July 12, 2023
By Christine Hills
PWRDF has allocated $14,000 to support the restoration and ongoing work of the New Oppuravillam in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka where education, community and awareness building and skills development were key components of its founder’s vision.
In 1981, Rev. Dr. Donald Jeyapalan Kanagaratnam, principal of the Theological College of Lanka, established “Oppuravillam,” a house of peace, on land owned by his family near Vavuniya, known during the Sri Lankan Civil War as ‘the border town’. His vision was to build good relationships between the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities and to demonstrate that the communities could live in harmony jointly contributing to the development of their lives and their communities.
Following his death in 1995, Oppuravillam was taken over by the Sri Lankan army. After the conflict ended in 2009, it was gifted to the Diocese of Colombo by his family where a Management Committee (OPMC), headed by the Archdeacon of Jaffna, oversees its management with support from the Reconciliation and Peace Desk of the Diocese of Colombo. With funding from Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) and other partners, repairs and additions began and two resident counsellors were installed.
The vision for the New Oppuravillam is in keeping with the Church’s calling to embody Peace and Reconciliation:
- To create opportunities for alienated communities to come together, to enter into dialogue, to learn, understand, appreciate and accept the ‘otherness’ of all and recognize the ‘oneness’ of all;
- To ‘Be Present’, offering a place of hope and comfort to those in need, the poor, the deprived, the traumatized, the vulnerable, the aged, the abandoned, the lonely;
- To establish a residential ‘Centre for Dialogue’ to be used by parishes, diocesan organizations and groups to meet, learn and share, and to offer exposure visits and retreats.
Alcoholism, drug use, domestic violence and family breakups are common issues in the villages. Oppuravillam’s counselling services have been extremely helpful, especially for women. The Centre has been steadily growing in its inter-faith work, developing excellent relations with the Buddhist and Hindu temples in the village. Its presence in these communities has become a beacon of hope for the villagers, many of whom underwent several displacements during the war years and returned to situations of poverty, starting off with nothing.
Oppuravillam has also become a centre for the ERD-funded ‘Savings with Learning’ women’s groups, four of which have been formed in the surrounding villages. A computer training class for children has also taken off, while two vocational trainings for women in tailoring, funded locally, have been completed. PWRDF funding will support this work and help provide a brighter future through:
- A community drinking water project that encompasses the installation of a mini water purification system for use by those in the village and the Oppuravillam Centre;
- The further development of the organic vegetable and fruit demonstration farm and its training centre for local women’s groups;
- The completion of the furnishing of the residential and multipurpose building, used as a retreat centre.
Watch the inaugural ceremony of the PWRDF-funded community water project!
This story originally appeared in the June 2023 issue of Under the Sun.