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When All is Lost

Today I arrived in Vavuniya after a 6 hour journey. While the rest of the country was resting on their sunny Saturday, Vavuniya has still not taken a break from serving the internally displaced communities. While some of my colleagues  attended a meeting with the Government officials, some others were registering newly arrived families in order to provide them with the essential items. I was so proud to see the team engaged in such work (though not at all surprised).

I joined the team in the afternoon for the distribution. A big Save the Children lorry arrived at the Gamini Vidyalaya welfare camp. Quickly we were joined by a group of volunteers from among the displaced community. A gang of able young men laid a tarpaulin sheet on the ground and started unloading boxes of clothing, kitchen items, hygiene items such as soaps, sanitary napkins, disinfectant, tooth paste, tooth brushes together with sacks of mosquito nets, floor mats, buckets, Jerry Cans… you name it; everything that a family who have lost all else but their self worth, need.

The team had organized women and men separately and prioritized mothers with children and females who were injured to receive assistance first. There were many who had bandages on themselves. Two to three women I noticed had metal screws on their limbs to keep the injured bones in place.

‘The bones in my upper arm have been broken in 3 places’ A young mother told me.

Her son was almost glued to her.  Pain was written all over their faces as they stood in line with their children. I managed to steal a smile or two from the children as I hung around the distribution area. I started taking photos of the distribution.  But I did not do it for long. Soon I realized that the team definitely would need extra hands, especially a pair of female hands as it is culturally inappropriate for men to hand out female under garments. I felt so uncomfortable clicking my camera when others were working and more so when I saw the hundreds of people waiting in queue. So I stepped in, to be the distributor of ladies’ dresses, under garments and sanitary napkins.

The distribution went up till eight o’clock in the night. Even in the night, under very poor light Save the Children team and volunteers were distributing the items until they ran out of stocks. With the solemn promise of returning soon we had to leave.  Fifteen year old Janakan who was zestfully helping us came and shook my hand
‘Thank you sister, I will see you soon.’ He said.

An old mother came up to me and stroked my face affectionately.
‘Thank you’ she said. That very moment I was not thinking of myself. I was thinking of all the donors both individual as well as institutional who help us do all this work for the displaced families. If they had been there, words would not have been enough to express the satisfaction of making such a difference to people who have lost all their belongings.

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