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Aug 14, 2017

Listen to this! The Impact of Storytelling

Listen to This!
Listen to This!

Storytelling is one of the oldest teaching methods used to educate children. Whether it be to teach cultural identity, a country’s history, health care and hygiene, peace and conflict resolution or even cooking and gardening etc, storytelling as a communication tool can have a lasting impact on children and adults. Storytelling helps to heal the wounds of prejudice, injustice and poverty inflicted on children. According to UNICEF’s Unite for Children publication, storytelling can restore dignity and give due respect to culture and tradition.

Sri Lanka’s population is culturally diverse. While it is composed of four main ethnic communities, there are also many minority communities. The island is representative also of four major religions, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Although the people live a harmonious life interacting culturally and socially with one another, sharing stories and beliefs, there have been quite a few stumbling blocks over the years chiefly due to political intrusion and meddling. 

Based on the current global and local trending thoughts on inter-cultural understanding, a story which we needed to tell particularly to children in Sri Lanka is the story of cultural identity; whether they belong to any of the majority communities Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers or, minority communities like Malays, Parsis, Sindhis, Borahs, Colombo Chetties, Indian Tamils or any other, the country belongs to all of them equally. This is the story which the trustees of The Sunshine Charity facilitated at the storytelling workshop conducted for the Sunshine Children. 

Having given each participating child the book, One Country and One People, we read the story to the children, asked them to read in-between and interacted with them on the narrative page by page. It was a fun and engaging morning for both the children, staff and facilitators.  They loved listening to the story!   

Childhood is a time for storytelling. Most young children need to hear a story many times in- order to understand both the narrative and to be able to relate to the story emotionally. The Sunshine Children attending the day care centre are between the ages of two and five. Keeping this in mind, the staff plan to repeat the storytelling workshop. Obtaining feedback at this stage is not important. It was more important to instil in their young minds, the cultural diversity story. The stories they hear now, can translate into changes in attitudes as they grow older. Exploring the idea of mutual trust, understanding Sri Lanka’s cultural diversity, respecting the difference are among the areas explored. Rasing awareness at a young age can allow the Sunshine Children to become that agent of change in the transformation process and use story to create a multicultural and diverse community.

We are Listening!
We are Listening!
Storytelling
Storytelling
Local compassion
Local compassion
Exploring the Story
Exploring the Story
What fun
What fun
Jun 12, 2017

The Impact of Giving

Vijayalakshmi with her two kids at their home
Vijayalakshmi with her two kids at their home

It is a typical Tuesday afternoon for Vijayalakshmi who works as a cook and cleaner at a Hindu Temple in the remote village of Periyakulam in the Trincomalee District, Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Her two five-year old children had just returned from the day care centre, a twenty-minute ride from Periyakulam. Jersua and Jerusali are twins and have been at the Sunshine Day Care Centre since January 2015. She welcomed them and was happy she did not have to cook a warm meal for the two. “The last two years and three months have been a wonderful experience for my two children who will transfer to a local primary school end of this year. They will miss their tasty lunch-time meal”, She said. The Sunshine Charity raises funds to provide children like Jersua and Jerusali one wholesome nutritious meal and a glass of milk something Vijayalakshmi will have to now provide. “The plan is to find a second job once the children attend primary school,” she said.

It has been just over twelve years since The Sunshine Charity was founded in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami. The organization’s primary objective at the time was to take care of children affected by the devastation through the establishment of a day care centre in Sambalthivu, Trincomalee District. Today, the children attending the Sunshine Day Care Centre include orphaned and vulnerable children and those affected by poverty. Explaining the background to the work, “The Sunshine Charity’s response has been consistent from the time of our founding. With generous but limited funding, we were soon able to purchase a block of land and build a day care facility which could accommodate at least thirty children. Twelve years after, and a second day care building constructed on the same premises, we are able to accommodate more children. A long journey for a small civil society organization but one that has reached credibility among the public in Sri Lanka for its commitment to taking care of vulnerable children between the ages two to six years living in the Eastern Province of the country,” is how the trustees see the progress made by the organization.

