Thursday, 12 July 2007

Sri Lanka: Visiting a bedkit recipient

From Sri Lanka Album 1
Lois Wey sent a report yesterday mentioning our team visited the homes of several bedkit recipients. One of these was particularly sad, in that we were told the father committed suicide due to his inabliity to bring his family out of their severe poverty.

Our team spent an emotional few minutes with the mother, bedkit recipient, and her older sister and grandmother.

They all knelt at our feet, and thanked us in the traditional Sri Lankan way for the bedkit their daughter received.

It was humbling for all of us to receive their thanks in this fashion.

You can see three photos from our visit in Sri Lanka Photo Album 1. One shows the outside, one the kitchen, and the family with team members Chris and Lynette.

Report submitted by Ted Swanston
for the SCAW Sri Lanka 2007 travelling team

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Sri Lanka: Photo Album 1

From Sri Lanka Album 1
Do you know Wally?

"Wally who," you say?

Well let me tell you we have a very important member of our team that few people know about. Yes, it's Wally.

Now Wally has a major role on our team - particularly making the children smile and helping them relax. Wally belongs to Lynette, our team leader, and Lynette always brings Wally to each distribution. At the opening ceremonies, Lynette will spend a few minutes (before the speeches start) introducing the children to Wally. The reaction is incredible.

Smiles all round.

From Sri Lanka Album 1
After the speeches, Wally shows up again at the photo shoot. He gets around you know. And the kids all smile when they see their new friend once again.

Wally does have his moments though. Someitmes he tries to "bite" a child - gently you understand - and this escalates the smiles into laughs and shrieks - all good fun.

What this accomplishes of course is lots and lots of smiles in the photos - and happy children heading off to collect thier bedkits.

I have had the joy of being able to spend some time taking photos of the most beautiful children, and lots of things happening at the distributions. For more photos of the children, (and Wally too) take a look in Sri Lanka Photo Album 1.

Report submitted by Ted Swanston
for the SCAW Sri Lanka 2007 travelling team

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Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Sri Lanka: Distribution four

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It is now about 7 pm Sri Lankan time, and we are resting after our latest bedkit distribution. As of today we have distributed bedkits to 3,200 children over four distributions. Each day has been a wonderful success — the Rotarians, community volunteers, and members of the Sri Lankan military have been assisting each day. Many hands make lighter work. Each distribution has been attended by about five schools who have all gathered at one central location.

The welcomes we have received from each community have been amazing. We have had marching bands, fresh flowers, flower necklaces, holy water, incense, and the presentation of stacked leaves. Most distributions have included a diverse mix of children and parents speaking Sinhalese, Tamil, and some English.

The children and parents have been especially relaxed, warm, and welcoming. We have had fun playing with the children, and they are delighted to mingle with Canadians. It has been wonderful that the children have not been fearful of us and there have been lots of smiles all around.

It is clear that we are working in an area with a lot of poverty. The Rotary Club has selected very appropriate centres for our bedkit distributions: where there is a clear and strong need for our assistance. We have been interviewing parents at each site to get feedback about the items chosen for the bedkits. They are clearly delighted with all of the items, and have stated that all the items are needed and important to receive. The quality of the items is also very good. This year's bedkit includes
  • a plasticized woven mat,
  • two t-shirts,
  • a skirt for the girls or a sarong for the boys,
  • two pair of shorts,
  • a mosquito net,
  • a strong backpack,
  • 5 exercise books,
  • a box of pencils,
  • a pillow,
  • a second pillowcase,
  • two towels and
  • two bedcovers.
It is quite an amazing bedkit for a donation of $30 Canadian.

Yesterday we were able to visit the homes of two children who received bedkits. Both homes were very simple and constructed of woven roofs, dirt floors, and concrete or mud walls. The cooking areas were very basic and poor. The living conditions of these families was heartbreaking. An average day's pay is about $2, and this makes it very hard to live.

Today we had a slight delay in the distribution and used the time to play with the children to keep them amused. Hokey Pokey, playing with a ball, using a puppet, and just hamming it up was a lot of fun for all.

There are only two distribution days left. We want to assure all of you that we have been keeping well and safe, and are thoroughly enjoying this special experience with the children.

Report submitted by Lois Wey
for the SCAW Sri Lanka 2007 travelling team

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Monday, 9 July 2007

Sri Lanka: Three distributions completed

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There are six of us in Sri Lanka with the delightful task of personally delivering bedkits to 4,500 needy children in the Puttalam area north of the capital city of Colombo. We arrived in Colombo on July 5th after a long series of flights (Toronto to Alaska to Hong Kong to Singapore to Colombo) and were very thankful that we had a day to adjust our body clocks to Sri Lanka time.

The Rotary Club of Kelaniya has done a wonderful job of organizing this distribution. We left on July 7th by 6 am and headed three hours north to our first distribution site where we were met by some lovely young girls who ceremoniously presented each of us with a handful of leaves. The distribution of the first 650 bedkits went extremely smoothly, and we knew that our "team" was going to do well. Since then we have completed two more very successful distributions each of 650 bedkits. At the second site we were greeted by an eastern girls' band, who played their instruments so well. The third day we were also greeted by a wonderful girls' band. Each day has been a thrilling experience.

The success of each of these three distributions has been supported by the members of the Rotary Club who have attended to all the details: the prior registration of the neediest children; the purchasing, packing and delivery of the bedkits to each distribution site; and the preparation of volunteers to assist with every step. The Sri Lankan military has been extremely helpful at each site, providing security and also a team of friendly soldiers to provide more helpful hands. This has made each distribution extremely smooth, with lots of fun for the children and their parents.

Each distribution site has included a diverse group of children speaking Sinhalese, Tamil, and English and practicing the religions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hindu and Muslim. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly. What has been most delightful is the warmth and ease of the children, who have been smiling from the beginning of each distribution day.

We have four more days of distribution in the area, and anticipate that everything will continue to go smoothly.

The bedkits are lovely, and have been most appreciated by all the families who have received them.

We are unable to send pictures from this rural site, as there is not high speed internet, but hope that they can follow later.

Report submitted by Lois Wey
for the 2007 SCAW Sri Lanka travelling team

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