By Dinoba Kirupa
Since the civil war had come to a catastophic end in 2009, many Northern and Eastern regions of Sri Lanka, particularly villages inhabited by the Tamil population, still lack basic infrastructure and facilities. Unfortunately, this inhibited any economic and social development, exasperating the poverty of village residents. Such adverse circumstances have inspired the Canadian Tamils’ Humanitarian Association (CTHA) to pursue its most ambitious project yet – the Adopt-a-Village Project. After scouting Batticaloa District for the village that was most in need of basic infrastructure while still feasible for development, CTHA concluded it will work with the village of Pavatkodichchennai. From our assessment, Pavatkodochchennai lacks four fundamentals: clean drinking water in close proximity, proper sanitation and toilets, low early childhood education, and inadequate medical facilities and infrastructure. The total budget of $150,000 required for the project will fund three components: clean accessible water, sanitation, and a community centre.
The first two components of the project will work to provide clean drinking water and sanitation. Clean drinking water is a basic need of any community. Provision of water to families tends to be the responsibility of women, which points to the gendered nature of accessible water (Aladuwaka and Momsen, 43). Typically, village women are expected to walk more than 10 km daily to the source of water (Grover and Carr, 496). This takes time away from household work, child care and income generation (Aladuwaka and Momsen, 44). Clean water will reduce health problems and the mortality rate, especially among the young and elderly. However, clean water alone does not suffice since a lack of proper sanitation and toilet facilities will worsen existing health problems, such as dehydration-related problems (Grover and Carr, 494). Furthermore, accessible toilets ensure safety from wild animals and provide general protection for the most vulnerable.
CTHA is proud to announce that we will be partnering with Rotary International to provide Pavatkodichchennai with the water facilities and sanitation. Five water reserve tanks will be dispersed throughout the village to prevent women from travelling long distances to fetch water. The tanks will be filled with safe water that is pumped from a clean underground source so as to limit illnesses resulting from contamination. Furthermore, 25 wet latrines will be provided to 25 homes that are deemed most vulnerable, prioritizing homes with teenage daughters, the elderly or disabled people. Rotary International will fund the water and sanitation components of the project with a generous $75,000 and also oversee their completion.
In addition to meeting the basic needs of clean water and proper sanitation, CTHA recognizes that a self-sustaining community must flourish holistically, which will be accomplished by the next component. The third component of the Adopt-a-Village project will be a community centre consisting of three rooms which will house the following: a preschool, a vocational training centre, and a medical centre.
First, the community centre will consist of a preschool. Early childhood education is crucial as it moulds a child’s critical years before five and develop the ability to think, behave and foster emotional stability. Students from poor backgrounds lack access to educational games, toys, and literature which debilitate development. If parents and the community are unable to provide early education, early investment in preschools ensure success in primary and secondary schools, as well as emotional and social competence (Bakken, et al., 255). Since the majority of young children in Pavatkodichchennai come from poor households, CTHA will provide access to a preschool in the community centre. This will ensure they succeed in the public school system in later years as it equips them with discipline, creativity, and a work ethic.
Second, the community centre will consist of a medical centre where sick village residents may be diagnosed and treated by doctors. At the moment, there is no proper infrastructure for medical needs. Patients are treated from the medical mobile clinic, the vehicle the doctor arrives in. This means that the sick currently do not have protection from the sweltering heat and unforgiving sun. A medical centre in the community centre will address many overlooked needs as it will provide sick patients with privacy and protection from the sun, while doctors will have a comfortable room to work in.
Lastly, to ensure economic growth and a self-sustaining community, the third room in the community centre will be a vocational training room. A lack of variety in skills has brought about underemployment and less autonomy among the population. To undo this, CTHA will equip residents with in-depth skills and knowledge about running their own small businesses such as a poultry farm or sewing. Not only will this allow for greater self-determination among the residents, but it may even change the gender division of labour as women will also provide household income (Aladuwaka and Momsen, 44).
Thus, the community centre is expected to be a bustling and important point of congregation for Pavatkodichchennai and neighbouring villages. CTHA commenced the building of the centre on May 26, 2017. The materials and construction of the building will cost a total of $75,000, which will be provided by CTHA through fundraising initiatives in Canada.
CTHA hopes this holistic approach to developing the village of Pavatkodichchennai will result in the empowerment of the village residents in the nearby future. We look forward to seeing our vision to fruition. We thank our community partners, supporters and donors for their unwavering support.
If you would like to know more about our project, get involved, or donate, please contact us at CTHACanada@gmail.com.
Aladuwaka, Seela and Janet Momsen. “Sustainable development, water resources management and women’s empowerment: the Wanaraniya Water Project in Sri Lanka”, Gender & Development, 18:1, 43-58, 2010. Accessed April 4, 2017.
Bakken, Linda, et al., “Early Childhood Education: The Long-Term Benefits”, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 31:2, 255-269, 2017. Accessed April 2, 2017.
Grover, Brian and Cynthia Carr, “Canadian Perspectives on Water Supply and Sanitation in Developing Countries”, Canadian Water Resources Journal/Revue Canadienne des ressources hydriques, 18:4, 493-502, 1993. Accessed April 2, 2017.