Four-year old Madurshika is the younger of the two children. She has been at the Sunshine Day Care Centre since 2015 but will leave end of this year to transfer to a local school. Her mother Janitha is a stay-home mum and her father Ramesh is day labourer. Together they earn very little to pay for essentials like fish or eggs, nursery education, toys or books. “This is why we find the Sunshine Day Care Centre so valuable. The facilities provided for my daughter Madurshika like it was for my son when he was there, helps Ramesh and myself to be less anxious. The one meal provided at day care is wholesome and nutritious. The reading material and creative opportunities available is amazing. There is no other day care centre in the area that gives so much to a child. We really appreciate this,” said Janitha.

Janitha and Ramesh along with their two children live in Janithas’s uncles’ house at a housing scheme in the village of Konnesapuri about half an hour by bus from the day care centre. “We are able to save on rental as a result of living free of charge at my uncle’s house. We also save on pharmaceutical drugs like vitamins and iron as they are provided to our children at the day care. This is a huge help. We also value the medical check-ups, the health and nutrition camps for our children and, also the discussion with mothers hosted by the Sunshine Charity. These discussions help us to be aware of our children’s nutrition and medical needs. The doctors and nutritionist who conduct these camps are from Trincomalee so any follow-up treatment is convenient. We have got to know them over the years which makes it very comfortable,” continued Janitha.

The Sunshine Charity strongly believes that giving can impact both directly and indirectly. Hand-outs maybe good in the short-term but sustainable social philanthropy impacts individuals and communities long-term which is what our organization wants to be engaged with. Staying in touch with donors, sharing with them stories from the field have helped recurring donations and further giving to widen the scope and impact of our work significantly, not only by providing the children with educational tools, play items, medical checks, basic health care, uniforms and one nutritious meal per day but also ensuring that the children and families we work with, have a voice, that their cultural identity is respected, and that they have equal access to resources through the cycle of giving.

The Sunshine Children
The Sunshine Children
Medical Check-up
Medical Check-up
Four-year old Madurshika
Four-year old Madurshika
Five year old Nadaraja
Five year old Nadaraja
Four year old Yadurshika
Four year old Yadurshika
Apr 20, 2017

Changing Lives - Restoring Trust

The Sunshine Charity selected the village of Sambalthivu in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka because of the impoverished status of people living here and in the surrounding areas.  Although we found that the communities we serve were not impacted by absolute poverty, the protracted civil war, followed by the tsunami devastation, their meagre income, social structure, and lack of understanding of basic health needs hinders a moderate quality of life. Lack of proper housing, clean drinking water, the absence of affordable medical and health care, nutritional food and the absence of proper child care facilities have resulted in a cycle of poverty difficult for communities to overcome. It is always the children who get affected the most and it's here that our project has become increasingly important and helpful to the community.

By creating a permanent space for children and providing creative opportunities, educational tools, reading material, an engaging staff, recreation facilities and one wholesome and nutritious meal, the project has helped improve the situation for the children of this district, as well as for their families. 

Our experiences show that conducting health and nutrition workshops with local hospital doctors have helped to significantly improve the health care needs of the children. By conducting these workshops at the day care premises, mothers are able to discuss their children's health needs and follow-up treatment in a child friendly environment, become more proactive and play a participatory role in their children's health.The medical programme includes the provision of vitamin and iron tablets, worming treatment as well as shoes to prevent worm infection. Doctors have time at such health camps to explain to the mothers their children’s health and nutritional needs.

The Sunshine Charity’s response has been consistent from the time of our founding. With generous but limited funding we were soon able to purchase a block of land and build a day care facility which could accommodate at least thirty children. Twelve years after, and a second day care building constructed on the same premises, we are able to accommodate more children.  A long journey for a small civil society organization but one that has reached credibility among the public in Sri Lanka for its commitment to taking care of vulnerable children between the ages two to six years.

Motivated by the parents and staff over the last years, the charity expects to move onto establishing a pre-school in the newly constructed building on the same premises. “We would like our children to spend time here as the facilities provided are far superior to other day care centres in the district, but we would be happy if our children can leave the facility with a pre-school certificate which will help in them with admission to the local school,” is how many mothers related their stories.

We hear their stories at the day care centre as well as when we visit them at their homes. Their stories have inspired us to continue our work in a meaningful and sustainable way.  This amazing opportunity maybe ours but they are really the agents of change for this and the next generation of mothers and children.

 
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