To most, the ethnic war of Sri Lanka is something of the past and it fails to evoke any emotions anymore. The sound of guns, the sight of exploding mortars and the cries of the injured seem like a distant nightmare now even to those who have lived through this bitter battle of 30 long years. However the legacy of the war lives on. Many in the northern and eastern parts of the island which were affected by the war live through a great many socio-economic issues of a post-war period. Their lives are engulfed by poverty and underdevelopment. The villagers of rural villages in areas like Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu neglect their health concerns because a visit to the hospital costs them an entire day’s wages that help them put food on the table and kerosene in their lamps. The children are stunted and disabled with many impediments that affect their growth and education. Sadly, there is a number of families in villages of the rural North that struggle to care for children with intellectual, development and physical disabilities. These parents worry as to how they would nourish, nurture and educate their disabled child. They are anxious for their child’s future, worrying how they would continue to care for their children as they grow older.
Identifying the great need of disabled children in the North, the Alliance Development Trust (ADT) raised funds for wheelchairs and on 10 August 2017 gifted wheelchairs to six such children in the areas of Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. The children were identified from impoverished and disadvantaged families that could not afford to purchase a wheelchair.
Jerushiya is just 5 years old and lives in a rural village in Mallikaitivu in Mullaitivu. Her parents were jubilant when their youngest child was born as healthy as her siblings but they were overcome with great sadness when as a toddler of 2 years, Jerushiya was affected by a terrible fever that left her handicapped. Even though she can stand with assistance, Jerushiya does not speak and she is slow to respond. “She can’t talk or walk but she can hear what we say” explained Jerushiya’s mother. “We didn’t want to put her in a wheelchair hoping that she will learn to walk on her own but now it is difficult to carry her as she is growing older.” Jerushiya received a walker from another organisation but she is unable to use it on her own. Her parents do not have the financial capability to purchase a wheelchair for their daughter as their only source of income is the earnings of Jerushiya’s father who is a wood cutter. They are glad that Jerushiya received this wheelchair as they could not have afforded to purchase it. “We were unable to send her to school because it was difficult to take her” explained her parents. “Now we will be able to send Jerushiya to school next year!”
Not far from Jerushiya’s home, another wheelchair was given to Kamsiyan who is 9 years old. Similar to Jerushiya, Kamsiyan fell ill before his second birthday and he never fully recovered. Kamisyan’s illness has left him completely dependent on the assistance of a parent or guardian; unable to eat, speak or even move without help. All day long, while her husband is away at work as a driver, Kamsiyan’s mother sits by his bed shooing away the flies, feeding and tending to the needs of her only child. “We leave the house only when we go to the clinic for treatment” explained Kamsiyan’s mother. “This wheelchair will help me greatly as it is difficult to carry him now that he has grown.”
Living in the heart of the war-affected region of Kilinochchi, Rojitha’s family faced numerous difficulties during the 30 years of war. “Rojitha had four siblings but one of her brothers died from a fever during the war. He got this fever because he was afraid that the LTTE would forcefully recruit him as a child soldier” explained Rojitha’s mother. Rojitha too has faced so many difficulties throughout her 11 years. She was born with a spinal cord defect and her parents believe that the operation she underwent as a 1 month old infant is what caused her disability. This disability makes it difficult for Rojitha to walk and she also suffers from urinary and bowel incontinence. Despite all these obstacles, Rojitha is an extremely happy child with a positive outlook towards life. She loves going to school where she receives special attention from her teachers. Thanks to their help, Rojitha performs well in her studies. However it was extremely difficult for Rojitha to get about on her old wheelchair. She had outgrown the wheelchair she received from another organisation which is now damaged by frequent use over the years. Even though this was a dire need, Rojitha’s parents could not afford to purchase a new wheelchair for their daughter as their meagre earnings from the grocery shop they operate were insufficient. “I am happy to receive a new wheelchair” beamed Rojitha who went on to explain that her favourite subject is Tamil and that someday, she wants to teach this language to others too.
Sivaneswaran Sathiyakala is from the rural village of Kinnalai in Point Pedro, Jaffna. As her husband earns a living as labourer, Sathiyakala and her children live through great hardships; they sometimes forego meals because of their extreme poverty. However, Sathiyakala’s greatest worry is not her financial problems but the health condition of her sons. Her first-born Yesuthan and youngest Denistan are only 7 years and 3 years old. Both children show signs of cerebral palsy that has handicapped them and confined their movement. “We tried our best to treat the children at a hospital in Colombo where there is treatment available for them but we could not continue the treatment as it is was too expensive” explained Sathiyakala. “These wheelchairs are a definite need and I am extremely happy that both my sons received wheelchairs today.”
Many more children across Sri Lanka, suffer from health and socio-economic difficulties that leave them handicapped. Let us help you reach out to such children in need – contact us via [email protected]