In April three New Day families visited the Matara Home on two separate occasions, introducing their children to the girls, meeting staff and teachers and joining in the celebrations as the Home marks its’ 80th year. We were treated to a concert by the girls and attended an art exhibition that they held to auction off their beautiful paintings and handiwork.
Matara Buddhist Girls’ Home is located an hour south of Galle in Sri Lanka. It is an orphanage caring for girls who are referred to by local social services. Run on a a small budget and dependent on in-kind donations of food and goods from the community, the Home has limited access to outside funding. Since June 2014 New Day has been providing anchor funding to pay staff salaries, provide after school activities and tutoring to the girls and take care of repairs and running costs as needed. To get a feel for the project and the experience of visiting please enjoy the below site visit reports from New Day members Stephanie Early and Maxine Gross. you can also view a slide show here: My Movie – Small
Paul and I and our 3 children were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Matara Home for Girls with Chris and Liza Green and their 3 children in April this year. From the moment we arrived we were greeted very warmly by the matrons and other staff and with big beautiful smiles from the 26 girls who live at the home. There was lots of giggling and hiding behind one another as the girls showed us around their home, all of them feeling a little shy but at the same time extremely keen to interact with their visitors. We spent some time playing some games to try and “break the ice” however most of the girls were distracted by their upcoming show that they were performing for us that afternoon. There was much activity in the home finalizing costumes, warming up instruments and practicing dance moves. We were ushered into the hall and joined by the girls’ teachers and other important members of the Matara home community. It was lovely to speak with the teachers who are funded by New Day to provide the girls with extra curricular educational activities such as Dance, Science, English and Computers. The teachers were all very positive about the girls progress, commitment and enjoyment of these classes. It became apparent to me very quickly however that these extra curricular classes offered so much more than enjoyment and something to do after school. These classes are vital for these girls to learn as much as they can and develop essential skills to better prepare them to navigate the world outside of Matara home when they turn 18. In the absence of a dowry these girls have limited opportunities to find a husband and have a family which is the traditional role of most Sri Lankan women. New Day funding these classes helps the girls to further their education and hopefully give them other options as they prepare for adulthood without a husband or family to support them.
For the next hour and half of our visit we enjoyed an amazing performance that included all the girls from 6 years old to nearly 18. They danced, sang, played musical instruments, wore intricate colorful costumes, presented short spoken English pieces about who they were and even treated us to some comic songs and skits. We applauded, were impressed, laughed, clapped and were submersed in the world of the girls from Matara. My greatest pleasure was seeing all the girls involved, excited and extremely happy in who they were and what they were doing throughout the show. “We have been practising and rehearsing this show for 1 year” one of the girls told me. I was blown away and the significance of what we had just watched increased ten fold. The shy little girls with the big smiles that we met 2 hours ago had disappeared by the time the show was finished. We now saw 26 energized and animated girls who wanted to play games and dance and sing and laugh with our children…….this day was extremely important to the girls at the Matara home. As we left the home that evening I hoped that every one of those girls went to bed that night thinking happy thoughts about their day and feeling as proud of themselves as we, their community and teachers were.
It was a wonderful experience visiting the Matara girls home for myself, Isabella and Ava. It was beneficial to see one of the projects we contribute towards, to meet the people, and chat about their needs. Milly talked to me about how they are trying to improve their garden / outdoor space at the moment and hopefully build a bit of a playground for the girls. It was especially wonderful for my girls to see first hand those that are less fortunate than them and how they can bring them much happiness just by spending some time with them and introducing them to some activities they may not have played or done before. We all had a lot of fun with water pistols to cool off and relax in each others company and then with simple games such as skipping ropes, jacks, throwing balls, marbles and hop scotch! The Matara girls also introduced us to some of their dances and music. We also bought some of the girls paintings, which was a great way that each of the girls in the home could start to earn and save some of their own money, as the money from any of their own works sold at an exhibition goes into their own accounts. We will definitely stay in touch with them and look forward to hearing about ways we can help in the future.
New Day is delighted to be supporting this project and will be making a second grant in June . However there is so much more we can do – the Home is in need of repairs, new furniture, work in the outdoor yard and much more. They also appreciate any input and ideas on how they can provide brighter futures for the girls once they leave the Home and look for a job or begin further education. We invite members to come forward if want to get more involved with his project. New Day would like to arrange a working visit to the Home in early 2016 to undertake some painting and renovations and spend time with the girls. Please contact us if you are interested in joining.