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The Challenges

The Ethnic war in Sri Lanka, which lasted for 30 years in the form of an armed conflict, with heavy loss of life and limb, as well as the devastation of buildings and property, came to an end in May, 2009. This led to a forced exodus of hundreds of thousands of Tamil people from the districts of Killinochchi and Mullaitivu, creating masses of Internally Displaced Persons who had to be housed in temporary camps in very sad conditions. Eventually, after the process of de-mining was completed, the displaced persons were gradually “resettled”, willingly or forcibly. Even those who willingly returned to their own piece of land, had to start from scratch, with the scars of war in the form of devastation surrounding them, and with little reliable support. Moreover, the inner wounds of mind and heart were deeply painful, and all bottled up within them, while a cloud of fear and suspicion surrounded them. There were the harshly created widows with their children clinging to them, people who were blind and deaf, the mute and the maimed, as well as people who were paralysed.

What did the Sisters do?

Good Shepherd heard the cry of anguish and was drawn into the scene. During the past 4.5 years, roads have been repaired and bridges built by the Government spending billions of Rupees on infrastructure, but the minds and hearts of the so-called “re-settled people” are still deeply sore, crying for Healing and Reconciliation.

Our sisters, mainly Sinhala, and other women from the South, go to the District of Mullaitivu, to certain villages, visiting and spending time with individual families, listening to their pain and anguish of heart. We have been going once or twice a month, in groups of six, spending 3 to 4 days at each visit. We ensure that at least 3 of the group can communicate in Tamil, so that we can go in twos to each family. It is important for Sinhala sisters and Sinhala women to reach out to our sisters and brothers in the North, for healing and reconciliation. The pain and loss of their missing loved ones is shared with us, as they point to garlanded photographs! As our tears mingle with theirs, we are all touched. It is the Divine Touch!

Who manages/administers the programme?

Good Shepherd sisters as well as mission partners are involved in the management/ administration of this ministry.

Who is the major target group?

The women, children and families in certain villages in the District of Mullaitivu, especially the so called “No Fire Zones” of 2009. These areas saw the last stages of the horrific war, with all its cruelty, vengeance, bombardment, shelling and bloodshed, as innocent civilians fled helter-skelter for safety. These people form the major target group .

Who benefits and how do they benefit?

The above-mentioned women, children and families benefit, as well as their village communities. Eventually, the people of the North who have been war-victims, and the Sri Lankan society as a whole, will benefit.

How do they benefit? When people experience inner healing and freedom, they are psychologically, socially and spiritually empowered. Thus, they will be able to live a fuller life, using their inner potentialities and resources. This will restore in them their lost dignity and worth as human persons, children of the one Father. They will thus be empowered as persons. It is only then, in a climate of inclusion, freedom, love, understanding, and acceptance, that they can be themselves and think of others as well, building relationships that will enrich themselves and society. This indeed, is a long term process. In the long run, it will foster noble human values, which will ultimately lead to a transformation of our Sri Lankan society.

How many people are assisted?

4,000 - 4,500 Persons (including persons with disabilities due to the war.)

600 Families

300 Female-led Families

2,000 - 2,500 Women

1,500 Children

Motivation and core values

Reaching out with compassion to the wounded and marginalized women, children and their families, to save and restore to dignity, through inner healing and reconciliation, towards empowerment. These are the direct objectives of our mission. They are indeed the core values and spirit of the Good Shepherd.

How does this project work towards empowerment of women and children?

  • »Regular visits to the families, and to the Women’s Rural Development societies.
  • »Visiting some of the very poor and badly neglected schools, and providing school books and other basic essential materials.
  • »Arranging programmes, such as North-South Exchange Programmes for the children.
  • »Organising self-help projects for the families, especially for female-headed families.
  • »Providing scholarships to University Students, whenever possible.
  • »Organizing North-South Exchange Programmes for Women, such as the celebration of International Women’s Day.
  • »Holding Capacity and Skill-Building Programmes on Human Rights, Civic Rights.
  • »Networking with other Inter Religious Groups, Human Rights and Women’s Rights Organizations, for advocacy and lobbying.



How is the programme evaluated?

  • » At our very first visits, after much questioning and cross-questioning of us by the people, as we listen with love and compassion, with acceptance and understanding, the cloud of suspicion can be seen to disappear. Then the painful stories come out quite dramatically, as in a closely knit family, with tears and sobbing, with all the symbols and relics they possess, such as photographs and articles of clothing.
  • » At our second or later visits, when these people, who earlier could hardly smile, come running out to meet us, with smiles on their faces, we consider it an indicator of the effectiveness of the process of healing.
  • » We also consider it an indicator, when they make telephone calls to us, saying that they experienced God during our visits, and they request us to come again to have a meal with them, they who barely have one meal a day! This shows that their inner wounds are healing, and that they feel less excluded. Furthermore, it shows that they are now sensing their worth and dignity as persons, and as sisters and brothers of one family.
  • » These are some examples.



How does it contribute to the Millennium Development Goals?

Of the 8 Millennium Development Goals, our project is directly connected with Goal 2 & Goal 3.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women.

The MDGs originated from the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which asserted that every individual has the right to dignity, freedom, equality, a basic standard of living that includes freedom from hunger and violence and encourages tolerance and solidarity.

