The air is hot and thick with humidity, and the smell of diesel reminds me of my childhood here. I make my way through a city that is very third world. Pockets of lush, thick foliage, and houses with high walls and immaculate gardens mix with potholes, open sewers, and shanties. Dogs forage through piles of garbage that lie on the street, and overcrowded buses belch thick clouds of black smoke, as beggars, touts, and women dressed in exotic saris crowd the broken sidewalks.
As I head for a store to buy a hat, a woman approaches me. She is carrying a little girl who appears to be about six years old. They are both dirty and malnourished, and even though the little girl’s face is covered in grime, her smile shines through.
The woman begs me for money for food. She tells me they are hungry, and points to man close by waking with another child – a girl of about 8 or 9, also malnourished, and mentally disabled. They all now surround me asking for me for money for food for the children. I point to a nearby café and tell them I will buy them food there. The man and the woman shake their heads and tell me they are not allowed in the café as they are low caste, and chased out when they enter.
I walk in with them and the manager attempts to shoo them off. As I step in front of him my emotions are boiling – these are children and they are hungry. Although I’m about a foot taller than he is, and have a very intimidating look on my face, reason takes hold. I know if I yell at him, he will take it out on them the next time. I drop my shoulders and smile and ask him to show them some compassion. I assure him I will pay, and order them four meals — take out as they won’t be allowed to sit the restaurant — I include two chocolate bars for the kids, and give the mother 50 Rupees and ask her to spend it on the children. Thanking me they quickly disappear into the crowded streets.
So I decided I would go. I had no red tape, no administration, and no committees to satisfy. I would raise as much money as I could and go to as many orphanages as I could, and buy what they needed. I contacted a small privately run NGO that liaises with, and promotes orphanages in the Eastern district. They informed me that many small orphanages were already stretched to the limit and unable to cope. Although most orphanages receive rations and assistance from the government, equal to about 10 Rupees per day per child, the actual cost of feeding the children are about 18 Rupees per day per child. They gave me a long list of children’s homes, each with its own list of basic needs, including school books, uniforms, and shoes.
The well organized Buddhist’s were able to pressure the Government into postponing it’s acceptance of the foreign aid plan, while they structured and submitted one that favored their own interests, at the cost others. But the NGO’s held firm, and finally the Government had stated that it would sign legislation in June 2005 to follow the NGO’s plan, opposing the Buddhists.
But most of the orphanages, especially on the north and east coasts, still had no assistance. To add insult to injury, the larger NGO’s had an unwritten policy of staying away from orphanages in the belief that, if the orphanages were brought up to an international Polonnaruwa – ruins from about 760 ACE standard, a flood of parents would abandon their children in the hope the children would have a better life.
This is from a trip to Sri Lanka in 2004:
Thursday, June 2nd 3:46 am: Somewhere over the South China Sea, at 37,000 feet, I chase the dawn. Far behind me L.A. sits down to lunch, and even further, Toronto prepares for dinner. I nuzzle comfortably into my seat and look out at the night sky. The moon lights up the clouds, and Sri Lanka is still several hours away, as I let my thoughts drift.
It all started with an email. In February, two months after the Tsunami, a relative had driven through the hardest hit areas of Sri Lanka, and
had mentioned to me that, in many places, assistance had not yet been received. I was shocked.
Like the rest of the world, I had watched the post Christmas devastation with a macabre fascination, and had donated, and assumed the reconstruction was well on its way. The Red Cross, Unicef, and World Vision, along with a slew of other NGO’s (Non government organizations) had quickly set up refugee camps, and were providing safe drinking water, food, shelter, and medical attention. But the majority
of the funds had not being distributed. In Sri Lanka, the larger NGO’s that held most of the worldwide donations had set up a plan on how the money should be spent, based on the level of devastation, but had run into Government opposition. A twenty two year religious war that had ravaged the country was in its second year of a shaky ceasefire. And while local and state governments, were eager to get their hands on the money, the powerful Buddhist majority, led by the priests, were as eager to ensure that the Hindu Tamils in the north did not get any or, get only limited assistance.
My name is Errol Paulicpulle and I work as a real estate agent for Harvey Kalles in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. I am passionate about helping those who are underprivileged children and giving back to the community and I am involved in a number of charity projects.
I decided that I would make a blog to post some of the stories about previous projects done down in Sri Lanka, where I travel to go and help the orphans. I also intend on potentially updating the blog with any future projects.
My profile on Google+
In conjunction with the Rotary Club of Toronto and Errol Paulicpulle we brought food, clothing and supplies to a rural village on the Northeastern coast of Sri Lanka.