinner for a family of 8

Responsibility came early to Anojan when as a 13-year-old he had to start working to support his parents and siblings. His father was paralysed when the tractor he was driving tipped and ran over him.

“I studied up to grade 8 (at school) but then had to drop out and now I do fishing to make money for my family,” says Anojan.

Anojan with his mother and two sisters whom he supportsAnojan with his mother and two of his sisters outside the family home

For the past six years, he has worked to put food on the table and send two out of three of his younger sisters to school. He cannot afford to send the youngest sister. He also supports his older sister and her daughter as his sister’s husband was killed at the end of Sri Lanka’s 25-year conflict. Two times a month they need to find money for the bus to take his father to the Batticaloa town hospital.

It’s a great deal of responsibility for a 19-year-old, and Anojan worries because he knows what he earns isn’t enough. On a good day he can earn around NZ$3.00 but some days it is nothing.

The lagoon that he earns his meagre living from is close by. The family home is built on its sandy shores. With the best fishing at night, Anojan starts his work day at 6 in the evening. He returns home in the morning to sleep a little. On waking he mends nets and then helps his family by gathering coconuts or firewood.

Anojan has to hire fishing netsAnojan has to hire fishing nets

The nets he fishes with and mends are not his. Without his own equipment he must borrow and rent nets, which takes up half of the income he makes from fishing. Everything he keeps goes to buying food for his family.

Sometimes Anojan eats the rice grains he picks up while harvesting or the fish he brings home, when there are fish to catch. But most weeks the family’s meals consist of eating rice twice a day.

“Usually just rice. We have to pay for vegetables.”

Outside of the fishing season, Anojan must find other work.

“It is seasonal fishing so when I can’t work I look for other jobs like mason work and carpentry.” He also helps with harvesting crops and any other manual labour available.

“My biggest dream is to earn and support my family.”

Though Anojan is brave and determined, his voice betrays his emotion when he speaks of his father. “I miss my father a lot. Now he is dependent on others for everything.”

Where Anojan works - Batticaloa LagoonWhere Anojan works - Batticaloa Lagoon

The community in Batticaloa is tight-knit and they have a traditional savings system whereby 10 families contribute 100 rupees in a month and one family receives the 1,000 rupees. Anojan’s family relies on this loan but it is neither large enough nor often enough to make a real difference to their circumstances.

For Anojan, the ChildFund micro-loans will allow him to buy his own fishing equipment which will effectively double his income, and with business support and mentoring he will learn to work smarter.

For six years Anojan has shouldered more responsibilities than most adults in the most trying circumstances. All he is asking for is a helping hand to change his future and his family’s for the better.

To give vulnerable families like Anojan’s a micro-loan and the support they need, please donate now to ChildFund’s Sri Lanka Livelihoods Appeal.

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