Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Dispatch #10 - Rehabilitation projects underway in Poonochchimunai & Cheddipalayam, Batticalao District

Originally published
Poonochchimunai Sewing School
HHR staff members have been visiting the Poonochchimunai sewing school almost daily to deliver supplies, check on the students' progress, and address any outstanding concerns. The school has been progressing according to plan with a few challenges along the way.


The course curriculum is proceeding according to plan. The students have learned to make clothes for children between the ages of six to 12 months old. They have also learned to make and decorate pillowcases and bed sheets. They are now learning to tailor clothes for children between the ages of one to ten years old.

Each student now has two notebooks: one for handwritten notes, and another as a scrapbook to record the different

methods and techniques that they have learned.

Most students are not yet confident enough to sew without the assistance of their teacher, Mrs. Murgamoorthi. Some students are able to make pillowcases and bed sheets on their own.

Mrs. Murgamoorthi tested the students on 13 May. The highest score in the class was 95% and the lowest was 52%. The mean score was about 70%.


Enrollment has been a challenge for the school. The number of students enrolled in the course has fallen to 15. About 11 of the 15 students are present at a time.

Eleven students have withdrawn from the classes since 5 April. There are many reasons for these withdrawals. Two students have found other jobs and no longer need the class. One student left to study for her A Level exams. One student moved with her family to another village. Three left to take care of their families, and three are unable to attend because the scheduled time is inconvenient for them. One student did not return after Mrs. Murgamoorthi announced that she would be testing the students on May 13.

One student, who had not attended class for a period of 15 consecutive days, was taken off the class roster. However, on returning to the class, she told Mrs. Murgamoorthi that she had been recovering from an eye operation. Given her extraordinary circumstances, HHR coordinator, Mr. Sivanatharajah, allowed her back into the class.

Mrs. Murgamoorthi has requested HHR to provide material rewards for regular attendees to serve as an incentive for other students. However, HHR has declined as it created the sewing school to address a need in the community. HHR is not interested in creating demand for the school where none exists.

HHR field officers have found that a number of other women in Poonochchimunai are interested in attending the class. Once the current course is completed in another three months, HHR will admit a new set of students for another six-month course.


HHR staff members bought and delivered supplies to the sewing school on a demand basis. HHR has purchased cloth, thread, pins, file folders, notebooks, and other supplies for the school totaling approximately Rs. 11,500.

Mrs. Murgamoorthi has requested a large worktable and a trunk to store the clothes the students have made. HHR is considering providing these items as well.


Mrs. Murgamoorthi found her current salary unsustainable and requested a raise. As of 31 May, her salary has been increased from Rs. 4,000 per month to Rs. 5,000 per month.


Classes have been held daily from 1 pm to 5 pm. Some students have had difficulty meeting at this time and asked HHR to reschedule the class to meet in the mornings instead. However, a clear majority of students preferred the afternoon time. On 28 April, with 14 students present, it was decided that the class will continue to meet in the afternoons.

Other Challenges

HHR came across some complications when young men from neighboring villages began harassing Mrs. Murgamoorthi on her way to class. HHR's local representatives now escort Mrs. Murgamoorthi to and from bus stops to ensure her safety. The representatives have also spoken with the offenders and have warned them not to interfere with Poonochchimunai's community development projects.

Rebuilding Mrs. Yogammah's House

HHR field officers have continued their attempts to complete construction of Mrs. Yogammah's house. Costs have been a significant obstacle, since the costs of building materials have skyrocketed since the tsunami.

Between 17 May and 25 May, HHR field officers made 4 attempts to buy granite to build a foundation for the house. Each time, granite was unavailable and special orders were prohibitively expensive. Since Mrs. Yogammah cannot stay indefinitely in her temporary living arrangements, and much of the already-purchased construction material was beginning to spoil, HHR decided on 17 May to begin construction, building a foundation with brick instead of granite.

However, brick is also expensive, so construction is continuing somewhat behind schedule.

Savings Accounts for Poultry Farmers in Cheddipalayam

HHR opened savings accounts in the names of 7 people who wish to begin poultry farming in Cheddipalayam. Each savings account will contain Rs. 10,000 to purchase chickens and construct pens. The consent of each beneficiary and an HHR representative is required to access the accounts.

HHR was not able to open individual savings accounts for 5 of the beneficiaries because these beneficiaries are illiterate and banks require written signatures for all accounts. HHR has opened a separate account for these five cases and will provide funds to the beneficiary on request.