Kannan’s father abandoned the family while Kannan was only in Grade 4. Kannan had no choice but to leave school to help his mother support the family. Now 18 years old, Kannan is still helping his mother feed his three sisters, one younger brother, and four-year-old niece. The third and final story in a series of posts on families who will benefit from Kiwi generosity.

Interview by Lindsay Bennett

Kannan outside his family's home

So, tell me about a typical day for you?

I start early at 6am. I go to collect milk from 5 kilometres away. It takes 3 hours. I carry a minimum of 7 litres and a maximum of 25 litres of milk on my bike. My mother uses the milk to make curd.

Then I go around the village to collect eggs. I make 3 – 5 rupees per egg after selling them. Usually I can collect 20-30 eggs in a day.

Then I go to collect rice for my mother to make flour. She pounds it and sells it in town.
I have lunch around 2pm and then go 2 kilometres to pound rice in another village. Then I bring flour back to my mother.

Then I take the goats out. These are not our goats, and we cannot use them for milk or meat or income. I simply mind them for a neighbour.

You sound busy. Do you have time to spend with friends?

No. I don’t have time to rest in the afternoon, and no time to go to school, and no time to spend time with friends.

Kannan and the family he supports

Do you have enough food?

No, not sufficient. It depends on the income we can get each day. Most of the time we eat twice, but sometimes only once a day. We usually eat rice, often coconut with rice, but can’t afford to buy fish or other meat.

What about water?

There is no water source nearby, so I must go half an hour 3 or 4 times a day. Most of the time my mother walks but otherwise I go by bike.

How does it feel to be responsible for the family?

This is simply what I have to do. There are no other options. Sometimes I think it is a burden but I have a determination.

If you could do anything and your family would be taken care of, what would you do?

I would like to have a big farm and support my mother better. I would want tools, a water pump and well. And I would want to learn cattle rearing. I studied up to grade 4 and then had to stop because my mother needed help.

Kannan worries about his aging motherKannan worries about his aging mother

Do you feel confident in your ability to make an income?

I am confident right now – but my mother is getting old, so I have to think about how it will work when she gets too old. If I had some kind of transport, that would help improve how I can reach markets and make money for my family.

To help support Kannan and families like his in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka please donate to the Sri Lanka Livelihoods appeal

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