Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

Starting over: One family’s story

World Concern supporter Kurt Campbell is in Sri Lanka visiting some of our programs. The following is an excerpt from his personal blog.

Chris, Teri and Dori.

Chris, Teri and Dori are grateful to be earning income from the cow they received from World Concern.

Boy meets girl. They wed and soon have a baby. A typical story that can be found around the world, but when it is played out in the middle of a violent war it often takes a turn for the worse. Such was the case of Chris and Teri and their daughter Dori (not their real names), who live in northern Sri Lanka.

Government soldiers one day came to their village and took Chris away to a military prison on suspicion of aiding the enemy. This left Teri and their young daughter alone in the middle of a war. It wouldn’t be long before they both joined several hundred thousand others in one of the war refugee camps.

When the war came to a close this family was reunited, but much had changed. Chris returned paralyzed from the waist down. To compound their problems they had no livelihood with the disappearance of their 16 cows. Yet despite all this they did not lose hope.

Recently World Concern began meeting with people from the area to develop a livelihood program that would help the community sustain itself in the future. It was agreed upon that creating a milk chilling station co-op would be a great place to start. The co-op started by selecting 10 of the most vulnerable people in the community that could benefit from a gifted milking cow from World Concern. One of those selected by the community was Teri.

Teri and her cow.

Teri and her cow, which now helps feed her family and earns them income.

Teri attended a five-day workshop led by World Concern that helped train the community on best practices in dairy farming.

Today Chris, Teri and their 8-year-old daughter have access to a balanced diet and a source of income that will help them build on a brighter future. Their community will soon have a milk chilling station as well, which will allow every dairy farmer an opportunity to sell their milk.

For more information on World Concern’s work in Sri Lanka, please visit www.worldconcern.org/srilanka

A Change of Heart

Kurt Campbell with Sri Lankan children.

World Concern donor Kurt Campbell visits kids who were living in camps after Sri Lanka's civil war.

Kurt Campbell remembers the moment God melted his heart for the people of Sri Lanka. It was on Easter Sunday, 2009. Sitting in his comfortable, warm church, singing worship songs, he started to cry.

Several weeks earlier, he and his wife Cari had prayed and felt led to donate their entire savings account to aid in the crisis in Sri Lanka. They’d heard the details of how the end to the 26-year-long civil war had killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Knowing World Concern was responding and rescuing war victims, Kurt and Cari wanted to help.

“I’ve often said, your pocket book follows your heart, but sometimes it works the other way. It was after that financial investment that we felt more connected to Sri Lanka,” recalls Kurt.

As he sat in church that Easter, tears running down his cheeks, he realized they probably weren’t singing worship songs in Northern Sri Lanka. “I thought, here’s a group of people who don’t know the Lord as their savior, and surely aren’t experiencing the love and compassion I’m used to on a daily basis. My heart just broke,” he said.

Kurt’s burden for the people of Sri Lanka grew over the next two years, especially as he’s had the opportunity to travel there several times. During his visits to the displacement camps, he saw first-hand the tremendous losses people have endured – loss of life, loss of limbs, and loss of loved ones.

“One of the hardest places to visit was a special camp where people went once they left the hospital … it was basically and old factory floor with cots lined up one after another,” said Kurt. “I came across two children – a girl about 4 years old, and a boy about 6. The boy had a bandaged leg and would obviously be crippled for the rest of his life. The girl had lost three fingers on one hand. I was looking right at her, but she had a completely blank look on her face.

“If God had used me for anything in those camps, it was to make the kids laugh. But this girl, nothing. A blank stare. What had she seen?” Kurt wondered. She was most likely an orphan and had seen the horrors of war.

That experience changed Kurt. He felt more compassion and more of a desire to help than ever before. “There’s something about the Sri Lankan people – something within them – an ability to persevere and to tackle life that is so beautiful. It’s not a hand-out society. These are people who are truly hard-working individuals who want to do things on their own. That really resonates with me.”

One of the most significant aspects of the work Kurt observed was how World Concern staff pays attention to individual people, walking with them through their struggles. “We’re affecting people’s lives and it’s wonderful,” he said.

