Oct 19, 2016

Learning from Failure - Why Due Diligence is Important

Meeting with Mothers
Meeting with Mothers

Learning from Failure

Why Due Diligence is Important

 

-          by Sharadha de Saram – Project Leader

 

The Sunshine Charity was founded in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami primarily to take care of children affected by the devastation through the establishment of a day care centre in Sambalthivu, Trincomalee District, Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. Today, the children attending the Sunshine Day Care Centre include orphaned and vulnerable children and those affected by poverty. This then was the principal objective of the Charity’s mandate – to take care of children.

Gaining recognition through endorsements and the media, both electronic and print, the Charity was riding high. Encouraged with more giving by both local and international donors, our work expanded. Increased funding allowed us to invest in setting-up a playground, purchase educational toys, build a library, provide uniforms and arrange outings for the children. We also improved on the health and nutrition of the children which became a core area of our work. We next introduced regular medical clinics, the provision of pharmaceutical drugs and worming treatment, sandals to prevent worm infection and many creative opportunities to stimulate the children.

Looking back on the numerous projects implemented we, the trustees together with the community we served, the care givers and the different partner organizations we worked with, were proud of the achievements. We were moving forward. With many of the day care centres closed due to the lack of funding, the Sunshine Day Care Centre was still in operation and how!

It was around the sixth year of operation that we met with our first failure. Though our chief aim was to take care of children and our work was intended with and for children, our ambitions for widening the scope of work without giving thought to the primary objective and not conducting the vital due diligence allowed us to fail forward.

Our story began during a field visit to Trincomalee when we met Rohini, the mother of one of our children at a meeting with mothers. “I would like to have my own home-garden but I am a bit scared as I have no knowledge of keeping accounts. We only have bananas growing. It would be good if we can grow some vegetables, especially as our house has water on tap. The income can help the family immensely,” she said.  Our emotions got the better of us and. With a head-on approach we decided to initiate a livelihood programme for the mothers of our children. Establishing home gardens would generate the much needed income and keep aside some home grown vegetables for the family, we thought.

Fast tracking our new idea, we went a step further. We built a home garden on the day care centre compound. Though we thought a Kid’s Garden would be an innovative programme for the children and generate some money for the day care centre, we were to learn a bitter lesson from the experiment. It was not only “water on tap” that was necessary but more-so some basic knowledge and above all passion for home gardening which the mothers of our children did not have. None of the members of staff or the care givers were really interested in the programme either and had even less knowledge on agricultural practices. The children were helpless. We had not conducted the proper due diligence and more importantly, by introducing a livelihood programme, we had gone out of the organization’s primary objective which was to take care of children.

The Sunshine Charity has been invited to participate in numerous programmes from partnering with elder’s homes, providing infrastructural support to existing projects, partnering with IT projects for youth etc., We do feel privileged but we will not make the same mistake by going out of the organization’s mandate. Another success of the fail forward experiment was that we realized our mistake early enough to avoid investing too much time and funds.  We took responsibility.

The lesson learnt is that work can expand but we need to focus on the primary objective of the organization and the organization’s mission. The experience also helped us to improve our work.  We have widened our scope of work to grow at a national level and not confine ourselves only locally through a day care centre – and yet continue serving children.

I would like to have my own homegarden
I would like to have my own homegarden
Kids Garden
Kids Garden
Kids Garden
Kids Garden

Attachments:
Aug 25, 2016

Creating Equality, Closing Gaps, Building Trust

a page from the book One Country and One People
a page from the book One Country and One People

Creating Equality, Closing Gaps, Building Trust

-          An innovative and creative initiative for children

by Sharadha de Saram – Project Leader

The Sunshine Charity together with Sri Lanka’s largest grass-root movement, the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movemnt launched the initiative, ‘Investing in Children’ based on the story ‘One Country and One People’. The story, originally written in English conveys creatively and positively the island’s colourful cultural fabric that weaves our nation’s people – from the colonial period of the Portuguese, Dutch and British to Independence of the country and what followed. The story goes on to explain the different ethnic groups that live on the island and the different faiths practiced.

As the forward in the book explains:

 “At a time when we were children, we grew up with less hatred and mistrust that we find among our different ethnic and religious groups today. Times have changed, chiefly due to the continuous misjudging of events by most of us, whether we be policy makers, religious leaders, teachers or parents. The rapid changes that followed within our society soon led to major conflicts and confrontations between the different communities, eventually resulting in an ethnic war that served no purpose.                                                                                        

But war is not the only factor that divides us. If our attitudes do not change, the colorful fabric that once wove us together will slowly perish and disappear forever. This will result in long lasting ill effects for our children”.

