Children’s Hope Charity

This morning we did a presentation at The Dixie Grammar School in Market Bosworth to help raise awareness for Children’s Hope charity. They have kindly agreed to donate clothes, shoes and stationary for the children and next year hope to raise money for us as well! A spectacular result, here is the presentation we gave that gives information on the charity, how we came about and the projects we currently run.

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Welcome, my name is Amy Swift I joined The Dixie in 2002 and left to go to university in 2011, today I am here to speak about a very important project. I am manager of children’s Hope charity in the South of Sri Lanka, we help underprivileged children by providing education, clothing and support, but more on the projects we do a little later. First I have a few stories to share about the average Sri Lankan person and their experiences they went through 10 years ago that still haunt them to this day.

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Most of you may be too young to remember the terrible disaster of the Indian Ocean earthquake and the destruction that followed. Imagine, it’s boxing day, you had a lie in after the excitement of Christmas and you wake up to a loud roaring, screams and cries, 9 a.m boxing day morning, 2004, a tsunami the likes Sri Lanka had never seen hit the beaches. Half a million people lost their homes, 35,322 people lost their lives, fathers lost their wives, children lost their parents and parents lost their children. Men lost their fishing boats and so had no way to earn a living, the devastation was and still is to this day extreme.

10 years on and 6 Sri Lankan’s share their story and how they still bear the scars (source:http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/12/sri-lankan-tsunami-survivors-decade-2014122685733134944.html)

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Ten years ago K Sukant helplessly watched as his two friends and work mates perished in the deadly tsunami.
“I was higher up on the tree and so the water did not catch me. I was up there for a few hours until I was sure the waves had stopped,” he said.
Sukant says that he wants to go out to sea with the other fishermen to honour his friends.
“We have planned a vigil out in the ocean for those who lost their lives in tsunami. This will be the first time I will venture out so far, but I must do this for my friends.”

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When the tsunami stuck, for most, the torment was immediate. However, for Kudugapriyanjan her misery was only confirmed a week later.
“My husband was a soldier stationed in Trincomalee and I did not know that the waves had reached there,” she said.
According to Kudugapriyanjan, after the tsunami struck, she joined hundreds of others who helped clear the rubble and recover bodies.
“I still feel guilty when I think about those days, I was dragging dead bodies out of collapsed buildings and never did I once think if my husband was hurt,” she said.
On December 31, she was informed that her husband had died in the tsunami and that his body would be transported to Colombo. It took her a further three days to receive the body.
“This 10-year anniversary is a bittersweet time for my family, my youngest son will be sitting his O’levels. I know my husband would be proud of him and for him to have overcome the loss of his father and reach this level is an achievement on its own,” she said.

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On December 26, SC Seerawitti’s husband, Captain Seerawitti, was expected to go on leave.
“He spoke to me the night before explaining that he would be coming home for a few days that afternoon. I still remember him laughing and saying he had been overworked and he would run away,” she said.
When the waves first struck, Seerawitti was forced to flee her home.
“Our neighbours were running yelling that the sea was coming. I did not know what they were talking about but my son grabbed and yelled to run.
“Looking back, Seerawitti cannot understand why she thought her husband would be safe.
“I saw first-hand the devastation caused by the waves, I was in shock and believed the naval base would be protected by its high walls.”
In the past 10 years, Seerawitti’s family has suffered more hardship.
“My son has developed a back problem that prevents him from sitting on a chair for long periods of time or from exerting himself. We are forced to live on my husband’s naval pension, which is not enough for the two of us.
Seerawitti says that she will use whatever money she can save to give a blessing at the local temple for her husband.
“I did not realise it was 10 years. When I think about my husband it still feels like just yesterday that he was on the phone telling me he was coming home,” she said.

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“I was out in the garden when I heard yelling and shouting. I looked down and so this terrible flood washing in from the sea and through the village”, he said.
Raghaven rushed down the hill to gather as many people as he could who had been running away.
“They were running in all directions and I knew that they would be safe up on the hill in the Kovil. Over 150 people sheltered at the Kovil. By the end of the day many were searching for loved ones,” he said.
“I now want to invite all those who had been affected back and hold a remembrance event for the thousands of souls this country lost on that day.”

