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Just Another Sunday in Sri Lanka

March 19, 2012

By Simon Chambers

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 entry comes from Adele Finney, PWRDF’s Executive Director.

After the trip from Trincomalee to Vavunia, we sat in the van at a three-way intersection near 3 Jaffna Street, just down from the town mosque. The call to prayer sounded through the short twilight—the sun rises and sets quickly in the tropics.

The van driver was waiting for instructions from the Vavunia OfERR office on how to get to our hotel. No one paid much attention to us, it seemed. Nor did they pay attention to the brown cow in the middle of the intersection, which stood there for the longest time, and then was joined by a calf. What seemed to be a cowherd on a bike drove another trotting cow down the street.

I keep saying “seemed” because we’re beginning to understand the only assumption we can fairly make is that all our assumptions come up wanting the more we hear and talk to people.

Our first stop after breakfast (—a few of the delegation swam in the Indian Ocean before they ate) —was at St. Nicholas’ Anglican Church in Trincomalee where Father Prabaharan had arranged for a Methodist teacher to translate the sermon for us visitors. He invited Scott McLeod, priest from Victoria, BC to con-celebrate with him at the Eucharist.

After church we visited resettled IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) at their homes provided by PWRDF/OfERR in an owner-driven government plan. One was for people with disabilities. Another housed a family with four children– —a disabled young woman at home and three teenagers in school.

Further on, a family had returned to their own home after the war, finding the roof and floor damaged, the garden destroyed, their animals gone. They have resumed home gardening and rice farming, have a bike, but have not been able to buy more animals. When asked what more they needed, the family said there were some things their house still needed but many of their neighbours’’ roofs were leaking.

After lunch we visited an IDP camp where people have been living for seven years, with restricted ability to farm their former land but not live there. Some refugees from India who returned a few years back were also unable to return to their land and had to move into the IDP camp.

Reflecting on the visits today, Proverbs 13.12 came to heart and mind: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” The IDP camp seemed a somber place where much of life is constrained, and has been for a long time. Hunger is an issue. Not so very far away, trees were blooming  in the gardens of the resettled no-longer-refugees and one of the homeowners gave us a ripe guava from his tree.

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