Sparkes Home Newsletter 2014

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

March 2014

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Sparkes Home Sri Lanka

Our original Sparkes Home in Kallar continues to thrive and is now regarded as a “flag ship” among the children’s homes run by the Methodist church in Sri Lanka.

The trustees have visited Kallar four times this year. The girls in the home continue to thrive and their school results improve each year. In our last newsletter we mentioned four girls taking A levels in August 2012. They are now awaiting their results and have high hopes for university and college places. These are girls from extremely remote and poor villages where university is almost unheard of and girls are married off at a very young age. We are funding these four girls for English and IT courses and their accommodation while they await their results. We will then fund their tertiary education. A further 2 girls will take their A levels in 2013 and we hope that another girl will go to a specialist dance school in January.

Over the last 7 years we have established strong links with the Methodist organisation and support their efforts to help disadvantaged children throughout Sri Lanka. Unfortunately their major international sponsor is withdrawing all financial support for residential homes at the end of 2012. The Methodist church is working hard to replace this funding, both from international sources and from local initiatives. Following visits by the Trustees, in addition to our long term support for Kallar, we have agreed to provide interim funding for three existing girls homes threatened with closure. We are now caring for over 120 girls in Sri Lanka.

Kalmunai is only ten miles south of Kallar. The home has 35 girls in residence who, like our Kallar girls, go to school locally and benefit from extra tuition in the home after school. The trustees have visited Kalmunai four times this year. We are very impressed by the warden and her staff and the home is on a beautiful site.

Tummodara is on the west coast, approximately 20 miles north of the international airport. It is one of the oldest established homes run by the Methodist church and has a fine collection of pigs, cows and chickens in the grounds! We have visited the home and were impressed by the 25 girls and the loyal long-standing staff.

Hatton is in the heart of the tea country. We are providing funds for crucial repairs. When we first visited this home in March there were gaping holes in the roof and windows were falling out. By October the main dormitory had a new roof and windows and the wash area had been renovated. The work is still in progress to weather proof and improve this home for 28 girls.

It has only been possible to extend our activities in Sri Lanka because of the huge generosity of our donors and sponsors. We would like to thank all of you. Particular thanks go to major donors: the Holliday Foundation, The Mann Cornwell Trust, the Gibson Charitable Trust and the family and friends of Carolyne Stanforth in whose memory the Kallar extension is dedicated.

We welcome donors, sponsors, friends and family who may be on holiday in Sri Lanka to visit the homes.

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Latest News

2011 has been a very busy and productive year at the Sparkes Home: it is going from strength to strength.

As you can see from the photos, we have a wonderful and happy group of girls in Kallar. A few new girls arrived at the home this year and they have settled extremely well.  The Trustees work closely with the local social services department who are impressed with our organisation and management.

The girls are improving academically all the time. Ad we employ extra- curricular teachers in the Home most evenings, teaching Maths, Science, English and ICT.  In the end of term exams in July, 19 girls achieved over 75% in one or more subject.  7 girls will take their O level exams in December 2011 and they all hope to go on to study A levels at the same school. We have 7 girls studying A levels at present and the 4 second year A level girls (aged 18) will take their exams in August 2012. In Sri Lanka students have to wait until December for their A level results.  Our 4 girls have asked if they can remain in the Home until December 2012 and enrol in an intensive English and ICT course run by the local YMCA. After that they would like to go on to university or vocational courses.  This year we are seeking finances to establish a scholarship fund to support our school leavers.

The new extension to the Home was completed in January and a new kitchen area completed in May. The extension houses a dining room/study area and 2 bedrooms for the older girls.

Several trustees have visited Kallar this year.  On each occasion they met with the President of the Methodist Church in Colombo.  Claire and Peter Stratton, with Australian sponsors Helen and Daniel Gauchat visited in February.  They inspected the new extension, attended the opening ceremony, and bought new school shoes for all the girls.   Juliet and Alistair Stoker visited in April.  Edward Stratton visited in May and approved the new kitchen building. Juliet Stoker visited again in October with Jenny Blake. They stayed for a week and apart from teaching, dealt with day to day maintenance and met local officials.

There have been a number of volunteers from the UK this year and their work and contribution has been invaluable. Thank you so much to all our visitors.  The girls in the Home benefit so much from getting to know and learn from friends outside Sri Lanka and their English is improving.  In January, Sarah Cripps and Sophie Butler arrived in Kallar at the start of their Gap year. The following month Alicia Gibson and Rosie French worked in the Home.   These Gap year girls taught English as well as helping with art work and they were very much part of the home: playing games, singing, helping with excursions and homework.  In March Hannah Lowes and Tom Gotelee did an amazing job educating the girls on rubbish clearance and disposal (there is no rubbish collection in Kallar!).   They also taught English and helped with general maintenance.  In June Ljuba Novkovic came to Kallar on her way back from travelling in the Far East. Not only did she teach English but also managed to teach some yoga and martial arts as well! We are keen to increase the number of female visitors for short stays of up to two weeks – no age criteria!

The home relies totally on the very generous contributions from our sponsors and donors and we thank you very much for all your support.  In addition, we have had several fund-raising events this year.

We would particularly like to thank:-
The Falcons Prep School for their continual fund-raising with a sponsored fun run, the committee of the London Treasure Hunt for their event in August and the girls at Woldingham School.  We would also like to give special thanks to Stephen Milner who has donated a substantial amount to SHSL in memory of his wife, Carolyne Stanforth. The extension is dedicated to her memory.

Finally, every visitor comments on the warmth and vibrancy in the Home. It is a very caring community where the girls give tremendous support to each other and welcome outsiders.

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