I start with a bit of self indulgence, which I recommend to anyone who visits Sri Lanka or the Sparkes homes. Sitting on the terrace of a tea planter’s bungalow overlooking the Bogowantalawa valley makes me realise why our predecessors welcomed a chance to live and work in this country.
Our visit to the Sparkes home at Kallar in February saw the girls in wonderful spirits and we were made so welcome. We have travelled with our friends Penny and Robin Broadhurst who are not only sponsors for our charity but also involved with many others. They were able to offer useful advice. We arrived with a few essentials; sacks of rice and lentils, shampoo, whiteboard pens and, best of all, 2 enormous cartons of ice cream. We were immediately treated to lunch with the girls and then a tour of the home. Whilst Claire and Penny discussed management issues, Robin and I met with one of the local committee to discuss a repainting programme and the need to add a small external kitchen for cooking over wood. (The price of bottled gas has risen from Rs.350 to Rs.2500 over recent years.).
Our second day saw us take the girls, warden, housemother and others to the nearby beach and a chance to frolic in the water before returning for the ice cream treat.
Undoubtedly the highlight of our visit was to see the transformation of Anojini who was one of the first girls to enter the home in 2007. Her story on arrival was grim. Se had been traumatised by her parents who deliberately handicapped her by putting both hands in boiling oil to improve her potential as a beggar later in life. When she arrived she was shy, retiring and critically aware of her disfigurement. Now, aged 15 she has grown into an attractive and confident girl and become one of the leaders in the home. We were amazed when she casually grabbed Penny’s hand and ran with her laughing to the sea. What a heart-warming transformation.
We also met Suja, a new girl to the Home aged 7 who is still acutely traumatised by witnessing her father murder her mother and then commit suicide. She is already starting to make friends in the Home, but it will take time and counselling before she is able to move forward and realise her true potential.
We then visited the homes at Kalmunai and Hatton and can report that all is well. Both have smiling and happy girls who are completing studies for 0 and A-levels at their local schools.
At Thummodara we have just started major building repairs to the roof, wc’s, showers, etc. This is with the help of a very generous donation.
We were also able to confirm arrangements for three volunteers to stay at Kallar and be with the girls for a week during their gap year experience. These visits are immensely valuable, not only for the girls at the home benefiting from exposure to spoken English but also a chance for our own nationals to appreciate the values of close friendship and mutual support, ahead of material possessions. The resident girls are also given a chance to overcome their natural reserve when meeting foreigners who must initially seem so awe-inspiring with cameras, iPhones iPads and international travel.
For the girls at our various homes, our challenge is to provide a warm and loving atmosphere, a chance to benefit from extra tuition and ultimately assistance with university or technical training as they establish their own futures. Our volunteers can help the Girls to achieve these goals and ambitions and we welcome all volunteers from the ages of 18 to 70 (or more) who are prepared to offer a week or more at any of the homes mentioned.
Seeing what the Sparkes Home has achieved for Anojini we can only thank all of our sponsors for making this possible.
Peter and Claire Stratton