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For the past 10 years Pathmajayantha has attempted to recreate what happened that fateful morning, and only now the full horrors are coming to light.
“Eye-witnesses told me that when the waves struck, my daughter was seen grabbing my niece and running, but they were both dragged by the water and were washed away,” she said.
Every year, Pathmajayantha holds a small memorial service for her daughter and niece, and this year she does not see it as being any different.
“Ten years have passed, it is not something special. Ten years will not bring back my daughter or my niece. I now live with my other daughter and her family. Despite all the love and noise in that family I will always feel an emptiness in my life for my losses,” she said.

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Balaatharun, a fisherman in Trincomalee, saw his entire livelihood washed away by the waves.
“I know it seems heartless to talk about the loss of my fishing boats when others speak of the loss of life. But that fishing boat was my family’s life line, and now I am nowhere closer to rebuilding that broken life,” he said.
Standing on the beach, Balaatharun says that when he returned several days later to the coast, his boat was but a pile of torn-up wood that littered the beach.
“For days I helped with search for bodies and clear the rubble. It was only a week later that I was able to stop and realise that I had lost everything my family relied on. My wife stayed at home with our children, and for months I had no work.
“Now 10 years have passed since I lost my boat and I am still forced to work for other people just to pay off the loan on my old boat,” he said.
He says that 10 years or even a hundred years could pass but time certainly will not heal the damage the tsunami has done to his family.
As you can see even though 10 years have passed the Sri Lankan people still have the memories of that day. The children we help come from families who still have no home after 10 years, they lost their businesses, family members, all their possessions. It is easy to forget after 10 years and that is why it is more important than ever to remember. The following images are just a few from the after effects of the tsunami.

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Many people ran for the train when the Tsunami came thinking it was big and strong enough to take the force of the wave, unfortunately they were wrong and trapped, many carriages contain bloody scratch marks as people tried to escape their death.

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So who are Children’s Hope?

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We were set up 10 years ago after the tsunami hit by an English woman called Carla Browne, she believes in consistency and knows how important it is to keep going for these people. After the tsunami help did come but it did not stay unfortunately, Children’s Hope realise the importance of stability and so for 10 years we have tirelessly worked to help the families in the South.

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So what exactly do we do and what have we got going on right now?

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Our pre school, we run the only free pre school in the south of Sri Lanka, in Sri Lanka school from the age of 5 is free but for children to start their education as infants they have to pay. An average Sri Lankan wage is between 50-100 pounds a month, this is used to buy food, support the children, clothes, water, electricity a mortgage etc. so imagine what money is spare, not a lot. The children who we help come from the poorest families, without our pre school they wouldn’t be able to go to school and learn the fundamentals that shape the following years of education. We started with 6 children and have grown to 60 so we have had to move to a bigger location, it is a great building but we do need funds to make it as special as the children deserve. For more on the move and images of the beautiful children have a read of our previous post.

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This is the largest hospital in the South of Sri Lanka, Children’s Hope in association with Luxembourg funded a renovation for the children ward. There was mould growing up the walls, 3 children to each bed, no sheets and sometimes no mattresses, a terrible rat infestation, one thermometer and one nebulizer between 50 poorly children. We have made the children ward beautiful, the ceilings have been painted with murals for the children to look at when they are lying down, there are sheets and new mattresses, mosquito nets and the walls have been replaced by polished concrete so no damp will be absorbed causing mould. We renovated one of the toilets but still haven’t had a chance to do the other as we simply don’t have the funding, the picture you see in the presentation slide below is from the toilet that is yet to worked on.

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One of the beautiful murals a volunteer artist came to paint on the ceiling.
One of the beautiful murals a volunteer artist came to paint on the ceiling.
The walls have been replaced with polished concrete so they won't absorb moisture.
The walls have been replaced with polished concrete so they won’t absorb moisture.
A play room for the children, unfortunately it can only be used when we have volunteers or all the equipment will be stolen.
A play room for the children, unfortunately it can only be used when we have volunteers or all the equipment will be stolen.
The new premature baby ward, this used to be caked in mould with no new medical equipment.
The new premature baby ward, this used to be caked in mould with no new medical equipment.

