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Meeting My Hero

Today I visited two of the relief villages set up for the displaced families. Both were 100 acres each in size. One could not see the end of these villages as rows and rows of  temporary houses and tents covered almost the entire land. In Ramantathn Village our team was distributing  household packs for the families. Once again there were queues of people waiting to receive aid. Today, the team has made the complete packs and the distribution was easy. It had to be done that way as we had planned to provide for 800 families.

I could not help noticing long lines of people waiting to collect water. Water seems to be a problem, I found out as I spoke to some of the people. It was 40 degrees Celsius today and water was essential. Later in the day, I attended a meeting with the Competent Authority for Relief Work and was pleased to see that things were moving faster to establish proper mechanisms and that he was keen to ensure that services provided as soon as possible.

The highlight of my day was meeting my colleague Eswaran who was the Deputy District Manger of our programme in Kilinochchi. Just to give a background as to how he became my hero; When the Government of Sri Lanka asked us to vacate the Vanni Region in September 2008, Eswaran and 25 other staff members were not allowed by the LTTE to leave the region. The team led by Eswaran continued to work for the people by becoming volunteers to the Government Agent.  They worked under extremely difficult circumstances and remained committed to the values of Save the Children. He was nominated for the Award of Courage at the Save the Children awards and was the recipient of the same.

When I walked into his tent, he greeted me with the same warmth that I was so used to. He was someone who always invited me to Kilinochchi assuring me that he will be my ‘human guarantee’. But for security reasons I was never able to visit the area.

‘It’s so good to see you Eswaran’ I said. My voice was cracking as I held back the tears. I was so glad to see him alive and well. He told me all about how he managed to escape. Three days inside a bunker and finally walking over to the Government area as the Military launched its rescue operation. He has even accompanied a 14 year old daughter of a government official and brought her to safety. His own daughter was injured and his wife is also at a hospital. Even now, all he wants to do is to come out of the relief village and work with Save the Children team in the relief work.  At 62, I was amazed to see his zest for social work.  I told him all about how I nominated for the Save the Children award and how he ended up the winner. He was pleased but his ego ( if there was one) remained unmoved.

It was amazing to sit with him on the same mat. As I write this my eyes are moist with happy tears. Such a great colleague and an exemplary human being. It was a great hounour to meet my hero finally and crown him with all the respect and awe I held in my heart for all these months.

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