Kurt Campbell is the owner of Campbell Nelson Volkswagen and Campbell Nelson Nissan in Seattle, Wash. Campbell Nelson is the sponsor of the “Free Them” 5k, www.worldconcern.org/5k.

To learn more, visit www.worldconcern.org/srilanka-rescue.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …” – Matthew 6:19-20

Cancles being lit in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka commemorates World AIDS Day

Cancles being lit in Sri Lanka

World Concern Country Director Selina Prem Kumar (second from right) participated in a cancle lighting ceremony to remember those who died from AIDS this year.

In commemoration of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, World Concern Sri Lanka held several events to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and to remember those who lost their lives to the disease this year.

In collaboration with the Jaffna Regional Department of Health Services, World Concern brought attention to the global AIDS crisis through a week-long awareness campaign that included essay competitions. Sixteen contestants received awards during a program on Dec. 1, which included a candle lighting ceremony in remembrance of those who died of AIDS this past year. World Concern also provided nutrition packages with a value of $97 USD for five AIDS patients.

In Trincomalee, 250 students, ranging in age from 15 to 18, attended an HIV/AIDS awareness program organized by World Concern and the public health department.

For more information on World Concern’s AIDS programs, please visit our website.

Children receive awards in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan students received awards for their essays about HIV and AIDS as part of World AIDS Day.

Latrines mean more than comfort and convenience

At least two bathrooms. That was the minimum we wanted for our 3 person family for a house we bought this year. I feel kind of silly that we have 2 and a half bathrooms after today, when I saw the joy families had of having one – in the form of an outhouse.

A latrine in Sri Lanka.

A woman stands with her baby outside a latrine built by World Concern in Sri Lanka.

I’m in Sri Lanka now, high in the tea-growing region – where poor tea pickers live in shanties on mountainsides. The average wage here is pretty terrible – and it’s part of the reason why these hard-working people can’t afford the basics of life – including a place to go to the bathroom.

Families I met today were so very happy. It’s like they were on the Oprah episode where, “Everybody gets a car! Wooo!” But no, they’re thrilled to have a toilet. Just think about it—to have a convenient place to go to the restroom is a pretty big deal. I met one mom who has six children, and up to this point, they have had to go to the bathroom off in the hills somewhere, or use one of only a few toilets at neighbors’ homes.

Aside from convenience – and pride – the health benefits of a latrine are enormous. Once we go into communities, install latrines, and teach how germs are spread, children are sick less. Disease is not spread at the same rate. Lives are improved – even saved – because of latrines.

Latrines in the Global Gift Guide

The Human Price of War

Signs warn of land mines in Sri Lanka.

Signs like this warn of land mines in Sri Lanka.

The explosion we heard tonight was powerful, rumbling, and – thankfully – not next door. We’re guessing it was a land mine on the outskirts of town.

I’m in Sri Lanka, a country that only last year ended a 26-year-long civil war. There remains tension between the warring ethnic groups – tension that World Concern is trying to help ease through economic opportunities and relationship building.

Land mines are a fact of life (and death) here in the part of the country last to see conflict. Mine clearance crews have picked up most of the mines, but not all. Caution tape and red skull and cross-bone signs mark the hazard zones. Some of these hazard zones are not very far from tents set up by families who have lost their homes in the war.

World Concern is working to bridge ethnic tensions to reduce the chance of war returning to this beautiful country.

A widown in Sri Lanka.

Kamaladarie, a widow in Sri Lanka, sits outside her home with her three children and holds a portrait of her husband who died in a mine blast.

Most importantly, though, we are assisting those civilians who have lost everything. I met a woman tonight whose late husband was almost exactly my age. She held a portrait of him, as she sat beside her mud and sticks home. She says a bomb blast killed him as he was working his field on his tractor.

Now – occasionally flashing a beautiful smile between looks of great sadness – she tells us she’s raising her three children alone. The smallest boy still doesn’t understand where daddy went. Seeing people who have lost everything – family, home, income, and sense of security – brings the reality of what war really is to the forefront of my mind. Really, what is worth this kind of pain?

