“The Best and most Beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched but are felt in the heart” – Helen Keller
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Thilakavadiyar Girls’ Home, as part of my holiday to SriLanka. I was very excited and looked forward to visiting the girls’ home. I have been speaking on the telephone and writing to my sponsoring child over the last few months and to finally be able to see her face was a very nice experience that I can not quite express in words. It was 11th September 2010. I left Batticaloa town and travelled towards Kaluwanchikudy to meet the SWO co-ordinator, Mrs. Sasikala Rameswaran.
Her office assistant Ruba, who used to live in the girls home herself, came and met me. I was given a tour of the office along with updates on the various SWO projects by Sasikala and her office assistant Ruba. The office is being operated from a humble home. The cost of rent for the office is Rs 5000.00 (Almost equal to AUS$ 50.00).
Then we all drove to Thirupallugamam, during the journey Sasikala gave me background information on the girls’ home, how it started and the challenges of running a girls’ home etc. Within half an hour we had reached the Girls home and I was so eager to meet my sponsoring child. As soon as the Iron Gate opened I saw a sea of happy faces waiting to greet me. I could feel how much they were looking forward to having a visitor to their home. Some girls were shy, they were hiding behind doors, and some were very forward. Among the sea of faces I spotted my sponsoring child, a girl with a slim face and long hair, I could see sadness in her eyes, the pain, suffering loss and anxiety all were very evident.
With the child sponsored
I reached out, gave her a hug and took some photographs. Then I moved on to the other group of children and hugged them and there was this really small little girl named Reneka who captured my heart. She is the youngest amongst them. It is clear that they all love her very much.
With the youngest child
I was able to mingle and have a conversation with most of the other girls. They provided me with some refreshments and whilst enjoying the refreshments I was entertained by their talent show. I was amazed by some of their talents they are all good at singing, composing poetry and even art. They use poetry and singing as a medium of expression to express their inner most feelings. I was emotionally touched by some of the song they sang. There are sixteen girls over eighteen years of age in that home and they have completed the G.C.E. (A/L) and now they are on the next phase of their life, they have this uncertainty about their future. There is a sense of sadness amongst those that are about to leave the home to start a new life outside. Some of these girls are studying basic computing, sewing, palmarya craft. There are five sewing machines of which three of them are in working condition. It costs Rs 10,000(AUS$100) a month for the tuition fee for the sewing lesson. Six girls have completed 3 months of the Palmarya craft. They presented me with a gorgeous handbag and a garland they made out of Palmarya leaves. They also gave me two bottles buffalo curd which I was able to enjoy during my stay. I am not sure how many of you are familiar with Buffalo curd. It is one of the most popular food items from the East Coast- Batticaloa and Thirupallugamam is famous and well known for it. I was so touched and moved by their hospitality.
I left the girls home with sadness in my heart that I could not do more for them. All these girls have so much potential and desire to better their situation. This is where we all come in
together with our generous support we can help them fulfil their basic needs. There are 65 girls in total in Thirupallugamam and only 27 of them are registered with the government to receive
funds. The remainder of them depend on sponsorship funds to support their basic needs.
After spending few hours at Thirupallugamam I decided to visit the next girls’ home at Chettipalayam. Chettipalayam set was similar to Thirupallugamam yet it was different mostly because majority of the children living in that home are younger children. The younger children are more lively and playful in their nature. There are 60 Children in total in Chettipalayam. There is a matron, a watcher and two cooks to look after the needs of these children. I was able to witness the progress of the dinner hall being built there, the water tank and there is also an upstairs part of the building being unfinished due to the lack of funding. The children expressed a desire to have the roof top competed. (Please refer to attached photos). Once again, all these children were willing to entertain me with their talents in music, art and composing poetry and singing lovely songs. I have enclosed some of the drawings and poetry these children had written and drawn. I personally feel freedom of expression is a great healer of pain and suffering and it was very clear every song, every poetry was reflecting the greater love for a parent. I can not even begin to imagine how a small child who is six years old must feel who does not have her mother or father with them anymore. All they have is the love of their sponsor and the friendship their share with the rest of the children in the girls’ home. I had the great pleasure of sharing the lunch with the girls them at Chettipalayam. Even though I was not hungry, they insisted me on eating with them and without offending anybody I kindly accepted the invitation and sat amongst the girls and had plain rice and rasam. The children were served a two curry vegetarian meal. It was a real pleasure to be able to be in company of those little girls.
A meal with the children
I really enjoyed my visit to the girls’ home and I would encourage other sponsors to visit the Illam given the opportunity please do so. It is an experience that can not be described with
words. It must be felt in the heart.
What did I discover from this journey to the girls home?
Well, what I learnt was there so much more we all could do. The basic things we take for granted those children don’t have and we could make them have a happier home if we all work together. The below is the list of items that I have uncovered as essential for these children
- The Children at Chettipalayam don’t have any cupboards to keep their belongings such as clothes and books. They all leave them on the floor in bags. (Please see photos attached) – Estimated cost to provide cupboards A$2,000.00
- They are all in urgent need of undergarments – Estimated cost for undergarments A$1,200.00
- Feminine hygiene products are an ongoing issue – Estimate not available.
- The small children in Chettipalayam would like some toys such as ball, badminton rackets, netball, tennis ball, cricket bat etc. They are all small and would love to play and have fun with the other girls. Play is important part of a child’s development – organise and send items by courier. Estimated cost to send used items by shipment A$200.00.
- Last but not least these children also asked me if they could have some musical instruments such as drums, flutes etc – estimated cost A$500.00.
By Subo Balendira
Member – Mahalir Illam.
At Girls Home – Cheddipalayam
Belongings stored – cupboards/lockers are needed
Items are being left on the floor
Good times with the children