Where Have all the Children Gone
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
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It was just a single bomb dropped by the Sri Lankan Air Force in 2004. It was meant for the terrorists during the war, but Sasikaran’s parents and all five of his siblings were killed by the bomb when he was only four years old. Nicknamed Kanjad, he prefers not to think back on those days but rather to focus on his new home in Jaffna where he has hope, opportunity, security, and love. He is a visibly happy child who likes mathematics and is always laughing.
Shortly after the war ended, the Sri Lankan government was left to deal with huge numbers of displaced children. Feeling that the situation was out of control, the government specifically requested that SOS Sri Lanka assist in finding homes for 280 of these children in Chettikulum – about 200 kms south of Jaffna. A temporary residential facility was established for the children within the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp
The children eagerly took part in the foundation laying ceremony for this new village on the 13th of February. Seventeen year old Judmarry was there celebrating with the rest of the children, pleased to be able to put the past behind her. She is in Jaffna with her sister, having lost both parents in the war. Nightmares haunted her after her mother died in 2000, but she is now happy in knowing that SOS has provided her a carefree and secure environment. Although somewhat reserved, Judmarry wants to become a drama teacher, so is putting a lot of effort into her studies. SOS provides housing to children only until the age of eighteen, although they will support them in higher studies if that is the course they wish to pursue. Yes, Judmarry will hopefully continue her education, but her first priority is to return to her home village to visit her grandmother who was injured in the war.
Like many of the other children, Judmarry’s parents died long before the war ended. For nine years she was cared for in an orphanage administered by the LTTE, was then moved to a temporary care facility within the IDP Camp, and was eventually brought to SOS in Jaffna. She has experienced significant trauma in her seventeen years, so is fortunate to be able to discuss personal concerns with Rammiya, a social worker who is responsible for the educational and emotional needs of the children
The children all go to nearby schools during the day. The quality of education is very good, but it seems that the teaching of English is poor – children learn to read and write, but they have difficulty speaking the language because of lack of practice. I expected to have the month of March free, and fully intended on teaching English to these kids during my second visit to Jaffna. I did make it back to Jaffna, but the days somehow slipped by with other priorities.....like visiting the projects of yet more NGOs, and talking our way into a Navy patrolled, high security zone along the coast!!
Arijunan Swaminathan, Assistant Director of the orphanage in Jaffna considers himself to be a father to the children here, representing them at all parent/teacher meetings, making sure everyone gets a chance to ride one of only eleven bicycles, and keeping strict watch over the televison rules - ONLY ON WEEKENDS!! He smiles proudly as his children engage in some “break dancing”, willingly clean up their plates after eating, or look over his shoulders as he reads the daily newspaper. His is definitely a work of love.
Note - SOS Canada recently allocated funding for the construction of the new SOS Children’s Village in Jaffna. For more information, see www.soschildrensvillages.ca