Dear club members, dear other club supporters,
Yes, we are back from Sri Lanka. Safe and sound, successful and with the feeling that our “Rosenkinder” help has also survived the long Corona period in Sri Lanka well, or rather that we should do more. However, the country as a whole did not survive this long phase of almost 2 years well. Repeated lockdowns and especially the lack of income from tourism have set the country back. In such a situation, with a lack of government revenue, especially foreign currency, a threshold start can no longer fulfil its tasks. Moreover, it is taking its toll that many, many infrastructure projects of the last decade were financed with loans, especially from China. According to the press, 2/3 of all state revenues for these loans go back to China. Sensible infrastructure projects such as road construction, supply structures and environmental protection are currently suffering. This is also due to past mistakes such as a useless second “international airport” and port in the south of the country. Both are not used or are little used. Not to mention the impressive Hafen-City in Colombo, another pointless project for the “common” people. The population is taking the brunt of the current financial crisis, combined with import bans, with blatant price increases for everyday items. For many, unaffordable fresh food and gas for cooking are the result. Daily power cuts lasting several hours because the power stations have run out of gas are also the result. As a result, there is only little petrol and diesel at the petrol stations with daily closures and long queues on the other days. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka remains a beautiful country with nice, friendly people, just our country of the “rose children”.
Due to the current special circumstances, the Rosenkinder delegation from Germany was very small. In the following, we will report on our diverse project work, the successes and where we have planned to move on to new terrain:
1. Current project “Rosenkinder” Sponsorships in cooperation with the Lions Club Aluthgama/Bentota
We are currently supporting 74 children/young people in the six-month funding period that has just started. Of these, we met 6 new “rose children” during our trip this year and accepted them into the circle of those permanently supported. The schools and almost all universities are now open again after almost 1 ½ years of extensive closure. According to official announcements, this is to remain the case despite the continued corona in the country. 24 “rose children” are currently receiving primary school or o-level/secondary school support. 13 “rose children” are in the two-year preparation phase for an a-level/Baccalaureate examination. We are currently sponsoring 34 students and another 3 “rose children” are waiting for the results of their exams or the start of their studies. We met 35 of our “rose children” personally during our stay. The planned trip to Kotapola or to the 40 or so “rose children” in this remote region unfortunately had to be cancelled because a massive corona outbreak in the temple in Kotapola made it impossible to organise a meeting. So we had to call Dooland our helper from the Lions Club to get the necessary information to continue the support of these “rose children” from the region. The picture here shows the end of our meeting in the Briefgarden on 16 February. Among the “newcomers” besides 5 primary school students is 22 year old Vasana Sandamali. An extremely talented girl with a good a-level, a promise of a place at university and the wish to become a teacher.
As the girl comes from a very poor family and was not granted any state support, this is another typical case for support by us. We met the girl from Ratnapura accompanied by her blind father during our visit to the Rosenkinder Hostel in Panadura. She has 4 siblings. She wants to live with her older sister, who lives north of Colombo, during her studies and then commute to university. Her mother works as a cleaner for the rest of the family in Ratnapura. One of the siblings is also mentally handicapped and needs special care. I will report on the other new arrivals later.
2. Current project special education at the Anula Wijerama Children Home in Balapitiya in cooperation with the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC)
The girls’ children’s home in Balapitiya was also affected by Corona for a long time and thus by school closures and extremely complicated “home-schooling”. Currently, all 35 girls are back in school. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Sri Lanka and planned our visits, we learned that the home for guests had been closed again by the regional administration due to new cases of corona in the region. Even the 7 teachers we had financed were suddenly no longer allowed into the home. Neither were we, by the way! It did not make sense that the girls could meet their teachers at school on the one hand, but on the other hand they were not allowed to come to the home for the special classes.
So we escalated this situation via ACBC as the responsible body of the home and lo and behold, after a week our teachers were allowed to switch from online lessons to face-to-face lessons again. We had previously met all 7 teachers in a hotel in Balapitiya, as well as the entire 7-member committee. Theoretically, we discussed with the circle the improvements we felt were necessary for the older girls in school guidance and, even more importantly, in vocational qualifications before leaving the children’s home at the age of 18.
We had contacted two former girls from the home in Balapitiya beforehand, and in one case even visited them and had their experiences and ideas described to us. The teachers were very committed, but the committee and the matron were still somewhat reserved. But that was to change, because at our second appointment we were allowed into the home. We not only saw the girls giving live science lessons and helping the youngest girls with their homework, but we were also able to talk in detail to the 10 oldest girls in the home. Our Petra Gerlings, together with the English teacher and the matron, had prepared a written profile of these girls for us. We then went through this with each girl, discussed their expectations, plans and school opportunities intensively with parts of the committee, the matron and the English teacher as translator and set an individual goal. In ZOOM conferences every 3 months we will now discuss the further development in this circle. The technology makes it possible and we will use this for an even more sustainable support of the girls in Balapitiya.
3. Children Home for blind and deaf-mute Children in Mahaweewa in cooperation with the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC)
We have already been to Mahaweewa twice in previous years and were always touched by the children in the home and the school and the great commitment of the volunteer committee. Now and recently, our association member Melanie Bierut, a trained occupational therapist, lived at the home for more than 14 days in December 2021 and again in January 2022 and also worked with the children there. On the one hand, this gave us new experiences and suggestions for our help, and on the other hand, it was a great experience for Melanie and the 50 or so children from the home and another 50 or so students from outside.
