Visit to Matara Girls Home – Louise Sullivan
We were so excited to visit the girls in Matara in July. My dream was to be able to combine a wonderful family holiday with being able to make a difference in some way and be a part of our New Day initiatives. My son (9) decided to raise money and buy the girls some stationary. He sold cakes and toys in our building to raise money and went shopping to select everything he wanted to give the girls. My daughter (6) was more cautious about visiting the Home.
We were welcomed like VIPs by the girls, the home staff and the girl’s teachers. We got to meet the wonderful community of people who support the girls on a day-to-day basis. The girls presented their beautiful art work along one part of the hall. We were treated to an hour of singing, dancing, and music performed by the girls. They were very nervous, but did a beautiful job. The girl who did the announcements in English, introducing each act was particularly nervous. Mily told us that, that day was her first day replacing the oldest girl who usually does this job. The older girl who is 17 will soon be leaving the home, and so her jobs are being handed down to the next in line.
There are a few girls who will be shortly leaving the home now that they are approaching 18. One girl has recently left to live with her mother and sister in a small room while she completes her nursing qualification. The home will continue to support her tuition and basics until they ensure she is self-sufficient. The girl leaving is sad to leave what has become her family home, but is set up to succeed and comes back to visit the girls regularly. Earlier in the year another girl was successfully married to a boy from a nearby orphanage who happens to have a small inheritance so that they can start their life together. In each case we could see that while in the home, each girl is prepared in the best way possible to be able to create a sustainable healthy life after she leaves the home.
Mily and staff do their best to create a secure stable home. Each year the home has a turn over of girls staying. Over the past year the home has lost and received up to 8 new girls. In fact while we were there, a new girl had been dropped off by the police in the middle of the night the previous night. Mily explained that while the community often contributes various in-kind support and is very generous in what they provide the home, prior to New Day’s support income was inconsistent and she could not afford to pay for good staff. Since the New Day contribution, one of the many things they have been able to do is afford to pay the wonderful women and men who look after the girls and offer a stable, loving and secure environment. Since the New Day funding they have had the same 2 matrons with the girls.
We were treated to afternoon tea prepared by the girls themselves and shown around the home. They have beautiful new cupboards courtesy of New Day, and a comfortable room to sleep with a bed each, their mosquito net and their teddy bear. Mily showed us the repair work that has already taken place around the home using New Day funding. The home is in need of painting and some further repair. We also saw a small playground being constructed in the back yard.As a special treat, the next day New Day sponsored a day out for the girls. We went to a museum celebrating the life of a famous Sri Lankan author Martin Wickramasinghe. Most of the girls have studied his work but never visited the museum. Afterwards we enjoyed lunch together at a simple restaurant where the girls could run around in the playground. It was also wonderful seeing my son and daughter playing together with the girls as their shyness from the day before decreased. The park and restaurant was located across the road from the Sri Lankan Airforce base, so one of the highlights was that the girls got to board an airplane for the first time in their lives! It was a wonderful day out for us, and a special memorable one for the girls.
We were humbled by our visit and are very grateful to be a part of New Day and the Matara initiative. It could be easy to get overwhelmed by the enormous need in Sir Lanka or globally for that matter. There are so many communities in need. Yet what I most appreciate about New Day is the specificity and quality in which the projects are chosen and undertaken. The clear result of our funding going to ensuring that at any given time, 20 something girls are being effectively prepared to lead productive healthy lives.