Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Dispatch #7 - Report from Poonochchimunai & Cheddipalayam, Batticaloa

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Rebuilding after the Tsunami in Sri Lanka

Poonochchimunai

HHR distributed school supplies the school-age children in Poonochchimunai. During the first week in February, HHR's field staff in Batticaloa happened to meet some school children and found out that one student had lied to us.

When we inquired from her parents they said that she had been studying at the Vivekananda Girls' College (Vivekananda Makalir Vidyalayam) and she stopped going to school before the third term exams started. Her parents said that she told them that she doesn't want to go to school as her school teachers and other children had set her aside. When we asked the parents whether they had contacted the school teacher and the principal and inquired about this, the answer was "No".

They said that they had never been to their daughter's school. (HHR is further investigating the matter). Therefore, we informed all the parents that if they need any school supplies, from this point on their children would have to bring a letter from the school principal or class teacher stating that they are in fact a student.

We also informed the parents of the children who had already received school supplies that they also have to provide letter from their school principal that they are attending the school.

On February 15, HHR staff met the Irrigation Engineer S.Kumarathevan and discussed the progress of the Poonochchimunai channel (this was the channel that is being constructed to drain stagnant water that accumulated from the tsunami).

The irrigation engineer said that they will come on February 18 to do the surveying of the channel and that the work would need 3 or 4 manual labourers. He also requested us to be present while he did the survey. He said that he would send the estimate and the drawings to HHR during the first week of March.

Next, HHR staff went to Poonochchimunai to find a place where the sewing school is to being established. We decided not to use the nursery school as it is a bit far away from the villages and is not in a safe area. HHR and the villagers had decided to set up the school in the center of the villages and we saw two places and in both cases the owners told us that they would give us their decision by February 17.

Then the arrangements were made to purchase the sewing machines. According to the Singer company, a sewing machine costs Rs. 14, 999.00 but they also said that they will give us a discount of 5%.

On 16th February 2005 HHR staff had a meeting with the volunteers from Poonochchimunai at the HHR's Batticaloa branch office and discussed various issues. We discussed the following issues:

1. The sewing school

2. School-age children

Sixteen more persons had applied for the sewing school, and in some families two persons had applied from the same family bringing the total number of applicants to 46. We decided that with the permission of the teacher, one person from one family would be allowed and preference would be given to those who applied earlier.

We also decided to hold class for 2 hours every day for the first two months and then later to decide the frequency of the classes according to the progress of the students.

We requested the participation of the villagers when the Irrigation Engineer came to their village on February 18 to do a survey to build the channel.

Cheddipalayam

The affidavits of thirty families from Cheddipalayam who were affected by tsunami were collected and specific questionnaires were completed. According to the responses , we were able to understand that the land and houses of 14 families those who were displaced during the army attack in 1990 are still occupied by the Special Task Force of Sri Lanka Government.

Furthermore, we can see that even though they all belong to the same caste, their professions vary: one family operates a beetle leaf farm, two families do fishing, twelve families wash clothes, two families run small businesses, and rest do manual labor.

As already planned, arrangements were made to purchase necessary the necessary equipment such as iron boxes, buckets, tables and detergent as well as other items for the twelve families who wash clothes for a living.

The iron boxes used by professional washers are not sold in any shops so we had to order for them to be suitable for ironing. The professional iron box is supposed have the following characteristics:

1. Front part of the iron box should be 2 inches long.

2. The iron box should have a rectangular hole in the back.

3. The handle of the iron box should be equal at the inner side.

4. The iron box should be made of brass and the bottom should be smooth.

5. The weight of the iron box should be between 4 ½ - 5 ½ kg.

On February 14, while talking with the villagers in Cheddipalayam, we received the some additional requests. While collecting the names of the clothes washers, a person called Mamangam Murugesu said that his name had not been included on the list but, some of the persons who came to the spot said that he dose not work here.

His daughter Yogamalar said that he works at Kaluwanchikkudi. We told him as we did not have his questionnaire, affidavit and photograph, we would need these items before we could provide any assistance. Three families said that they operated a small business; another other three families said that were fishermen, and nine families said that they did manual labor.

Selvarajah Pushparanee and Thambipillai Rajammah requested HHR to buy them sewing machines. They said that they were earned their livelihood making clothes even before tsunmai. And the three families were fishermen also requested HHR to purchase them materials for them to resume fishing.

We placed orders for the iron boxes, and tables and buckets. (An iron box costs Rs. 5900.00; a bucket costs Rs. 644.00; and a table costs Rs. 2350.00)