Our project deals directly with the basis of this. As long as individuals or communities are psychologically and socially wounded, living in fear and insecurity, constantly under suspicion as possible terrorists, there can be no room to experience dignity, freedom and equality. There can be no room to be truly alive. Therefore, for the achievement of the MDGs, the fundamental need is for healing and flowering, for fuller life with dignity and freedom, which is what our project is all about.

The MDGs sets concrete targets and indicators for poverty reduction in order to achieve the rights set forth in the Declaration. The MDGs emphasizes three areas: human capital, infrastructure and human rights (social, economic and political), with the intent of increasing living standards. Human capital objectives include nutrition, healthcare and education. Human Rights objectives include empowering women, reducing violence, increasing political voice, ensuring equal access to public services and increasing security of property rights. These goals were intended to increase an individual’s human capabilities and "advance the means to a productive life".

Our project is directly concerned with this thrust of the MDGs, basically promoting gender equality and empowering the women, while directing our attention to the education of children and their wellbeing.

Challenges

  • » We do not feel sufficiently free to mix up and relate with our sisters and brothers in the North, due to the prevailing situation.
  • » Their economic, social and educational needs are beyond our capacity, due to lack of sufficient resources.
  • » Many more programmes need to be done for the children, but our hands are tied due to insufficient funds.
  • » Capacity building programmes for the women are a dire necessity. Here again the same obstacle of insufficient funds, holds us back.



What would make the project more effective?

The availability of more financial resources for our programmes in Mullaitivu.

 



The Challenges

The children of prisoners are a forgotten group suffering for the crimes of their parents. They are ostracized by society and neighbourhood, rejected by classmates. They live in a negative environment.

What did the Sisters do?

They set up this project to help the children. To enable these children to cope, a scholarship is given to help them to do well in their studies. Each child’s scholarship is provided by a sponsor who befriends the child. This befriending gives the children an opportunity to make friends with a sponsor from a different social group.

Who manages/administers the programme?

Two Good Shepherd sisters and Good Shepherd Mission Partners.

Who is the major target group?

The main target group is the children of prisoners studying from Grade Six to the end of University. The parents of all these children must be in prison – originally they must be in the “Welikada” – the largest prison in the country. However, if they are transferred to another prison, or released from prison we still continue to help them. We consider that our commitment is to the child and not necessarily to the prisoner. Who benefits and how do they benefit?

The following children benefit:

  • » Primary beneficiaries are children of prisoners condemned to death (though the death sentence has not been carried out in Sri Lanka since 1976).
  • » Children of prisoners who are convicted for life.



How many people are assisted?

At present 280 children from all part of Sri Lanka including north and east.

Target is to reach 300 children, and that will be our capacity.

Motivation and core values

The Good Shepherd came to save the ‘lost sheep’ and these children and their families are rejected by society because one person has committed a serious crime and been convicted for it. We connect with them irrespective of their religion or ethnic background, we befriend them, give them a place in society through a good education. Also we build a relationship between the child and the sponsor by letter writing and other connection.

What outcomes are achieved?

Since education is free in Sri Lanka from Year One to the end of University degree, it is something deeply appreciated by the people. Our literacy level is in the 90s for both sexes. School attendance is compulsory until 14 years of age. All textbooks are provided free, school uniforms are provided too. However children need money for all the stationery, extra classes in some subjects and travel. This project provides this additional support.

Each year a ‘family-day’ is organized that brings the children, guardian and the prisoner together.

How is the programme evaluated?

Annually we get the principal of the school to fill an evaluation sheet that shows the progress or lack of it. Also there are the public examination results. For the last 10 years of the existence of this project we have some of our past students doing extremely well in society, having passed their University studies and now holding high positions.

How does it contribute to the Millennium Development Goals?

It ensures that no child is deprived of education due to lack of funding or focus. Also studies show that when children are given such scholarships for betterment they receive greater focus and respect from the school and society.

Challenges

  • » Funding for the programme.
  • » Finding new sponsors.



What would make the project more effective?

Ensuring that there is sufficient number of sponsors (both corporate and individual).

 



The Challenges

It was a bright day for those celebrating Valentine’s Day, but a gloomy evening that somehow expressed the pain and agony of women and children who are treated with violence. ‘Feeling for the other’ is one of the best qualities that are inherent in all women. Though they are voiceless in some parts of this violent world, they sense the possibilities of making it a better world.

Yes, it was a day of unity, of advocacy, a day that touched the hearts of our people. We joined hands with ‘Mothers and Daughters of Sri Lanka’ a group which works towards a better future for women and children. A good number of Good Shepherd sisters both from Sri Lanka and Pakistan, novices and candidates dared to speak out against domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse and emotional exploitation of women.

In Sri Lanka many women are battered and raped, sometimes even killed daily. Reports state that five girls are raped every day in Sri Lanka. But are we aware of and sensitive to the unreported sexual violence of women in our motherland?

The Message

I was a volunteer myself in demanding an end to this violence on the 14th of February through the One Billion Rising campaign which mobilized men and women across the world. “Good men beat eggs at home”, “I am a guy and I respect women”, “Don’t tell me how to dress, but tell them how to behave” were some of the slogans carried by young girls and boys. We were happy to observe that there were men and boys who stood there supporting this rising.

A Ray of Hope

Violence against women begins with violence against girls. In many countries this begins even before birth. Estimates suggest that there are more than 100 million ‘missing women’ as a result of sex-selective abortions. We stood there signifying a ray of hope that justice will be done at the commission on the status of women as the world gathers at United Nations Headquarters for the largest–ever UN assembly to end violence against women and girls.

 

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