Sri Lanka is beginning to experience the effects of climate change. Heavy rains are followed by long periods of drought.
The floods and landslides that occurred during May/June 2017 affected over 15 districts in the country. Of these Kalutara was one of the hard hit areas due to the opening of the sluice gate of the Kukuleganga project. Several hundreds of people were affected by the sudden rise in water levels and people had to be evacuated by rescue boats.
LEADS carried out a month-long relief program in Bulathsinhala and Palindanuwara DS divisions in Kalutara. Nearly a thousand people benefited through LEADS interventions in the district. We received a donation of 1000 mattresses from an individual donor and was able to distribute bedding materials among flood the affected families.
For these children living in the village of Niggaha in Kalutara, going to a school and getting an education means everything. Because education is considered the way and means of getting out of the rut. Often it is also the place where they are able to have fun. However this May the flowing waves not only damaged their houses but dampened their school books and also their spirits.
The children were required to get back to schools. However many of them had lost their belongings, among them the school books and stationeries. We were able to distribute school packs and useful hygiene packs to 800 school children. As many of them were no longer staying in shelter camps this became an ideal opportunity for our staff members to address them with the protection message. At each of the 6 locations where distributions were carried out we gathered the children and held age-appropriate awareness programs.
During disasters children can fall victim as families are often separate during the rush. Our programs taught the children on child protection - the need to keep safe. Cases of abuse did not reach us during the short time we spent in the community. However, LEADS staff made everyone know of the availability of assistance in case someone was troubled.
Through a series of engaging activities, we got groups of children become more open about a topic that is regarded taboo in society. Local culture and traditions are very strict on how girls and boys behave. Yet children’s inquisitive minds and undue peer pressure can mislead some children. They are able to discover the good and bad with close guidance from adults such as their parents, trusted relatives and teachers in the school.
The smaller children enjoyed getting to know the ‘good & bad touch’ through a picture book tale (using Flash Cards). They had many questions to ask the staff members who carried out these sessions.
The adolescents got to know more about peer pressure, addictions and teenage relationships that led to early pregnancies. Meanwhile the parents who were present were included in a program as well. Where they were briefed on various issues and the need for child protection.
At each program everyone child who participated in the sensitization received a free booklet titled ‘Staying Free’ (LEADS publication) and the parents too got a special booklet on parental guidance. “What we learned from the program is very relevant in today’s context. Since our children got involved in the awareness programs I realised we can be more open our dialogues now. With increased awareness our children will reach to us rather than a stranger when they are faced with a problem” said one parent appreciating the sensitizing program.
The local civil society group and government officials supported us in reaching unreached areas with relief supplies.