Arrival of the PWRDF Delegation

PWRDF currently has a nine-member delegation visiting the Organization for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR) in India and Sri Lanka as we continue to accompany the Tamil refugees OfERR serves as they begin the process of returning to Sri Lanka from India.  The members of the delegation are acting as guest bloggers on the PWRDF blog.  Today’s post comes to us from Rev. Scott McLeod, Coordinator, PWRDF Refugee Network, Diocese of British Columbia.

So, there’s nothing like spending 7 hours on a plane, hanging out for a couple of hours at an airport, being horrified by the price of a coffee and then getting back on another plane for another 9 hours!
The end of that tale though, is that we, all 9 of us, are here safe and sound.

Who is we? Adele, Frances, Maureen, Carolyn, Suzanne, Christine, Cody, Janet and Scott as a PWRDF delegation.

Where is here? Well, tonight I am typing this from the house computer at the YWCA guest house in Chennai India. Did I mention that we are getting on a night train in a couple of hours?

I’m getting ahead of myself, because I didn’t say the why. We are here as a delegation to visit OfERR, the Organization for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation.
They are and work with Tamil refugees who were forced to flee the civil war in Sri Lanka. PWRDF has been supporting OfERR in a number of ways for a number of years. Read all about OfERR on their site here.

OfERR is a very amazing and impressive organization – starting in 1984 they are an organization for refugees, and the staff and volunteers are almost all refugees themselves. This is important because it means that they care.

When we got to their office they applauded us, hugged us, wrapped us in welcome shawls, and then they sang for us. I don’t remember the last time my parish ever did that for a stranger, even one that was announced and coming from far away.. Hospitality.

(That’s not to say that we don’t have it, but this was something quite special and unique)

We then spent the day learning from them about the work that they do – education for all children, helping to facilitate college and university education, health, nutrition, vocational training, self help groups, mental health and counseling, income generation, medical services, and the list goes on. They work with 69,000 people spread over 113 camps in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. When the East Coast was devastated by a tsunami in 2004 OfERR added to their work load and helped out their Indian neighbours – the same fishermen and their families who took them in as refugees starting 30 years ago. Above and beyond, or just being a good neighbour. Mr. Chandrahasan, OfFERR’s founder, says its just being a good neighbour.

We learned a lot today, and more than I can type here right now. But tomorrow we are going to visit one of the refugee camps and see one of the farming projects. And that means catching the night train I mentioned before! I will leave it there, but lots more to tell and a lot more to come!

View more stories on: Asia Pacific Stories, Field Blog, India, Refugees and Migrants Stories, Sri Lanka