There are some people who look evil in the face and instead of running, they step up and fight.
Niranjini is one of those people.
Living in a city at the northern tip of Sri Lanka, Niranjini began her career as a law assistant. It was here she first encountered case after case involving child abuse. Shocked by the sheer volume of children affected and seemingly “light” punishment for perpetrators, Niranjini made the decision to become a defender of children’s rights.
Imagine having no choice but to sell your child in order to survive…
That is the anguishing decision Nirmali, a young widow, faced. Alone and desperately struggling to provide for her children, Nirmali was given an offer by evil predators; she could have a well-paying job as a housemaid if she sold her 3-year-old son into slavery.
This is a choice no parent should have to face. Ever.
What Nirmali didn’t realize is that she and her precious toddler would no doubt be sold into trafficking or forced to work as slaves.
It horrifies me to think of what happens when a child is trafficked. Imagine the terror a 3-year-old feels being torn from his mother’s arms by the hands of criminals—then forced to beg on the streets, work endless hours as a slave, or be abused by pedophiles.
This my heart, and it breaks God’s heart. I cannot sit passively and do nothing.
At World Concern, we hold child protection as a top priority in our programs—especially in Southeast Asia, where sex trafficking and child labor are rampant.
We focus our efforts on prevention because protecting children from these horrific experiences before they’re harmed is critical. Sexual abuse and slavery leave deep scars … sometimes beyond healing.
Nirmali’s older son, who is just 8 years old, is the real hero in this story. He is involved in our Child Safety Program in Sri Lanka. When he learned about how traffickers present deceptive job offers to vulnerable moms and children, he immediately alerted our staff about the offer his mom had received. We were able to intervene and rescue his 3-year-old brother before he was sold. I thank God for this.
The “price tag” traffickers placed on Nirmali’s toddler was $1,000. But it cost just $40 to educate Nirmali’s older son about the danger of trafficking and protect him and his younger sibling from becoming victims.
$40. Isn’t a child’s life worth that?
Our Child Safety Program provides a safe haven for children to heal from trauma, learn about child rights, and learn how to protect themselves from harm. We also provide an opportunity for teens and young adults to learn life-long skills to earn income safely. We give them alternatives, so they know they have choices and a path to a better future.
Greetings from Sri Lanka! I’ve spent the past week and a half seeing our projects, meeting our dairy farmers, and spending lots of time with our Children’s Clubs – a safe haven for children at risk of trafficking.
I have two stories that really stand out to me that I want to share with you in the hopes that they will touch your hearts and encourage you today. You make this possible and are just as relevant in these stories as our staff on the ground.
We met with a family from the “untouchable” caste. The four children were abandoned by mother. Their father was killed in the war. The grandparents are caring for the children as best as they can. The grandmother is blind and the grandfather crippled, making supporting this family nearly impossible. Both of them received their injuries from the war.
One of these four children is a precious little girl who is being abused by local fishermen. Some days they don’t have food to eat. The day we visited was such a day. The little baby was cared for by the older sister (8 years old). He just cried and cried.
World Concern is intervening in this small community of 15 families. We have plans for small gardens, goats, Children’s Clubs, and other life-giving, life-saving interventions. Before we left, we prayed for this sweet forgotten family. Forgotten by most, but not by God, and not by World Concern.
Tonight we stopped at the hut of a young mother. She has five children. They have absolutely nothing. The clothing on their backs is all they have and when it is washed they have nothing to wear until it dries. The father too was killed in the war. This mom has no hope and tragically tried to take her own life and the life of her baby. The little one died. She survived. She is completely broken in every possible way.
Our compassionate staff is working with her and her situation. I wish you could have seen the tender way they met with her, cared for her, and prayed with her—it would have brought tears to your eyes as it did mine. They will look after her needs and the needs of her family, walking with her for the long journey.
World Concern is the hands, feet, and face of Jesus here. This is why we do what we do. And we couldn’t do any of this without you. Thank you for partnering with us.
I have never been more humbled and committed to our mission. Pray with me that the Lord will bless this work. It is a light in many dark places.
World Concern supporter Kurt Campbell is in Sri Lanka visiting some of our programs. The following is an excerpt from his personal blog.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn more about World Concern’s work 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.