Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Where do the children play ?

Today was a day for children as we opened the playground at the Red Cross funded Udappuwatta Community housing project at Gampaha in Sri Lanka. Photo: Bob McKerrow

After opening the playground a meal was shared with the 64 families who live in the housing area. Here two boys enjoy their meal. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Today 23 November 2011, as I write this,  all 187 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies worldwide have gathered at the General Assembly in Geneva to discuss major humanitarian challenges and agree on the way forward in serving vulnerable communities.

The General Assembly is the supreme body of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and opened today and will conclude place on 25 November . Major discussion themes among participants will include community resilience, lessons learned from major disaster responses, promoting a culture of non violence and peace and more.

Right  Mohammed Ismail and his two children joined in the fun today. Before the opening, he invited me to see his ground floor appartment. With two spacious bedrooms, a living room and kitchen and bathroom,  he said how the quality of life has improved for his family. What he really liked was the back door which opened onto a safe grassy area where his children can play.

Mohammed and his family were from one of four communities on the nearby coastline that were destroyed by the 2004 Tsunami. Most of them were fishermen who struggled to make a decent living. Today with seven tourist hotels within walking distance, many of the resettled community are now employed in the rapidly expanding tourist trade.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society supported by IFRC and member national societies, has built over 31,000 houses for tsunami affected people in Sri Lanka. This housing project was funded by the Hong Kong branch of the Red Cross Society of China.

 This Udappuwatta Community housing project has a high quality water supply, reliable electricity and lots of room for children to play, and of course, the new playground we opened today.

What defines successful, resilient communities is the way they are empowered and involved before and throughout the construction and community development process. Today, Udappuwatta is thriving through a robust process of community consultation throughout the development and now a strong community committee ensures that maintenance is carried out, improvements are made, law and order is kept, and regular liaison with local Government.
A typical appartment on the ground floor and it is easy to see individual and community pride in the way they plant flowers, retouch paintwork and grow vegetables. The Red Cross can be proud it built back better and trained and empowered communities to lead a sustainable life. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The Gampaha Branch of the Sri Lanka Red Cross is also a continuing partner and in the words of the branch chairman Anton Victoria, " we now conduct a risk reduction programme and are about to train the people in water safety which is so important for people who live close to the sea, and many still fish."

So while the Red Cross Red Crescent General Assembly deals with major humanitarian challenges and agrees on the way forward, including policies, in serving vulnerable communities, more reslient communities are arising every day.

Left: Alice (Szeman) Lai represented the Hong Kong Branch of the Red Cross Society of China today at the opening and was honoured with flowers and acolades. She has done a marvellous job since the early days of the tsunami working in Aceh Indonesia at community level and now covering the tsunami programme management Sri Lanka.

 Where do the children play?

Well I think it's fine, building jumbo planes.
``Or taking a ride on a cosmic train.
Switch on summer from a slot machine.
Yes, get what you want to if you want, 'cause you can get anything.

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
so tell me, where do the children play?

Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass.
For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas.
And you make them long, and you make them tough.
But they just go on and on, and it seems that you can't get off.

Oh, I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
so tell me, where do the children play?

Well you've cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air.
But will you keep on building higher
'til there's no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?


Marja said...

Love the lyrics and love the inspirational article. Empowering the people improves also the lives of children and changes the future for the good. I love children and it is a pleasure to see them play

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thanks for your feedback. I love seeing children happy and the work the Red Cross has done in Sri Lanka, has provided all sorts of facilities and education programmes that lead to more content children.

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