Kandy is a city in central Sri Lanka, capital of Central Province, on the Mahaweli River. It is one of the island nation’s largest cities and the economic focus of the tea-producing central highlands. It is also a city of great beauty.
In contrast to its beautiful scenery and majestic historical sites the city is also home to crippling poverty where many parents are unable to provide for their children and violence is rife.
Whilst spending their days in the relative safety of schools, they are then left to their own devices and wit. Not surprisingly, many resort to theft, vandalism and to meting out the abuse that they encountered in their formative years.
The pressing need was for a very practical approach, providing for the physical and mental welfare of these children. Equally important, however, was the need to establish a programme of activities which would develop life skills, steer the youngsters away from crime and instill a genuine ambition for the future.
The Epiphany Trust began to address these issues by setting up the Child Action Lanka Centre for Street Children, which has become a haven of security for more than 150 youngsters. Deborah Edirisinghe has been employed by the Trust to support and help develop these most deprived children. She and another support worker co-ordinate the centre, which feeds, clothes, bathes and entertains for 10 hours each day, catering for three separate age groups – pre-school, primary and secondary. The street children have received professional counseling from Jigsaw4U – a specialist UK bereavement charity.
The Centre has been hugely successful, receiving accolades from both local and national governments and from Social Services. The project has expanded to include workshops and skills training for the mums also, many of whom beg on the street. At the centre they can be taught skills such as sewing, card-making, candle-making, cooking and literacy as part of an enablement process geared to helping them to find employment or start their own businesses. Linked with this is a micro-credit scheme which has helped over 40 mothers.
In addition, a grant of land from Kandy city council which has recognised the value of the centre’s work has made it possible for some families to be housed. Part of the vision of Child Action Lanka is to extend this opportunity to more families, so that they no longer have to sleep under tarpaulins.
The centre welcomes volunteers. If you are interested in visiting Sri Lanka to help with this amazing project, please contact the office. In particular, volunteers with expertise in teaching, care work, nursing, medicine, I.T. and building skills are needed, although these are by no means exclusive and many other skills will also be welcomed.