Our Chief Executive, Murielle Maupoint has just returned from a project visit in Sri Lanka. After visiting projects in and around Colombo earlier in the week, here are her thoughts on the second part of her trip.
I left the hotel at 5.00am by train to go to the north of the island, Anuradhapura, to visit our partner, the SAFE Foundation (Social Advancement for Family Empowerment). They work to develop the rights of children and empower poor and marginalised families to develop a sustainable livelihood so they can provide their children with the childhood they deserve. SAFE works in 18 villages with over 400 families who have been identified as the poorest within this rural community.
Microfinance to enable mothers to develop small businesses that improve their capacity to meet the financial needs of their children. 441 families have been supported in this way though a range of business start-ups: food shops, tailoring and agriculture, for example. The loans are administered and managed via mothers’ groups, thus empowering the community to support its members in a sustainable way. This is an excellent development model with a very low default rate of just 5% per annum! The women’s groups receive all the training they need to run the programme, including book keeping.
WASH (Water, sanitation & hygiene): 105 families have been supported through the building of toilets (105) and wells (13) to enable the basic sanitation needs of the family to be met.
Education: They have provided books and bags which enables 300 poor and disadvantaged children to attend school. They also provide pre-school education to marginalised children.
Child development & Protection: They deliver awareness sessions (20 per annum) within the community to educate families, police, local government officials and local communities about child protection, domestic violence and early marriages. They created 10 monthly children’s clubs to empower them to develop the skills to understand and promote their rights whilst developing leadership, communications and social skills.
Food protection and flood mitigation: Rural communities are heavily dependent on a good crop – drought or floods have a decimating impact on local livelihoods. By expanding the range of livelihoods these communities engage in the negative impact of crop damage is reduced.
During my visit I saw the pre-school which is using new innovative ways of educating young children to ensure that when they attend school their poverty/lack of opportunities does not impact their education. The pre-school also ensures families have a safe place for their children to be cared for whilst they work. I also visited a number of income generation projects and met with recipients of loans. Everyone I spoke to stated how much their lives have changed for the better by becoming small business owners, diversifying their income away from farming and developing a more secure and sustainable livelihood.
On Thursday I spent the day at HOPE Sri Lanka Office and visited a preschool, arts class and computer literacy session run by our partners SERVE. These children from shanty towns do not have access to computers. By attending these IT classes it means they can develop their fine motor skills to support them in their writing skills whilst also increasing their confidence and ensuring that when they start state school they are familiar with technologies that other children will already have been introduced to. This reduces the gap between the development/skills of poor children and those from middle incomes. SERVE also runs a phenomenal prisons programme supporting children under the age of 5 that are institutionalised with their mothers and helping them to achieve a childhood within the prison walls.
Posted on March 25th, 2015