Saturday, December 28, 2013

Educate a Child: Raise a Village

The Children in the Village

I had heard about the Educate a Child Trust started by a family relative Dr Pramilla Senanayake over the years.  During our visit to Sri Lanka, we were fortunate to meet up and chat to Auntie Pram and we were inspired by the work she had done with the Trust as well as the work she had gone on to do in establishing a village for people affected by the Tsunami in the Kalutara region.  We have decided to visit this project and explore the work she has done first hand…

The idea of helping with the education of children in Kalutara was born many years ago while she was staying at a hotel in the area, on a visit to Sri Lanka from the UK where she was based at the time.  Her
young son was playing with a couple of young children who lived on the beach and she enquired why they were not in school.  She learnt then that their families could not afford to make use of the free education available, because they had no money to buy school supplies. 

A Typical House in the Village
Out of that chance encounter was born a project that has now spanned 29 years.  The project started small, with Aunty Pram buying supplies for the kids on the beach each time she visited.  As the years went by, the children who rolled up each time she visited grew and the ‘Educate a Child Trust’ was born.  The Trust enables a donor to pay for the educational needs of one child.  The kids are given shoes, pens & pencils, books and school uniforms, enabling them to make use of the free education available in Sri Lanka. 

In 2004, the families of the students she was helping were badly affected by the Boxing Day Tsunami.  The Trust then set about looking for a place where a village could be constructed to help house the
The Community Centre
people displaced by this tragedy.  Nine years later we are visiting the Dediyawela Village in Kalutara.  Verna, an English Teacher at the school, accompanies us on this visit.  We arrive to find a village with great infrastructure and a pleasant atmosphere.  We stop at the large community hall and Verna leads us upstairs where we sit down in her office to hear stories of the wonderful work the Trust has accomplished for the people of the village here.

The community centre is used to conduct additional classes for the children in both English and IT.   English is taught in the open air space downstairs and IT in a special computer room.  

Learning About the Project
We learn there are 48 families housed in the village here.  In addition, children from approximately 850 households in the area benefit from the school provisions the Trust provides.  The Trust also pays for 7 teachers, 2 health care professionals, and provides a free mid-day meal for the kids who come to the community centre for classes.  The women in the housing complex take turns in preparing the lunches for the kids and hence this becomes a source of income for them.  Aunty Pram has arranged for various doctors and specialist to visit the clinic from time to time.  People in the village, as well as the 850 families in the school program, benefit from this arrangement. 

The Trust has many success stories and we hear of children who have gone on to study medicine, become nurses and accountants and excel in other fields.  It is amazing what one chance encounter has resulted in. 

In Latha's Home
After our briefing sessions we are warmly welcomed to the homes of a couple of the occupants.   Latha has prepared tea and short eats for us.  We sense she is really house proud as she shows us around her home.  A typical home in the village has 2 bedrooms, a sitting area, a kitchen, an outside toilet and open spaces that residents are able to close in to create additional rooms.   She has enclosed the additional space available in the house to upgrade the house provided with a pantry and indoor bathroom.  The floor is tiled and a Christmas tree lights up the living room.  She relates stories to us of her life before and after the Tsunami.  She is eternally grateful to this project and the work Pram has done for the people of this village, which has enabled her to give her children a better life. 

We leave the village feeling encouraged and inspired once again about the difference the actions of one person can make to the lives of so many.  Sometimes, embarking on projects of this nature seem daunting and yet the benefits of providing the basic needs of health care, food and a place to call home for those who are born less fortunate cannot be measured. 

Walking Along the Streets of the Village

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