SOS Children in Sri Lanka
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A country marked by years of civil conflict struggling to get back to normal
Though poverty and inequality has fallen dramatically in recent years, many Sri Lankans still live in harsh conditions where they lack access to basic services. Nearly one in five Sri Lankans is undernourished. Fighting poverty and its side effects, from child mortality and malnutrition to a lack of basic amenities, is a top priority for the Sri Lankan government.
Despite an end to civil war in 2002, many in Sri Lanka remain deeply scarred by two decades of conflict. The war had forced tens of thousands from their homes, and the 2004 tsunami killed 40,000 dead and many more homeless. 2011 brought massive flooding in the east which once again displaced hundreds of thousands.
Children in Sri Lanka
- An estimated 900,000 Sri Lankan children aged five to 17 are exploited for child labour. Many do so to support their parents. A large number are never able to attend school.
- One in 10 of these children works in dangerous and deeply unpleasant conditions. Many work in mines, with toxic chemicals or dangerous machinery.
- During the civil war, many young boys were recruited for combat in certain areas of the country.
- 340,000 grow up without one or both parents. Many children are forced to head the household. The absence of a mother renders others vulnerable to sexual abuse.
- Infant mortality is double that of the UK.
Our Work in Sri Lanka
We provide orphaned and abandoned children in Sri Lanka with a new mother, a family and a home where they can stay until they are ready for independent life. We began our work in Sri Lanka in 1980 and currently care for more than 500 children at our five purpose-built SOS Children's Villages, and a further 192 teenagers at our five SOS Youth Homes. The teenagers live here while they complete their college studies or vocational training, and it is where they are taught the life skills needed for independent living.
We also run SOS Schools, Vocational Training Centres, Emergency Relief Programmes and Family Strengthening Programmes. Family Strengthening Programmes aim to prevent child abandonment and to keep vulnerable families together by providing childcare, counselling, vocational training and medical support. Through all of our Villages, Youth Homes, Schools, Emergency Relief Programmes, Training Centres and Family Strengthening Programmes we are providing support to over 5,000 people in Sri Lanka.
Our first SOS Children's Village in Sri Lanka opened on the outskirts of Piliyandala, about 12 miles south of the capital, Colombo. It has 16 family houses (each house can give a home to 10 children), an SOS Nursery for 160 little children, and SOS Youth Homes for adolescent boys and girls, where they can learn woodwork, metalwork, welding and electronics, as well as taking their first guided steps towards independence. The girls also learn how to make gold jewellery, which will form an essential part of their marriage dowry. The Village also runs an SOS Primary and Secondary School for 850 students, of whom approximately 90% come from the neighbourhood. Over 500 people from the local community are part of the Family Strengthening Programme which offers classes in cooking, sewing and English, and provides dental and benefit from the SOS medical facilities. SOS mothers and staff also receive continual training at the SOS Vocational Training Centre in the Village.
Our second Sri Lankan community opened in 1984 in Nuwara Eliya in the central highlands, about 6,000 feet above sea level. Nuwara Eliya is Sri Lanka’s most famous hill station and is one of the island’s best known holiday resorts, with spectacular views of the hills and tea plantations. The Village has 10 family houses, an SOS Nursery and an SOS Youth Home for boys, with training facilities similar to Piliyandala. A Family Strengthening Programme provides health care for local people and runs programmes to improve standards of nutrition, health and education. About 28 miles south of Nuwara Eliya, a hill farm at Malpotha trains SOS boys in organic farming, animal husbandry and conservation, giving them the opportunity to achieve real independence as farmers.
SOS Children's third Village in Sri Lanka opened in Galle in 1990. Galle, a former Dutch fortress, is the largest city in southern Sri Lanka and is an important tourist centre. The community, which is on the outskirts of the city, has 12 family houses built in natural pink stone, an SOS Nursery for 130 children, and three SOS Youth Homes.
Our fourth Village in Sri Lanka opened in 1994 in the celebrated ancient city of Anuradhapura. The city was founded in the fourth century BC and is famous for its Buddhist shrines. There are 14 family houses for 140 orphaned or abandoned children, an SOS Nursery and two SOS Youth Homes. Eighteen older boys receive a practical education at the SOS Vocational Training Centre; courses offered include IT and welding. The Village also runs a mothers' club for local mothers, where they receive medical care and training in crafts and home economics.
SOS Children's Village Monaragala opened in 2000. Monaragala, in south-eastern Sri Lanka, has a temperate climate and agriculture is the main industry. Our Village is on the edge of the city, built on land donated by the government. The 12 family houses have views over the mountains. Facilities include an SOS Youth Home for 100 teenagers, an SOS Nursery, an SOS Vocational Training Centre for 150 youths, and a Family Strengthening Programme for over 240 vulnerable children.
SOS Children's Village Jaffna is currently under construction and will provide a loving home to up to 120 children. There will also be an SOS Youth Home, an SOS Nursery and a Family Strengthening Programme.
Emergency Relief Programmes in Sri Lanka
Since August 2009, following the climax of the civil war, SOS Children has been running a childcare centre at the huge Chettikulam refugee camp close to the city of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka. The childcare centre provides temporary shelter, education and care to around 200 children orphaned or separated from their families. With the support of Save The Children, we are successfully reuniting children with their families. In 1995, SOS Children also ran an emergency refugee camp in the north of the country for children and families affected by the civil war. In 2003 a permanent SOS community centre was opened in Batticaloa on Sri Lanka's eastern coast; an SOS Nursery was subsequently added.
Following the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, the Batticaloa centre was integral to the extensive emergency relief programme carried out by SOS Children. In addition, SOS Children set up 10 Child Relief Centres (still in operation) and temporary schools along the southern and eastern coasts of Sri Lanka, providing clean water, food, medical care and schooling for thousands of children. One of the Centres was constructed in Peraliya, a coastal village utterly destroyed by the Tsunami. Young people from the SOS Children's Villages in Sri Lanka played an active role in the distribution of food and other essential services. As part of SOS Children’s Rehabilitation Programme on the east coast, 1,143 families received a start-up grant to help them rebuild their lives. We provided 600 families with fishing nets and boats so they could start to make a living and be able to provide food for their communities. We also helped families in three devastated villages on Sri Lanka’s east coast to rebuild their homes. Community centres were built with classrooms, medical posts and cyclone shelters, depending on the needs in each location.
Life in SOS Children's Villages Sri Lanka: Mali's story
Mali Ranawake, who grew up in SOS Children's Village Piliyandala, recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh, UK, with a degree in Accounting:
"At my graduation ceremony I felt on top of the world with all the well-wishers there. But I was missing my SOS mother, family and everyone back there at SOS Children's Village Piliyandala; if only they could have been around at the graduation ceremony too! When you leave your home country to study abroad, the mere idea of relocating to some spot thousands of kilometres away leaving behind your loved ones makes you sick; on the other hand, it's also like a dream come true. My SOS mother always encouraged me to do my very best and although she misses me a lot, she allowed me to leave home to develop my own future. I have plenty of wonderful memories of SOS Children's Village Piliyandala. The annual holiday camp was real fun and I enjoyed every outing to the fullest. The camp was an opportunity for the children from all SOS Children's Villages in Sri Lanka to meet up and spent time together. I have been very fortunate in my life so far. SOS Children's Villages has been and still is everything to me. I feel that the way my SOS mother brought us up has made us really belong together and support each other. I want to find the time to sit with my family and share my experience. I wish that all my siblings get the right opportunities in life and work to their capacity."
SOS Children's Villages of Sri Lanka
Tel: +94/11/270 38 90
Fax: +94/11/270 2321