Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Hope Outreach UK April 2006 Report

by Sam & Ayesha Muthuveloe, April 2-7, 2006

Mission Sri Lanka

Upon return to the place that challenged me deeply following the tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, there was sense of accomplishment and of more yet to be done. 

On the NorthEastern coastal belt of Sri-Lanka, there was once a thriving fishing village called Odduthurai in the east Vadamaratchi District.  In Jan 2005, I visited the mass graves on the 31st day after the fateful day of the tsunami and was a bystander to the massive communal outpouring of grief.

Tsunami affect life-Amparai
Photo courtesy, photo 8571

We in Hope Outreach UK (HO-UK) resolved to rebuild this community and, together with the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, set out to build 180 transitional shelters to move people from the refugee camps in to houses.  In October 2005 we were thrilled to see the community rebuilt and a life of normalcy had returned.  In all, HO-UK had built 900 transitional shelters and over 100 permanent houses.

Miracle in the making

The sun was blisteringly hot overhead this April noonday as the priest of St Mary's Church in Odduthurai, Rev Mano-Reuban, took me around the bomb-damaged & tsunami-affected Church building.  The brand new tiles on the roof were a give away to the aerial carpet-bombing that the Church, along with other communal buildings and private homes had sustained in the bitter 20 year civil war.  Some parts of the beautiful columns of the classic 18th century Anglican Church building will not be replaced, the priest mentioned.  It is to serve as a memorial & a reminder to the people of the area that, in the midst of their painful past, God's presence was with them.

This little Church & its dilapidated building has become a centre of hope & encouragement to the local community of people.  We witnessed an active Montessori of 30 pre-school orphan kids, most of who had lost one parent either to the war or to the tsunami.  In the evenings the schoolchildren turn up to play in the compound and stay over for assistance with their schoolwork.  The only electricity of the village is powered by a solar panel to the open Church hall where free tuition is offered.  The tube well and stand pipe provides water freely to the community.


The road systems are blessed with potholes and near maniacs behind the wheels, who depend on their tooters more than their brakes.  They are very skilled to be able to manoeuvre on the challenging roads.  We took an ageing twin engine air flight from Colombo to Jaffna a 70 minute journey for £75 return.  This transport is meant for the brave of heart.  Defying all odds, its safety record thus far has been impeccable!

Country & the people

The people on both sides of the divide have suffered much from the 20 years of civil war and yearn deeply for peace with justice.  Given the polarisation of opinions, a negotiated settlement is still a far way off. The large-scale militarization of civilian areas in the northeast of Sri-Lanka has an oppressive and repressive feel about it.  In the Vanni areas the civilian authority appears orderly & efficient though the cost of living here is much higher than in the south of the country.  We had to manoeuvre several checkpoints, showing our passports and answering immigration questions on both sides of the divide.  In reality the country at present is already divided and the challenge is to unite it, a fact not quite appreciated in the south of the country.

Visiting our partners & projects

We flew to Jaffna from Colombo and then along with the Archdeacon of Jaffna, Ven. S P Nesakumar, travelled by road to our several joint projects. We were in Sri Lanka for just 6 days, of which 4 days in the North of the country.

WILLIAM MATHER CENTRE FOR DESTITUTE WOMEN-JAFFNA This is run by the ecumenical churches and is home for 62 girls and 20 elderly mentally infirm ladies.  50 more girls are expected to join the home once the building renovation programme is completed.  There is a need for a Play Garden for the children, the study of English, a vehicle for transport and the development of the land for agriculture.

EILM BOYS HOME -PALLAI The home is on the main A9 road on the grounds of the Anglican Church of St Andrew's within the Tamil Tiger-controlled area.  There are 22 boys between the ages of 10 & 16 attending the local school.  25 more boys are on the waiting list to join the home.  The need is for the construction of play facilities, dormitory, dining and kitchen facilities to take in the extra numbers.

It is said that during the infamous Indian Military occupation of the area in the late 1980's several valuable Mahogany trees in the Church compound were felled, converted to furniture on the site and sent to the homes in India of the occupying Senior Military officers!

KARUNA NILAYAM - KILLINOCHI The late CMS missionary lady Miss Muriel Hutchins founded this home 50 years ago. There are 90 children & 20 mentally infirm ladies being cared for in this complex that is managed by the Anglican Church.  It also has a well run Montessori for the pre-school kids.  This is an area that carries all the physical scars and emotional pain of the civil war & the effects of the tsunami.

The needs of the home include a vehicle for transport in an emergency, the building of a Medical Centre, a cultivation programme, cottage industry, vocational training and the study of English.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING - REERDO - KILLINOCHI The Rural Economic Education and Research and Development Organisation is very active in providing training for the youth.  They are building Career Skills Training Centres and have commenced training youth in vocational skills of Electricity, Plumbing, masonry, aluminium mouldings & carpentry. Its CEO, Mr K Jeyaseelan, efficiently leads the organisation.

The appeal has been for assistance in the Waste Disposal Programme for the recycling of paper & plastics & the building of a Children's Educational Play Area for the community.

CENTRE FOR HEALTH CARE -KILLINOCHI We met with the CEO, Mr K P Arun Rattnam.  Their work and progress has been impressive.  There has been a significant improvement in preventable diseases.  Malaria & Dengue fever has not been reported in the area for several years now.  The dental hygiene amongst the villagers has improved and they have moved from dental powder and plant roots to toothpaste and toothbrushes.  With improved environmental care, sanitation and personal hygiene, diarrhoeal diseases are declining.  Education has been to improve breast milk awareness & on locally available affordable vegetables for a balanced diet.

The programmes of outreach Mobile Village Clinics using the Ambulance donated by us continue faithfully, working 5 days a week in the Mullaiteevu District doing yeoman service.  The travelling Team consists of a Doctor, Mid-wife, Health Promotion Nurse & a Dental Nurse.  The need is to expand a similar service to the Mannar District where there is a great need.

TSUNAMI HOUSING PROGRAMME- VEECHIKADU The east coast of Sri-Lanka was badly ravaged by the tsunami.  Together with our partner organisation YGRO, we built 87 Transitional Shelters.  The community of people have returned to fishing and agriculture now and all the children are back at school in this village.  Hope Vision Team UK is travelling out to them in late April to conduct vision clinics. Permanent houses are to be built for these people soon.  It was heartening to meet with Mr Chandran Williams, Director of YGRO, and to review the project.

The Challenge

Boxing Day 2004 was destruction, 2005 was reconstruction and 2006 and beyond are the years of rehabilitation.  The stories mentioned above are replicated in many places.  The coming together of dedicated able persons with a commitment to the life of their community, assisted by outside funding and encouragement is enabling them to pick up their broken pieces of life and to slowly piece them together.  We are privileged in Hope Outreach UK to play a small, yet significant, part in their reconstruction and rehabilitation. It is exciting and rewarding to be part of this programme as we see people move from despair to hope, from destruction to reconstruction and from death to life.  There is more to do and there is a role for each of us to play.

Easter Greetings to all.

Dr Sam Muthuveloe
General Secretary
21 Lower Stonehayes
Great Linford
Milton Keynes
MK14 5ES
Tele: 01908 668829

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