DDMSWCF Extends Relief to Students in Northern Sri Lanka
The ‘Five-Year Relief Project’ in Sri Lanka, which was initiated after the deadly tsunami that struck in 2004, has been successful. Though the project wrapped up in December 2009, DDMSWCF’s concern about the poor people in war-torn northern Sri Lanka continues.
Three volunteers of DDMSWCF (Chi-Yuan Chen, Bi-Hua Chiang and Chang-Yuan Yang) visited northern Sri Lanka from the 19th July to 13th August 2011. The purpose of the visit was to provide poor students in war-torn rural townships with allowances, books, backpacks and bicycles, as well as to encourage them to stay on campus.
Given that there has been an almost 30 year civil war between the government and insurgents (The Tamil Tigers) in Sri Lanka, many ruined houses and abandoned farmlands were evident while the volunteers headed north from the capital of Colombo.
The volunteers reported that roads were particularly bumpy and rugged in the countryside and that they felt lucky that their vehicle did not break down halfway! According to the volunteers’ guide, local government officials had promised to revamp and pave new roads but had apparently failed.
Car and bus wreckages caused by explosions were randomly abandoned on roadsides, presenting a bizarre picture of life in this part of the world. Military checkpoints were still common watching over every person and vehicle that passed by.
In Pithukudiyilipu, a northwest township which was a harsh war zone, a local military official explained that this city had now become like a ghost town. This was due to the civil war, as most people fled the township and became refugees.
More than 10,000 people who used to be the residents of Pithukudiyilipu are now living in a refugee camp located in the north-central city of Vavuniya and are unable to go home. They have no other alternative, but to wait until the time when the authorities successfully remove all the landmines that had been laid in the civil war period. They still have no knowledge of when this will happen.
Mullativu, which is a northeast coastal township, was a place that suffered much from the 2004 tsunami. Life has been extremely harsh here. The family the volunteers met happened to return from a refugee camp in Vavuniya a month ago. They said they could find no work here and could only live by doing chores or fishing for survival.
A total of 182 students successfully received relief materials throughout the journey. Although the journey was exhausting the volunteers were humble and jubilant with a great sense of gratitude in their hearts, particularly when they saw the beautiful smiles on the glowing faces of the disadvantaged students they encountered.
(translated by Jin Yang/edited by DDM Australia Editing Team)