Thirteen and a half months ago I visited Thavarani a disabled widow with 3 children, in the village of Krishnapuram, in Kilinochchi district. She was in a very desperate situation and I was worried about her health, the health of her children, and was deeply concerned as to whether she would be able to build a house with the funds allocated by the Red Cross for her to build an owner-driven house. Today, her house is almost finished, just the floor to cement, and then she and her children move in. This is nothing short of a miracle. I am so grateful to Red Cross volunteers who helped her. She looked so much healthier, and the children too. This is one of 3000 success stories, based on the 3000 houses Red Cross has built to date.
I was with Michael Annear, Head of the IFRC Disaster Management Unit for our Asia and Pacific zone.
Tonight I will sleep well knowing that Thavarani has a three roomed house with kitchen, water and sanitation, and a large vegetable garden that feeds her family, and surplus to sell.
This is the story I wrote 13 months ago.
Some nights I struggle to sleep wondering how a disabled widow like Thavarani survives with three children in a very basic make-shift shelter, while I am in a sound hotel or apartment. We work in some villages where people are in desperate situations, but it takes time to get communities functioning normally after such a long and brutal conflict in the north of Sri Lanka, which has grossly affected so many people, and ruined infrastructure, livelihoods, dreams and minds. Getting funds for this life-saving programme has been so difficult and we have had to graft all the way.
In my blog posting one before last. I wrote about Vimala Rani ( SEE LINK:vimala) who has rebuilt her life after a long and cruel war in the north of Sri Lanka. She lost her husband, her house and nearly all possessions. Now she has a Red Cross house, a small income through our livelihood programme, a toilet and running water, and her five children are doing well, one training to be a nurse, and the rest at school. It takes time, patience and dogged perserverance to fund raise for such projects.
Last Thursday after visiting Vimala Rani in the village of Vivekanandanagar in Kilinochchi I went to visit the village of Krishnapuram where we are building another 100 houses for people who lost theirs. Some houses are completed but the majority are in various stages of construction. I asked Dr Mahesh, who runs our IDP programme to show me some of the poorest people in Krishnapuram. He said, the initial survey conducted by Red Cross shows that a 33 year old woman, Thavrani, as one of the poorest.
Thavarani, and her youngest child.
Thavrani is a widow, and has three young children. She lives in a very basic temporary shelter, while her Red Cross funded house is being built. During the conflict she got hit by a shell or mortar and her left leg is withered and left her with a bad limp. Her left arm was damaged and twisted so the palm of her hand is always in a face up position. The reason Thavrani is in a worse situation than most other widows as being disabled limits her in what she can do, her extended family is minimal, and support group limited.
A closer look at her very basic home where she lives with her three children
Thavrani's house will look like this within two months, and she will be able to move into it.
With the Sri Lanka Red Cross programme targetting 5000 familiers, it is frustraing seeing people suffering as they work even harder to get their houses completed before the next rainy season.
Thavrani maanges a broad smile as Dr. Mahesh asks her what additional help she needs. " I need a little extra help with laying the blocks, so I can finish it as soon as possible," she says.
As I walked away from her house I glanced back and saw her talking to Surethi and Nithya and I know these two dedicated Red Cross workers will watch over and care for Thavrani and her children, and ensure her house and other facilities are completed quickly.
It doesn't make me sleep easier as there are thousands of people like Thavani in Sri Lanka affccted by the aftermath of tsunami, recent floods and landslides and by a long and brutal war. But the hope comes from people like Nadeeka and Melinda from the Australian Red Cross who visited Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Vavuniya last week, and have given funding for over 300 houses, plus livelihoods, water and sanitation, and a little extra to support very vulnerables women like Vumala and Thavani.
We need continuing support from our partners and the general public out there to ensure people affected by war and natural disasters can live with dignity and hope.