Working visit 2024

Report of working visit January 23rd to February 6th, 2024.

On Tuesday, January the 23rd, we departed from Schiphol at 3:45 PM.
We were picked up at the airport in Sri Lanka by Sister Amatha’s brother and he takes us to the children’s home in Kelaniya. About an hour’s drive. When we arrive, all the children and sisters are waiting for us outside. What a sweet, moving welcome.
We are so happy to see them all again. After 5 years!!
There is tea ready for us and something to eat. Then we first went to sleep for a few hours. To recover from the long journey. Sister Amatha had also arrived when we got out of bed. Very nice to see her again and talk to her. She says that she and the children have prepared a party for the Dutch Ambassador in Sri Lanka and her employee Hans Bergwerff, who are visiting tomorrow.
FYI: After the December newsletter, in which was mentioned that there had been a short circuit in Kelaniya and that the television set no longer functioned and that there was no money for a new one, Hans Bergwerff, from the Dutch embassy in Sri Lanka, contacted us. He said that they had a television set at the embassy that was not being used. He would like to donate it to the children. After consulting with Sister Amatha, he brought the television sets (yes, there were even 2!) after Christmas. We told him that we were coming to Sri Lanka on a working visit in January and that we would like to meet him. We agreed on a date and he said he would ask whether the Ambassador would like to come too, if it fits in with her agenda. And she is indeed going to come!

We show the children the photos we had brought with us. These were made in the early years by Dick Keizer and he had plasticized several of them. The children love the pictures, especially the girls who recognize themselves in them. We had also brought clothes, sheets and pieces of cloth. They can make dresses from these.

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Ambassador’s visit on Thursday, January the 25th:
At half past 10 the Ambassador: Bonnie Horbach and Hans Bergwerff arrive. The children are wearing their most beautiful dresses and their hair is beautifully done, with braids and lots of barrettes in them.
Elsbeth had received a bag of hair clips from a woman who sells all kinds of hair clips and such on the market in Oostkapelle. The girls are very happy with these.
After a warm welcome with flowers and garlands, the flags of the Netherlands and Sri Lanka are hoisted.
The sisters have placed tables outside on which items that the children have made themselves: cards, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, embroidered pillowcases and napkin rings, are presented. There are also polo shirts that the girls sewed in Ja-Ela. Everything is examined in detail. One of the girls welcomes the Ambassador and Hans, in English. Then all the girls show different dances. So very nice. In the meantime, the Ambassador asks all kinds of questions. They then get a tour of the home. Finally, there is tea and cake. The Ambassador and Hans are very impressed with the work of Sister Amatha and us. They express their appreciation to Sister Amatha and our foundation. The Ambassador said it was one of the most beautiful mornings she had experienced during her time here in Sri Lanka. She finds the home to be pretty and clean. But most of all she is impressed by the fact that the children look so healthy, clean and happy. And that there is such a nice atmosphere in the home. We are especially pleased for the sisters that they may receive such appreciation.
What a very pleasant and special visit.
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In the homes:
We received a very warm welcome in all the homes. We enjoyed dancing, playing games and singing together. We took turns singing a song. Fortunately, we know many children’s songs. We brought puzzles, games and boxes of loom bands. Together we made bracelets from these. When we are playing and working together, you can see that the children are enjoying themselves and that way we can create a bond with them. We also made filigree flowers for the cards, together. They taught us Sinhala words and we taught them Dutch words and how to count to ten. In Katupotha, after dinner, the children took us out into the garden to admire the countless stars in the sky. And then we also saw fireflies in the garden. It was like in a fairytale, so beautiful. Fortunately, we can converse in English with the sisters. We discuss how the children are doing and of course all kinds of other topics are discussed. This way we are able to learn a lot about life in Sri Lanka.
In Ja Ela the chapel has been transformed into a real sewing workshop. We are very impressed by this. They were busy finishing polo shirts for a company, where these shirts are to be worn as company clothing. There were also a few girls sewing purple blouses, work clothing for a cleaning company. Very nice to see how busy they are and that they receive such great assignments. They also earn from it. This allows them to pay off the sewing machines. We help them with cutting the loose threads. They also dare to speak English to us more and more. Good! It’s so nice to see that girls are also finding their own way.
One of the girls is a beautician and also works in a salon. She lives there in a house with other girls. One works in a hotel in Dubai.
One of the girls has been studying in Canada for 2 years now. She was one of the best students that year and received a scholarship from the government. Two girls work in the elderly care.
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Trips:
We visited the old Buddhist temple in Kelaniya with a few girls. Everything is beautifully lit because it is Poya festival.

