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 Maureen Lawrence, a PWRDF Board of Directors member from the Diocese of British Columbia.
Noon found us outside a community centre where we had met with returned internally displaced persons and refugees. There were many beautiful babies who quietly sat with their mothers in the extreme heat while the adults told us reluctantly of their life which to us is one of abject poverty with little opportunity for improvement in the near or even less than near future.
Prior to that we had sat on a UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) tarp under a banana frond roof, with birds flying in and out of their nests in the roof. We met with a Self-Help Group founded by a returnee from India. This group of 24 seemed to be taking control of their lives and have pride in ownership of their homes, despite frustrations. They had raised the money, including by selling some of their jewelry, to have the village wired for electricity eighteen months ago and are still waiting for the government to connect them to the main. We met a woman of one hundred years. What must she have experienced in her lifetime?
After lunch at the OfERR office we met with thirty representatives of a community who had come some distance to share with us. This was a heart wrenching afternoon, when we heard the results of war and the ensuing “peace”. There were stories of missing husbands and sons, art therapy for children who have endured war and of outmigration. We heard from social workers who work with those with war disabilities, both physical and mental. We were amazed at the courage and strength of these people and left in awe of them.
On the lighter side, we also herded many IDC (internally displaced cows) and learned to our delight that when their owners return, the “cows come home”.