During our visit, we were not only able to meet the children, but also to experience all 14 state teachers and a dance and music show. From Melanie’s experiences, we worked out a very detailed project plan for the whole year 2022 in a conference with the committee. The music and dance lessons will be continued with an additional trainee, and English and IT lessons will be added, also by a trainee, because the state no longer finances these lessons due to a lack of money. From the horticulture project of the years 2020/2021 we could not only visit the mushroom farm financed by us, but also eat the delicious products for lunch on the spot. Surplus produce from the farm, which is already available today, is sold to the parents of the school children from outside. A second agricultural project on the large property is now being started with the support of an organic vegetable trader. It is a banana farm, supplemented by the cultivation of various other vegetables and fruits for self-sufficiency or later sale. The main costs are for land reclamation and irrigation infrastructure. The work and the profits are to be shared by the elderly residents in particular. From Melanie’s descriptions, the focus then shifted to the home’s playground, which had been largely destroyed. It is now getting a large new playground and the other equipment is being repaired. In particular, Melanie was able to work with the children as an occupational therapist. The nearby hospital was also interested in her experience. In a trial project, the home children will continue to receive weekly ergo-therapeutic treatment for the next 6 months. It can only be said that the small initial help has now developed into an extensive sustainable project in Mahaweewa. This makes us proud, because we would like to support these physically disadvantaged children more intensively.
4. Current project “Rosenkinder Hostel” at the Vocational Training Center in Panadura in cooperation with the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC)
In this highly successful project, a new very committed volunteer leadership of ACBC surprised us. Only Dilan, the previous vice-chairman, remained in his position. The visit to our hostel was impressively prepared. We were also given all the necessary data of the girls in advance, such as name, age, from which children’s home and of course the training course, for the new training course that had just started in January. It is assumed that the Corona-related extended training from 6 to 12 months will no longer be necessary due to permanent presence. In addition to the previous training options of cosmetics, hair dressing, tailoring and textile quality control, “Day-Care” is now a new addition to the programme. This is baby care for the youngest of the newborns.
In Sri Lanka, it is customary or, for the most part, economically necessary for young mothers to return to work only a few weeks after giving birth. Then there is a need for qualified care for the young earthlings.
What a nice place to be with the various options for qualifying children at home. We have already supported more than 150 of them there over the years and helped them to secure employment.
5. Other projects
The Lions Club project “Care for the unborn Child”, which we have supported for many years, is beautiful and always impressive. We are also involved in the financing of the newly started project with currently 5 mothers and later their babies. During our visit in February, the start to Corona was only possible at Lion Sumith’s private house. The next monthly meeting will take place at the health centre in Kalutara. Then again with medical care. By this date, the first baby should also have been born. In total, the mothers will receive 15 months of support in the form of food, later baby equipment and qualified medical and baby care.
The All Ceylon Buddhist Congress umbrella organisation also has a new president. Mr. Chandra Nimal Wakishta took up this honorary post for all ACBC social functions last year. We met him and his leadership team twice. Once at the ACBC headquarters and the second time at the proposed site of our second Rosenkinder Hostel in Payagala. We had already visited the location 2 years ago, but Corona has so far prevented further real progress. This is about to change. Mr. Wakishta arrived in Payagala with a small police escort for the agreed meeting. This was not necessary because of his honorary function, but because he is a member of a three-member committee whose task is to monitor corruption, embezzlement and the observance of human rights in the state. There is a lot to do in an emerging country and it is not without danger. We were all the more pleased that he declared our new project to be a personal goal. Two years ago, it was supposed to be a vocational training centre for boys in hotel professions. That has now changed. Now organic farming is to be taught. On the one hand, this makes a lot of sense because the site covers about 5 hectares around the existing buildings. On the other hand, this also has something to do with the economic situation in Sri Lanka and the security of supply.
Due to the shortage of foreign currency, last year’s import ban also included pesticides and fertilisers that were previously used very intensively in agriculture. From one day to the next, their use was banned by law and Sri Lanka wanted to devote itself entirely to organic farming. However, due to a lack of experience, training and products, this led to a massive loss of harvests and consequently to high product prices. We were able to see this for ourselves when we went shopping. The buildings, in need of renovation but actually more in need of clearing out, had of course not yet improved. Intended and perfectly suitable after a necessary renovation for the hostel and the theoretical training. But the basic substance of the buildings is good, only the sanitary area needs a lot of work. Mr. Wakishta has promised us a schedule and cost plan by the end of this month. We will continue to report on this and, with our usual optimism, we will certainly open the second Rosenkinder Hostel for boys during our next visit in February 2023.
Due to Corona, life at the ACBC children’s home for blind and deaf-mute children in Mahaweewa and the associated school is still at a standstill. Unfortunately, there will be no new project for young families “Care for the unborn Child” until further notice. However, the corona-related special tasks and measures are already enough extra work for our many volunteers. After all, they also have to think about their health.
6. Other information
I would like to mention or remind you of our planned annual programme for 2022. The 16th general meeting of the Rosenkinder is planned or already booked for Sunday, 15 May 2022 in the town hall in Uetersen at 3 pm. Apart from the usual agenda, Melanie Bierut will certainly give an impressive account of her time in the home for the blind and deaf in Mahaweewa. We will send out further information and the board’s report 2021 about 4 to 5 weeks in advance. However, the date for a hopefully numerous participation in the generous town hall should already be noted today.
For the planned benefit concert with Alabama Hot Six on Friday, 28 October 2022 at 7 pm, the Stadthalle Uetersen is already booked.
So hopefully we’ll see you soon. Until then, best wishes and stay healthy and cheerful and stay connected to the “Rosenkinder”.
Yours / yours