Building Resilience

Bombed yet unbowed, naked yet clothed and hungry yet fed.  This is the testimony of 40 school children who had endured the harshest of experiences in the brutal war that was concluded in May 2009 in Sri-Lanka. 

The children were all in an orphanage that was supported by the Milton Keynes based charity – Hope Outreach UK - in the midst of the rebel held territory.  They were haplessly caught up in the painful and traumatic events that began to unfold all around them.  Strafing and bombings were a daily feature.  Food shortages and lack of power supply became a part of life for several months on end.  Death and destruction were all around.  Uncertainty was the norm.  As the local situation became untenable for safe living, the children began to collect their minimal possessions and began to move from place to place to makeshift places and new schools to give a semblance of normality in the face of uncertainty.

 

The orphan children felt all the emotions of separation, fear, loss and the prospects of an unknown future in all its magnitude.  They wept, they lost their appetite and experienced nightmares, anger and frustration.  They began to ask the eternal question “Why me?”  Some were victims of the tsunami, some of the prolonged civil war and all from constant losses and displacement.  The youngest was aged 5yrs and the oldest 18.  They were being cared for by three house mothers with a member of the clergy providing pastoral care.  In the closing stages of the war they became separated and sadly 6 of the children were reported missing, presumed killed. 

 

Miraculously the others escaped, some in their underwear, barely having energy to walk.  They were taken into a military detention camp.  Whilst still in detention, six students took the Advanced Level examination in the summer of 2009 and gained admission to university!  After tortuous and patient negotiations, the children were released from this camp and have now moved to the north of the country.

 

Hope Outreach UK played an important part in practical terms to facilitate settling into their new environment.  We provided bedding, uniforms, books, clothes, bicycles, computers, a tube well and extra toilet facilities.  I was greatly privileged to be part of a team from the UK to visit these children at the beginning of October 2010. 

 

Each child had a horrific and painful story to tell.  There was one little boy of three years who was with his 3 sisters in the same home.  Two years ago both parents were blown up by a land mine just outside their home and the infant boy was brought to the home to be cared for.  Some saw their family members die.  The war was a horrible experience.

 

We spent time with the children, talking, playing, singing and eating with them.  The children led the evening prayers in devotional songs.  Their fervent faith and hope in God shone through at a deep inner self.  They seemed to have a sense of peace that is difficult to explain - an inner peace and joy.  They are happy, joyful, and positive and looking towards the future grasping every opportunity afforded to them.  The school teachers are most impressed with their dedication to study, their self discipline and the good influence they have on their peers.

 

Outwardly they may have lost everything, yet inwardly they have gained everything - destroyed on the outside but renewed afresh on the inside.  Hence though they were bombed one year ago they are not bowed, though rendered naked are now fully clothed, though they have gone hungry before, they are now more than fed.

 

To me, as a charity worker from the comforts of a western life and the practice of medicine in the UK, this was a solemn lesson in human endurance, shared grief, combined survival and collective support.  It was also a clear testimony to the children’s deep faith that held firm in their darkest of moments. 

 

We in Hope Outreach UK are simply privileged to be part of the process that has brought HOPE to these orphaned children.

  

Dr Sam Muthuveloe

General Secretary – Hope Outreach UK

 

Hope Outreach UK is a welfare relief charity aiming to bring hope and encouragement to the poor and needy of Sri Lanka and Southern India. Run entirely by volunteers in the UK, we work with locals on the ground to ensure that the right projects are supported to provide an independent and more secure future for all those we help. Find out more >>