DDMSWCF offers stipends to war-afflicted students in northern Sri Lanka
Northern Sri Lanka has been suffering from civil war for nearly thirty years. On 5 August this year, I returned for there with Ms. Bi-Hua Chiang, to implement an initiative to help war-afflicted students. This initiative offers stipends to a total of thirty students and has been approved by the Dharma Drum Mountain Social Welfare and Charity Foundation (DDMSWCF), with liaison with Department of Health officials in northern Sri Lanka who made recommendations for the stipend recipients.
This was my third visit to northern Sri Lanka; this visit left a deeper impression as I had the opportunity to visit each stipend recipient’s residence and witness their sufferings related to the war.
Our first stop was Mannar, where stipends were given to ten college students and five high school students. Mannar is a small township close to India. Fortunately, the town shows little devastation caused by the war, but once outside the township, rugged roads, abandoned farmlands and ruined cottages on two sides of the road are only scenes to witness. A military official told us that most of the land cannot be farmed until the deadly mines placed during the civil war are eliminated.
The students shared similarly heart-breaking experiences. For instance, every one of them had been held as hostages for many years by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers), eventually staying in refugee camps.
Fortunately, with the help international humanitarian activists, they were finally released and allowed to return home. However, the remote rural communities they live in have remained short of electricity and drinking water. The candle is their only option for study and work at night.
Their passion for study in these harsh conditions really touched my heart. Thanks to the Director of Mannar’s Department of Education and the Commander-in-Chief of Mannar’s armed forces, we successfully held the Award Ceremony for the giving of the stipends, as well as donating relief materials, including re-usable bags, cups and stationery.
Vavuniya, our final stop, is an important transportation hub in northern Sri Lanka. We were not allowed to go northward beyond Vavuniya for safety reasons, and so were unable to visit the rural communities where the other fifteen stipend recipients live.
However, with the help of their families and schoolteachers, they were able to attend the Award Ceremony. Three of them are handicapped physically due to injuries sustained in the civil war. They had also been forced to drop out of school during the war, but now they are all back at school to fulfill their dreams.
The Mayor of Vavuniya said that although the war is over now, these students are still suffering. He thanked DDMSWCF’s great compassion helping these students continue to bravely pursue their dreams in education.
On behalf of DDMSWCF, I encouraged every student with the words of the late of Venerable Master Sheng Yen, and warmly wished each of one of them physical and mindful peace at all times when facing difficulties ahead.
(by Qi-Yuan Chen/translated by Jin Yang/edited by DDM Australia Editing Team)