I don’t want to get into a recap of the long conflict between the Tamil Tiger militants – identified as terrorists – and the Sri Lankan government, but I do want to say that it is incredibly painful to see the end result of this long-simmering angst.

I pray that I don’t meet many more widows in my life like I did today. Jesus, please bring your peace.

Suffering & Solace: Preparing to See Sri Lanka

Here are some thoughts from Mark Lamb, World Concern Ministry Development Coordinator, who is leaving tonight for Sri Lanka. He and other headquarters staff will be visiting areas of Sri Lanka where World Concern is helping victims of the country’s civil war rebuild their lives. They will be documenting their experiences on this blog.

I’m leaving for Sri Lanka tonight and I haven’t started packing.  I’m not worried about it yet because my wife has worried enough for both of us.  I probably shouldn’t take is so lightly, but I’m still wrapped up in the routine of American life.  I got up this morning at the same time I always do, got ready in the same order and got to work at exactly 7:40 a.m.  My days are governed by routine and the outcomes are almost always predictable.

A woman sheds tears in Sri Lanka.

A woman sheds tears after being released from a camp for displaced people following the violent end to Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009.

In 2009, a civil war which had affected an entire generation came to a close. More than 80,000 people lost their lives, entire villages were destroyed and countless children are now without fathers or mothers.

In two days I’ll be standing in these communities, among people who have experienced complete devastation.  I know from the stories our Sri Lanka staff relays that I’ll meet children who lost limbs during the fighting.  I know I’ll meet people who have watched as loved ones were maimed or killed, and I know I’ll be met by blank stares from people who have lost all hope for the future.

But right now I’m sitting at my desk, in my routine, and I know I don’t have the reaction I should.

- Mark

Learn more about World Concern’s work in Sri Lanka.

Fighting Poverty in a Violent Place: Sri Lanka

Ragu was killed while helping the poor in Sri Lanka.

Ragu was killed while helping the poor in Sri Lanka.

9/11 is a date that will always be associated with violence. For most of us, we think of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon but there was another act of violence on that day. On September 11, 2006, Ragu was killed-shot down as he worked with World Concern to serve the poor in Sri Lanka.

 Ragunathan (Ragu) was one of the field workers, working with community members to get their homes rebuilt and also to rebuild their lives and livelihood after the tsunami that devastated Banda Aceh, Indonesia washed ashore in eastern Sri Lanka. .

 After the tsunami struck the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers crafted a fragile truce. In August 2006, the truce fell apart. One of the hotly contested areas was around the port city of Trincomalee, built on the largest protected natural bay in all of Asia.

 On September 11 2006, during the course of his work near Trincomalee, Ragu stopped his motorcycle beside the road to answer his cell phone. While he was talking, he was shot dead. To this day nobody knows who did it. Was it a soldier thinking that Ragu was reporting information to Tamil fighters during this time of war, or a Tiger assassin, mistaking Ragu’s development work for collaborating with the government? Or was it a targeted killing because of a dispute going on in Ragu’s village at the time? Nobody knows-even now.

 When I was in Trincomalee last year, I passed by the spot in the road where Ragu was killed. I wanted to find out more about this man who had died while helping others.

 Ragu, a Tamil, was a father of five, three daughters and two sons. His last born, a son, was only four days old on the day Ragu was killed. Ragu was the poorest of the World Concern field workers. Though he was poor enough to qualify for a rebuilt home for himself and his family, he removed his own name from the list. Others needed homes so much more than he.

 When he attended staff meetings and training events with the team involved in rebuilding, Ragu asked the practical questions, always with others in mind. “Why is the supply of concrete delayed?” “When will the supplies be transported?”

 Ian McInnes who later led the Sri Lanka office once listened to Ragu talking with farmers who had received a house and were now were asking World Concern to give even more things-things that they could now provide for themselves.

 “You have a home now. Now is the time for you to pick yourselves up and rebuild. And, if you are thinking of fleeing the area, make sure that you give this home to someone else, just as it was given to you.”

 Ian wrote a letter to affirm and praise Ragu. Ragu carried it in his rear pocket wherever he went.