Sister Francisca invited us to her brother’s wedding. Very special to experience. We received a very warm welcome and they were very happy that we had come. Several family members came to greet us and tell us how much they enjoyed having us there.

Sister Joanna invited us to lunch with her parents. Her father is a fisherman. After lunch we went for a short boat trip across the lagoon to the sea. The nature in Sri Lanka is so beautiful! We received such a warm welcome from her parents and grandmother. Two more sisters came along. It is nice to see that the sisters have such a good bond with each other. And that their parents are also so concerned about the children in the homes. They regularly receive dried and fresh fish from sister Joanna and Francisca’s parents. Both fathers are fishermen.

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Conversations with Sister Amatha:
We spoke extensively with Sister Amatha about the ins and outs of the homes.
*The children receive English lessons for an hour, 4 times a week.
*A psychologist comes twice a week, who mainly works with the new children.
*A math teacher comes twice a week to provide tutoring. He works with small groups, 3 to 4 children at a time.
*Schools won’t start again until February the 19th. Normally they would start in mid-January and the exams would have already taken place before Christmas. But the schools are still not running as before. There is still a shortage of paper, so the books are very expensive. Sister Amatha tries to help children who don’t have enough money for books.

*In Ja-Ela they bought 2 new sewing machines on instalment. Sister Amatha indicates that it is good for the girls to pay for the machines themselves. It gives them accountability and that is important to learn as well.

*If the children have not already been vaccinated, they will be vaccinated when they arrive at the home. A file is created for each child with all the information.
Every year a dentist comes to check the teeth. All children then come to Kelaniya. When something needs to be done, they have to go to the practice. Their eyes and ears are also tested every year and they are weighed and measured too. New children may come if there is enough space available. This is coordinated through child protection. Unfortunately, many children still live on the streets.

*There are 2 new sisters: Anita and Medonna. They must first participate in the homes and, if that goes well, they will de trained with Sister Amatha in the sister’s home in Tewatte.

*Every now and then they are offered an Almsgiving. This is usually indicated in advance and then Sister Amatha asks if it is possible for them to give rice, flour and/or vegetables instead of sweets and cake.

*We also talked to Sister Amatha about maintenance and whether she knows someone who can check the homes with her every year. To our delight this problem will be resolved. We received a call from Hans from the embassy. He had spoken to his architect, who is supervising the renovation of the embassy, and asked if he would like to help with the overdue maintenance of the homes. The architect indicated that he would like to do something for a good cause, because his company existed 25 years this year. Together with Sister Amatha we had a conversation with the architect and Hans. He is prepared to view the homes and then make an action plan for maintenance for the coming years. He will also look at what needs to be repaired at short hand. We are very content with this development.

And then, alas, the last day of our stay arrives. Together with Sister Rafaela we go shopping with a tuk tuk to shop for items for our stall, which we sell at markets. The children are at school today. Last week they were told that school will start on February the 5th instead of February the 19th. When the children came home, we had a pleasant afternoon together, singing lots of songs and playing games. After dinner we were spoiled with gifts, beautiful homemade necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Of course we put them on straight away. They really loved that. They all called: beautiful, beautiful! We crocheted a heart and a lucky doll for all the children. They are very pleased with it.
And then it’s bedtime for the children and we have to say goodbye… that is a very moving moment. After much waving and kissing, they walk to their rooms. Bye, bye, darlings!! Hopefully we will be able to visit you again next year!!

How we enjoyed our stay with the children and the sisters. It was very special to stay in the homes and experience their way of life. And to see how happy and cheerful the girls are and also nice to see that the sisters have such a good and friendly bond with each other.
Two very special, pleasant and educational weeks!

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Hopefully, with your help, we can continue to do this work for a long time to come!

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“TO SAVE A CHILD, IS TO SAVE THE WORLD”
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