From Grace Children's home to Batti playgroups

Matt Marshall :: Thursday 18th March 2010 :: This Story


Since I wrote my last entry, I spent a couple more nights at Grace Children's Home; it was during these last couple of days that the boys really came out of their shells and began to relax around me. My most prominent memory is the night when I attended their prayers; the minister was such an exuberant worship leader and the boy's energy was so strong and focus for the whole hour of worship. After this I sat outside with the boys on a veranda for a long time, the boys taking it in turns to teach me tamil phrases, they seemed so happy and proud of their language, and so appreciative of having someone to share it with. Seeing the minister so enthusiastic in his worship was very hard for me to connect with his home which I visit the next day: about 30Km from Vavuniya city it is in a very remote and difficult area. His home showed the scars of a long and gruelling conflict - it was only just being repaired and he told me that he himself had been made a refugee by the conflict three times. On the long drive over unmade roads and past the infamous refugee camps, I struggled to understand how people in this position maintain faith in their country and can be so generous to those around them. As I left the boy's home I really wished i could have given them more; these boys - unlike the children in the nursery projects - seem somehow more damaged by their situation as they have come to an age where the marks are no longer erasable.

In a sense this makes the work I'm doing with Ranchan in Batticoloa more powerful; with these young children Ocean Stars really has the opportunity to make permanent change. Every day I'm visiting a nursery in the morning and then three or four sponsor children and their families each night; the reception from these families is without fail so happy and so grateful despite whatever the situation of that particular family may be. When asked if they have any messages for their sponsor, the vast majority ask for a family photo - they want to have a real and tangible link with these people towards whom they have so much gratitude - something that Ocean Stars can facilitate, whereas other larger NGO's may not. Even more so than my last visits, it has really struck me how powerful the gift of sponsorship is; the children almost always use the money for extra tuition, and it provides them with a very real sense of future and security.

On Saturday, Ranchan has arranged for the recipients of donations through the gift catalogue scheme to receive these presents - including hundreds of chickens - at his house, which should be a very exciting event.

I am continuing to do this work in Batticoloa for another two weeks, at which point I'll move down to Galle and the south. Hopefully I'll write again soon, thanks for all your comments!