 The World Concern family in Sri Lanka and around the world rallied around Ragu’s widow and the children. All of Ragu’s children are able to go to school. Ragu’s oldest child completing secondary school at a local Catholic boarding school and the youngest will celebrate his third birthday on September 11, 2009.  

 Fighting world poverty in places of violence carries a price.  The number of humanitarian workers killed worldwide has continued to climb. Nine in ten die in acts of violence.

Help to Injured Civilians in Sri Lanka War

Right now, World Concern’s Sri Lanka staff is helping many civilians injured during recent attacks. World Concern is one of only a few humanitarian relief agencies permitted by the government to help. We’re providing food, bedding, clothing and personal supplies to both the wounded and the weary aid workers.

It appears to be the last deadly throes of a long civil war. The ethnic minority that has been fighting for autonomy has been cornered. Regardless of your perspective, innocent families are paying with the lives of their loved ones because of this war.

World Concern provides essential supplies and food for people injured during the Sri Lanka civil war.

World Concern provides essential supplies and food for people injured during the Sri Lanka civil war.

You can read more about what we’re doing and donate to help. We need money for our response!

Below is perspective on the crisis, written by World Concern Sri Lanka County Director Ian McInnes:

Sri Lanka’s three decade old conflict between the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and the Sri Lankan Government is at its fiercest. 70,000 have already lost their lives in a separatist struggle for control of ‘Eelam’, a self-designated homeland for Tamils by the LTTE. Having lost control of the East of the island in 2007 the LTTE now faces a fight for survival in an ever decreasing space in the North.

The safety of an estimated quarter of a million civilians trapped within this conflict zone is of grave concern to humanitarian organizations.

These Tamil families have been on the move now for months, continually retreating as air strikes, artillery fire and ground battles rage around them on three boarders to the North, West and South. Their retreat to the North Eastern corner of the Island has them pressed hard up against the Eastern coast with nowhere further to run.

Continual pleas by humanitarian agencies have resulted in the establishment of ‘safe zones’ within the war zone, but civilians face real danger trying to get into these zones, or indeed trying to flee the North for the Government controlled areas in the South of the Island. The LTTE have blocked their movement holding the population back for political legitimacy and as a recruitment pool as they lose fighters on the front lines.

Meanwhile the constricted fighting space is resulting in mounting civilian casualties. On 3rd February a crowded hospital was shelled three times killing 52 civilians and injuring many more according to ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross). Both sides deny shelling the hospital. Sadly these tragedies are becoming all too frequent.

With a ground victory appearing imminent and geo-political conditions favoring the Sri Lankan government – India broadly support the defeat of the LTTE with Sonia Gandhi having lost her husband to an LTTE suicide bomber; the US under the Bush Administration offered technical support to the Sri Lankan security forces and was the first to proscribe the LTTE as a terrorist organization – the Government are eager to eliminate the LTTE.

However this war is costly both in economic terms at $1.6 billion annually and in lives with scores of government solders dying daily (an independent body count organization, the Foundation for Coexistence, puts the collective death toll in the north at 3,200 for December and January alone).

More than 70,000 people have died during Sri Lanka's civil war. World Concern is helping with food and essential supplies for the wounded.

More than 70,000 people have died during Sri Lanka's civil war. World Concern is helping with food and essential supplies for the wounded.

In order to maintain political support for the war the Government has suppressed its own casualty numbers and is eager to control the message both within Sri Lanka and abroad. Maintaining staunch nationalist support for the military has meant a steady erosion of free speech, credible reporting, and the suppression of discussion of any other solution to this conflict other than the current military one.

Dozens of reporters have been killed in the last year, including a bold assassination of a senior editor in broad daylight on 8th January. Sri Lanka ranks 141 out of 165 countries for press freedom by Reporters without Borders (http://www.rsf.org) having slipped from 51st place in 2002. To put that in perspective Sri Lanka now ranks just beneath Zimbabwe and Sudan and just above the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

This is making the work of Humanitarian agencies all the harder as it seeks a non-violent solution for those trapped by the fighting.

It is now simply a matter of time before civilians either flee en masse – around 100 a day are managing to escape now – or face a bloody battle in much closer quarters as the Government try to eliminate the remaining LTTE from their midst.