By Quenelda Clegg
For nearly 18 months, I have been supporting ChildFund New Zealand’s sponsorship programme and projects in Sri Lanka. So it was really wonderful to have the opportunity to travel with Faye, my fundraising colleague, to this amazing country and meet the hardworking and dedicated team that support children to thrive.
Our visit was extremely busy. We packed as much into our days as possible by visiting sponsored children and their families, schools, mothers, and communities.
During my time in Batticoloa, three things really stood out to me.
1. Sri Lanka is a beautiful and complex country, rich with culture and traditions
Travelling from Colombo to Batticaloa, our dedicated partner area, we passed through a lush green landscape dotted with coconut trees. We climbed up into caves filled with ornate monuments of Buddha and stopped at ancient ruins where kings and their courts ruled the land. In Batticaloa, the language changed from Sinhalese to Tamil and it was clear how, geographically, these East coast communities had been isolated by the three-decade-long civil war.
2. Sponsorship donations are creating meaningful and lasting change in Batticaloa
Sponsoring a child really works. This became very clear as we visited a very remote school. Due to its remote location, the school had become dilapidated and it lacked important infrastructure. In this school, parents and children are being supported through a range of educational activities including literacy, numeracy, and life skills development, thanks to child-sponsorship donations.
Additionally, with contributions from major donors, a technology centre has been set up within the grounds of the school. This provides students the added ability to use seven computers with online learning programmes, a projector, and whiteboard. Also, in the evenings, adult classes are provided to parents.
The school community loves their technology centre and are committed to maintaining it. For this reason, they clean the centre weekly and have started a fund to ensure the computers are kept healthy and up-to-date.
3. There is still a lot of work to do, to help children thrive
Finally, as I departed this beautiful country I was struck by the challenges and opportunities that exist within the areas we work. It was clear to me that there is still a lot of work to do to create environments where children can thrive, and that local and international communities, together with governments, need to work together to bring about this change.
I reflected on the fact that Sri Lanka’s recent history has been turbulent, gaining independence in 1948, enduring a civil war from 1983-2009, and stuck by a tsunami in 2004.
At the same time, I felt uplifted by the amazing people I met, including our local staff and partners. These teams are extremely talented and committed, spending a lot of their own time travelling to and within Batticaloa to ensure that children are cared for and receiving the assistance they need.
And, what they need is clean water. As most of the east coast of Sri Lanka was cut off during the war, many people in Batticaloa have no water access point nearby, schools are without functioning toilets, and women often travel long distances to collect water from wells. One mother said to us, “if there is nothing else, we need water”.
Here at ChildFund New Zealand, we are raising funds to deliver a clean water and sanitation project throughout Batticaloa. This project is about to start and I look forward to sharing updates from our partners on the ground, as well as the big and small differences that children and their families experience.
You can help us bring clean water to Batticaloa. To donate, click here.