In order to reach out to a wider audience, the story has been translated into the Sinhala and Tamil languages, spoken by the majority of people. The book will be distributed free of charge to children’s groups, clubs and community centres across the island. Reading workshops will be conducted alongside when children will read from the book and discuss the story while conveying their perceptions on multi-culturalism.

Sri Lanka like most other Asian countries consider Health, Nutrition and Education as the more important areas for investing in children. Although these are certainly some of the most fundamental rights of children, we have to consider removing inequality, discrimination and prejudices as equally important if we are to let our children build trust and close the gaps.

Both The Sunshine Charity and Sarvodaya have worked independently towards creating equal, inclusive and a tolerant society where children of all cultural backgrounds can live without bias or prejudices. This time, ‘Investing in Children’ will bring the two organizations together to implement the project as a civil society initiative, which will encourage children to embrace multi-culturalism and celebrate the difference in diversity.

Sharing knowledge, expressing opinions, telling stories is not something practiced usually or used commonly as a form of communication. It can however, help and contribute immensely in the recovery and healing process to build mutual understanding. Talking to one another and expressing opinions in a group can enrich the thought-flow significantly among children and adults. In this project, facilitated by the children and supported by educationalist, children will be encouraged to express their sentiments, attitudes and views on how they perceive Sri Lanka’s multi-cultural heritage. The discussion will be open, enriching and stimulating, adopting a theme not often explained to children either at school or home. As a result, children grow up unaware of the multi-cultural history of the country. Misconceptions must be addressed early in a child’s life and this is what the project envisions.

The children attending The Sunshine Day Care Centre will participate in the island-wide initiative. The future is in their hands too. As they grow-up they could be the agents of change – at school and in their communities. The seed that was planted in their young minds will certainly contribute to creating equality, close the gaps and build mutual trust in their generation.

another page from the book
another page from the book
the story continues
the story continues
Sunshine Children enjoy picture telling
Sunshine Children enjoy picture telling
Together we shall learn
Together we shall learn
Learning to write
Learning to write
Jun 1, 2016

Local Compassion for Sunshine Kids

Local Compassion for Sunshine Kids

-          providing access to sight and hearing examinations

by Sharadha de Saram – Project Leader

In-spite of the recent flash floods and landslides caused by heavy rains which displaced around six-hundred thousand people from their homes and killed more than one hundred people with many more still missing, we were able to travel to the east coast of the island, where the Sunshine Day Care Centre is located. A few days of good weather encouraged us to make the visit to update ourselves on the situation and the needs of the children. We were also able to conduct the planned eye and hearing test for the children. Qualified Optometrists and Audiologists examined the eyes and hearing of the twenty-seven Sunshine Children, (fewer due to the flooding) who attended the camp. Accompanied by mothers and one father, the consultants looked for early signs of eye diseases and the sensitivity of the child’s hearing. The eye examination and hearing screening were arranged and conducted by Vision Care Optical Services, Trincomalee.

The Sunshine Charity’s mission is to take care of vulnerable children at the Sunshine Day Care Centre in the Trincomalee District, by providing one nutritious meal, creative opportunities, space to interact with other children, learning material and trained staff members who understand the needs of the children. In addition, workshops and camps like the eye and hearing camp conducted, the children are also provided with pharmaceutical drugs and worming treatment, shoes to prevent worming infection and uniforms.

Working with vulnerable children we often ask ‘what makes our children vulnerable’? We are made to understand that vulnerability is all about self-protection. What does this then mean to us, is what we ask next. Resource centres working on policies relating to vulnerable children, say that children particularly between the ages of one to six are considered always vulnerable. Making this age group the Sunshine Day Care Centre’s primary target group we are glad that over the last ten years, we have addressed areas such as physical and mental disability, the child’s emotional and behavioral problems particularly passive, shy and withdrawn, powerlessness including being unable to defend themselves, and acute illnesses, which the resource centres have identified as among the most vulnerable characteristics of children.

In their report, Vision Care Optical Services were happy to share the good news that none of the twenty-seven children they examined had any eye problems. In-fact, the children, they said had six-six vision which means none of them need any spectacles. There were two children however who needed follow-up on their hearing disability which will be done at the Vision Care services centre in Trincomalee town.

 
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