The Alliance Development Trust (ADT) identified a great need among the families affected by floods and landslides in the Kegalle area; the children in these areas had lost their school books and stationery items without which they found difficult to go to school. As most of these children hailed from impoverished households, they were in dire straits to find a way to return to school and resume their education. Some children go to school in dresses, tee-shirts and sandals or slippers because their uniforms and shoes were soiled by the floods while certain others lost everything they owned when the mountains tumbled down on their houses.
In a bid to encourage the children affected by these natural disasters in the Kegalle area, the ADT distributed 200 school packs on 10 July 2017 for students from Maniyangama, Bomaluwa, Galabalakanda, Viharakanda and Velangalla in Dehiowita which was the area worst affected by the floods. Students from 32 schools benefited from this distribution. This area was one that was left out of other relief efforts carried out by the government and other organisations. The villagers faced indescribable suffering due to the 13 landslides which took place and the flood waters which rose up to 14 feet in certain areas. A total of 21 schools in these five villages were completely destroyed or partially damaged and most are not in a condition to resume classes for the children. Some have relocated to temporary shelters at the local temple but the situation is far from normalcy. The little children preparing for the term-end examination and the older students who will sit for the Advanced Level examination in August are worried as to how they would perform in the midst of all these difficulties.
Sahan is one such student who is preparing for the Advanced Level examination in August. Even though his classmates at Maniyangama Maha Vidyalaya were able to row their way across to school in boats during the floods, Sahan’s disability kept him at home. He was 2 years old when he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. As a student in Grade 7, Sahan had to use the help of clutches to get about and it was in Grade 9 that the disease left him completely immobile. The floods also kept his father, a daily-paid worker, at home and their family is now facing several financial difficulties. Sahan is unable to attend school these days also because the high transportation cost which his father cannot afford. In spite of all these difficulties, Sahan is resolute to perform well at the upcoming examination so as to be of use to his country. Rheumatoid arthritis might have weakened his body, but it sharpened his mind and filled him with a determination to succeed in life. Sahan is therefore extremely grateful for the school pack he received from the ADT. “Thank you so much for this great help” expressed Sahan who has found great encouragement in the pack he received. “I will take this school bag with me when I go for the A/Level exam. There are a lot of things in this school pack which I will share with my brother.”
Like several others in the Dehiowita area, the estate workers of Thalapitiyawatte are annually affected by these natural disasters. This year, the disaster struck closer to home when the landslide claimed the life of a mother and daughter who failed to outrun Death. “My two daughters and I ran through the jungle on the night of the landslides” recalled Shanthi, describing the fear she faced. As a widow who lost her husband just 8 months ago, Shanthi fears for the safety of herself and her young daughters. Together with seven other families, Shanthi and her daughters have sought refuge in a little community hall in their estate which has only one toilet and no pipe-water supply. “They are asking us to return to our homes but we are afraid of the landslides” Shanthi explained her fear of future landslides that may occur as the earth has been loosened further by the one that occured recently. “My daughters are refusing to go back home.” Shanthi’s two daughters and six other students of the Thalapitiyawatte Estate also received school packs to help them through this difficult time.
Gihan is a student of Dehiowita National School who lives in Magammana. Gihan’s house is located in an area deemed dangerous because of the rocky plain on which it is built and the river that runs nearby. Fearing their safety, Gihan’s family spent 3 days at the local temple. “The floods scared us a lot. My family is afraid that we will have to face the same situation now that it has started raining again. I am happy to receive this school pack and I hope to study well and become a doctor someday” explained Gihan. Gihan and nine other children from the Dehiowita area were also gifted school packs.