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Carla our patron
Carla our patron

We have three beautiful special needs girls working for us, they make the most amazing and beautiful jewellery, bags, bowls and other such things out of magazines and newspapers. Carla has made them self sustainable, by selling these items they are able to supplement themselves and create a life for themselves. They have no families and those that do have either ben abandoned due to their disability or simply don’t know how to cope. They have the biggest hearts are incredibly innocent with a beautiful soul. In Singhalese we say they have a “hatte vatte hondai”  which means good heart. For more on the girls and their projects check out our previous post.

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This is a 7 bedroom b&B where a percentage of the profit goes back into helping the children. We have volunteers stay here for a discounted price while they help with our different projects, it offers employment for the local people and gives guests an opportunity to interact with the charity.

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Beautiful views and a quick walk across the road to an empty beach!
Beautiful views and a quick walk across the road to an empty beach!
Secure premises that is locked each night.
Secure premises that is locked each night.
The rooms are simple but light, airy and clean.
The rooms are simple but light, airy and clean.

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Bambi our guesthouse dog, she is an absolute sweetheart and has the saddest eyes you've ever seen.
Bambi our guesthouse dog, she is an absolute sweetheart and has the saddest eyes you’ve ever seen.

On the 2nd of May we opened a new western cafe next door to the B&B named BB’s, we offer good food at fair prices and always use local suppliers where possible.

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We have scrubbed and polished until this kitchen shined like the sun.
We have scrubbed and polished until this kitchen shined like the sun.
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we are currently painting a mural on the outside wall inspired by England (painted by Amy Swift)

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In association with the foundation of goodness, another larger charity in Sri Lanka, Children’s Hope has helped to implement the village, a piece of government land that has been given to 900 of the poorest families from all across sri lanka, a group of volunteers from Kuwait are coming out this august to build a production hall so the village can become self sustainable by making joss sticks, jewellery, soap, growing mushrooms and as many ideas as we can think of to help get these families back on their feet. We are currently trying to raise money for a new toilet block as 900 families share one toilet currently, we hope to create a shower and toilet block for every 100 families.

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In association with the largest book store in Kuwait Q8 books we are providing the children of Talpe village (the village next to where our guesthouse is located) with books for all ages. There are three pre schools and one secondary school we will be providing with books, when we told the villagers they decided to pool their money together to be able to rent a room at the local temple for a community library that can be used when the schools are closed. We are mainly providing english books for all ages and abilities and the children are very excited. Please visit our previous post for more information on Q8books and the project .

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The children of Talpe who will be the main benefitters of the donated books.
The children of Talpe who will be the main beneficiaries of the donated books.
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One of the pre schools

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Carla the patron of CH, Sherard and I along with members of staff from Q8 Books when they came to visit the charity.
Carla the patron of CH, Sherard and I along with members of staff from Q8 Books when they came to visit the charity.

So the big question is “How can you help?”

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1) Stationary, though it may be simple these children are always short of stationary and really appreciate the donations.

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These children are very poor, they have no shoes in a country where poisonous spiders, snakes and scorpions roam amidst the grass. They are proud people and always try to be as smart as possible, they will not accept dirty or damaged clothes no matter how much they need them as they feel it brings shame. Please remember it is 30 degrees all year round so only summer clothes are of use!!

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The biggest help a charity can receive is donations, the more money we have the more people we can help. We are a recognised charity in Sri Lanka and are currently going through the processes of registering as an NGO i England, this will mean we can set up a giving page and people ill be able to donate anything from 10pence to £10 online.

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Volunteers are invaluable, as we run a B&B we can supply discount accommodation that is in the hub of our projects, you will be looked after and be able to integrate with local people. It is important for volunteers to experience such a different culture from their own and learn about true hardships we can’t imagine. It is also important for the Sri Lankan children to see white people as people that can help, there is a large expat community in the south who still treat Sri Lankan’s as secondhand citizens and feel it is almost colonial times once again, it is better for the children to see white people giving and not just taking as it erases the prejudice the older generation have.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read/listen to this presentation, i you would like more information on the charity please visit the Children’s Hope charity website, the charity Facebook page, please email me if you have any questions or are interested in visiting our facilities or wish to become more involved – a_swift@hotmail.co.uk.

Please stay informed by following our blog via email (available from the top of the home page (side bar indicated by three lines)  and stay in touch with Facebook or Instagram.

Thank you again for your support, we would like to thank Headmaster Mr Lynn of The Dixie for their phenomenal support and donations, we look forward to collaborating with you for future projects.

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19) thank you

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