As posted by the Seaforth Expositor, November 2, 2015.
At first sight the mud hut woven with sticks and twigs appears to be a place where goats or oxen might call home, but that is not the case, this is someone’s house.
These types of homes in Sri Lanka are similar to most in the nation, which are constructed in a way not well-known to North Americans. The main building components are what’s identified as wattle and daub, a material usually assembled with a mixture of clays, plant fibers, and sometimes even cow dung. Long-time Tuckersmith Township resident Chris Hills said the woman who owned the dwelling was “absolutely overjoyed” and proud to show the guests her lodging.
“She was excited at her new house, as you and I would, if we got a new duplex in a sub-division down the road”, said Hills, who is from the organization called Sleeping Children Around the World.
The Canadian non-profit organization specializes in the donation of beds and since 1970 when the charity first touched ground, they’ve raised over $23 million to arrange bed kits for children in 33 countries. In 2009 they achieved the goal of providing a bed to a million children.
Hills has been connected to the charity since the early 80’s and this visit marked his second time travelling to Sri Lanka. He touched down on September 23 and left October 11, an arrival and departure that is an “extremely emotional” time for the veteran volunteer. From the first time travelling, which he refers to as “parachuting” to the developing country, it didn’t seem as bad as he had heard.
“There was these gorgeous dressed Sri Lankan women, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, I said to the one of the volunteers, I’ve got pictures of women in (beautiful) sarees. It (will) be difficult to go back Canada and say that these people are penniless,” Hills stated in an interview at the Expositor office.
What the unpaid helper was not aware of is that this vibrant ethnic clothing was not theirs, the volunteer told Hills that these items are borrowed because they knew the offerings group was coming.
The volunteer explained, “what (we are) doing here is bigger than any birthday, wedding or any Christmas and what they are wearing is from friends, relatives. You’ll see them tomorrow, they won’t be wearing that.”
Before each family is given the $35 bed kit an interview process is required for each donee. This is essential for the perspective in case a modification is needed. After the meeting is done the children and parents are smiling ear to ear, said Hills.
“You talk to them in the parent interview, you ask them about the bed kit, you ask silly questions, is it useful? They look at you, yeah even the bag it comes in,” enlightened Hills.
The gear usually included a plastic mat to keep the children off the dirt in their houses, a mosquito net, school supplies, pair of socks and this year they added a pair of shoes to the kit.
These simple gifts keep the poverty-stricken families in Sri Lanka happy, a reaction that puzzles the three-decade volunteer who is originally from England.
“You’ll often have the translator, parents and the Canadian in tears over what’s being talked about, this is daily life.( I don’t know) how they wake up smiling in the morning, but they do," Hills said.