Our recent visit took 18 days and we covered 2,500 kms with Tissa in his wonderful new 4×4. (Tissa is a wonderful guide and if you are planning a visit to Sri Lanka we would happily put you in touch with him). We started our trip by meeting with Claire Stratton (fellow Trustee) on her way back from business in Indonesia. Together we met our contacts at the Methodist HQ in Colombo, reviewed recent progress at our projects and planned the agenda for our visits. The three of us also visited the girls home in Tummodera.
At the end of our visit, after visiting the homes and other projects, we met with the President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka and the staff in charge of their various children’s activities in Sri Lanka.
There are currently 27 children in the home. The girls are always a delight and they enjoyed 2 days with our daughter, Isabel, who just happened to be back packing in Sri Lanka. The Reverend Sassi remains as the Methodist minister, having completed 3 out of a maximum term of 5 years. He is excellent and we hope he can stay for longer. The repairs and redecorations are virtually completed and the home looks wonderful in its new external colour scheme. The Fund paid for a trip for all the girls to visit the Hatton home in July for 2 days. The girls from the two homes shared packed dormitories and visited Peradeniya Gardens in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya before returning to Kallar. It was a great experience for the girls to meet each other and for the Kallar girls to experience the cold of the hill country. Juliet set the girls a project by purchasing material so that each girl can make a pillowcase to be completed by the time of the next visit in February 2015. Diana Lacey, a teacher from Falcons school in London, has volunteered to spend time at the home in January 2015.
The home is full with 35 girls. The standards at the home, especially the education, are very high thanks to an excellent Warden and a good local school. An interesting current development is a Methodist Indonesian volunteer who is staying for a year, teaching English and generally assisting the girls. There is great excitement about a forthcoming visit in July by 10 girls and two teachers from Downe House School and work has already started decorating rooms before their visit! The commercial development on land adjoining the Home has now been completed and let to the Hatton National Bank. After an initial reduced rent, the project should produce income to cover some 50% of the Home’s running costs. We are keen to encourage the Methodist church to bring forward similar schemes so that our funding can be spread across an even greater number of children.
The renovation works are virtually complete and the home has been transformed. A new Minister and Warden take over in January. The number of girls in the home was held down while the building works were in progress and once staffing levels are back to normal we hope to see the home returned back to its usual bustling and happy self.
There are currently 25 girls, the capacity of the home. The recently completed refurbishment has been a huge success and the girls have taken to gardening and growing their own vegetables.
We have been funding 3 pre-schools in the Kallar/Kalmunai area for the past year and are taking on another pre-school from January 2015. Whilst the facilities are extremely basic they provide a much needed facility for the families in these poor rural areas. The schools enable the mothers to help in the fields whilst giving the children an early start to education. The parents make a small payment for books and to off-set costs. We are currently providing for approximately 86 infants.
After School Classes
We have also provided finance for 3 after school facilities in the Kallar/Kalmunai area. These run from 3pm to 5pm after normal school hours. Many of the children are studying for O and A level examinations. The school at Palakudah has 116 children and 6 teachers in essentially one classroom. Following our visit, we have agreed to construct a leanto extension at a cost of £500. These 3 facilities provide classes for over 200 children.
We met four girls (out of five) from our Homes who started university this summer. This is a huge achievement and we were impressed by all of them. Whilst education is provided by the state, the children are expected to meet their board and lodging expenses. We have agreed to fund these costs (£600 per annum per girl) for all five girls and hope we will be able to support more girls in the future. We are also keen for other girls in our homes to participate in further training once they leave the Home and subject to interview and Trustee approval, we will assist in meeting these costs.
Alistair and Juliet Stoker