Are their futures washed away?
Photo: Children playing in safe spaces set up by Save the Children after a massive flood.
The whole scene reminds me of Venice, but it is not a happy moment as the boat that carried us took lanes and roads which were once used for automobiles. Sri Lanka, after receiving a very heavy rain during past few days, is facing a disastrous flood and landslides in 19 districts. I have just returned from the first day of emergency response mission which was not an easy task as access was challenging due to the reason roads were cut off from flood. Initially we started the response in one location called Kaduwela in Colombo which is one of the highly affected areas.
An elderly villager told us that he is seeing such a huge flood after 1989 massive flood that they faced in the same location, which means this is such a huge disaster has happened after two and a half decades. We first visited the Divisional Secretariat and gathered needed information and permission for the access of temporary shelters and started our journey. A team of twenty volunteers also joined the Save the Children team.
Photo: Save the Children staff reach temporary shelters and evacuation centres by boat. Water level reaches as high as 2 meters in some areas, completely submerging the homes of thousands of families.
The teams got split into four with SC staff, volunteers and their team leaders and arrived at four temporary shelters which were situated in places such as schools, a community center and a temple. Once we were going there we could see children idling here and there with or without their parents. Subsequently we set up the play stations and children were very excited to start their activities. Since there were variety of activities and relevant materials to choose the children according to their age groups started getting engaged in different activities. Some volunteers read books for the children, some sang and play with them, some facilitated them for drawing and the place became very active within a few second.
Earlier the parents were very curious about the concept of play and recreational space at a temporary shelter, as many of them have not experienced any kind of displacement earlier. They later realized that children are becoming very joyful and one mother was mentioning to us she has got bit of a relief as this safe space keep her child happy and protected for some time during the day.
Photo: Evacuation centres after the flood are overcrowded and prove to be a very difficult environment for children and their families after surviving from the ordeal.
The people at the temporary shelters are worried very much as the water levels are not decreasing. Though they have been receiving adequate food and water there are some shortages such as clothing, sanitary items and etc. They are also desperate after thinking and thinking how they are going to rebuild their lives. One mother was saying us with tears “we have lost all the things that we earned so far. We have no clue how we are going to start our lives after we go back homes”
However some children are determined in their education. One child named Shehan who is 12 years old told “though I have lost all my books and notes in them, I will rewrite those after borrowing from a friend”.
At the end of the day headed back to the Save the Children office with the determination that will be assisting these amazing and strong children, not letting their dreams washed away by flood.
Photos and Blogpost by Madhubhashini, Communications Coordinator for Save the Children in Sri Lanka