Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Thavrani, the poorest of the poor.

Some nights I struggle to sleep wondering how a disabled widow like Thavrani 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.
Thavrani with her basic shelter on the left and her Red Cross funded house going up in the background.

A closer look at her very basic home where she lives with her three children
Red Cross has workers like Surethi and Nithya (pictured on the extreme right above)  ride on a small motor cycle, supervising this owner-driven housing programme, visiting all people in the community and when they find someone las destituteThavrani, they have the skills to discuss and advise her on problems, and also able to provide counselling and material support. Thavani, like many others, is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and needs regular visits and support. She also need Red Cross to provide her a voice for the future, and 'protection.'
Three of our staff supervising the housing programme Surethi and Nithya at the left and Chamini right, visit Thavarani and many others on a regular basis and do an amazing work helping them become self sustaining.

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.


Anjana Dayal de Prewitt (Gudia) said...

What a heartwarming story and like you rightly said, there are so many more in Sri Lanka and all over the world that struggle to meet their basic necessities. Sometimes, these thoughts keep me awake too... May God give strength and willingness to more and more people to do what Surethi and Nithya are doing!

Nice to see the holistic approach of Red Cross response! God bless you and your team.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Dear Anjana. You are the first one to reply to this article which filled me with pain as I wrote it. Thavrani is hurting greatly and the Red Cross is making a hige difference to her life. It was sad to leave her and her children, but I know in 3 months time when her house is complete, she will be happier.

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