March 13, 2012
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 Maureen Lawrence, Member of PWRDF Board of Directors, Diocese of British Columbia.
It’s not quite two days since we arrived yet it seems we have been here for many days. The train trip (see previous blog) was surprisingly quiet except for the fan and the noise of the train. We experienced the bathroom facilities on the train and have decided future delegations should pack Depends.
We were met in Trichy at 5:00 am by a representative from OfERR and taken to Hotel Femina. Bed looked appealing but we knew that if we succumbed we would not be ready at 9:30 am to start the activities for the day.
Flexibility is a thing we all fortunately have as our visit to the Valavanthan Kottai refugee camp turned into a tourist type drive seeing a huge Hindu temple, drinking fresh coconut juice and for Scott, being bitten by an ant and receiving a gift from the sky by an Indian bird.
We arrived at the camp to be greeted with flowers from the nursery school children. It was very distressing for us to learn of the death early this morning of a 2 ½ year old boy. Each home has limited electricity which only allows for the safe use of one light bulb. Sadly, the inadequacy of this causes problems which in this case led to the fatality.
Despite such privations during our walkabout we saw clean roads and small well kept homes, some of which had well established trees. We visited the Spirulina pond and heard how this edible algae which is 60% protein is cultivated and used as a nutritional supplement in chocolates, in health care products, and as a medicine. By then the ladies’ Self Help Group (SHG) was ready to receive us, show us their work of learning to decorate clothing and have a period of questions and answers.
Both at this time and after lunch at the OfERR office, where a group of team leaders had gathered, we heard of the barriers standing in the way of the refugees still living in camps after 30 years. More than one third of the leaders we met have not been to their homeland of Sri Lanka. The hospitality shown to us, the resilience of the refugees to their ever changing circumstances, and the face to face meetings between PWRDF and OfERR led to a long and interesting conversation at supper tonight.