SOS Children’s Village Monragala: Miracles of transformations

The miracle of reunions, the miracle of survival, the miracle of transformation—SOS is the catalyst of many such stories of transition and triumph. Whether it is six day-old abandoned baby like Ishan now flourishing at the SOS Children’s Village Monragala, Sri Lanka, or youths like Maheshand Sayurirising far beyond their own expectations to reach for the stars.
The wooden stage comes alive in a burst of riotous colors, as children dressed in bright costumes resplendent with golden head-gear, begin a vigorous dance; it is the final dress rehearsal of the Holiday Camp competition at the SOS Children’s Village, Moonragala. Supporting the artists off-stage and seated right below, dressed in white, are the equally talented child singers and musicians, matching beat for beat. Fourteen year-old Ishan, focused entirely on the harmonium he is playing, is unaware of the attention he sometimes still attracts from people as the ‘Tsunami boy’.  It is after all, a time and incident he would prefer to erase from his memory.

The small-built, shy Ishan was brought to the SOS Children’s Village Moonragala as a six day-old baby and since then, had an extremely close bond with his SOS mother Malani; this bond has only been strengthened further after the Tsunami-related trauma ten years ago.

53 year-old Malani begins the tale, “I was taking four year-old Ishan to my own home in Tangalle on Boxing Day, a decade ago, when our bus was engulfed with water near Hambantota. I remember screaming and swallowing water. I was holding Ishan but then lost consciousness and woke up only at the hospital, realizing that the child was not with me. Frantic with worry and crying non-stop, I asked everyone to start searching for him. The SOS Children’s Village Director also came and started a massive hunt. They asked me to go back to the Village but I refused. I decided if Ishan wasn’t found I would never return. After a long search we were able to find Ishan in the children’s ward, his clothes had been ripped off; he was in shock and for a long time he couldn’t bear to even hear the word ‘Hambantota’. He would also not allow me out of his sight. For a year I didn’t go home, my family would visit me here,” she concludes.

Ishan’s serious little face breaks into a spontaneous smile as he admits he is SOS Mother Malani’s favorite, “ I feel happy to have a mother like her, to stay with her, she brings me things I like when she returns from her village, she helps me with my studies so that I do well and she’s there for me always. She loves me a lot and I still sleep with her.” Ishan says his Tsunami memories are fading slowly, so are the fears—Malani in turn ensured that she spent a lot more time talking to Ishan to help him cope with his trauma; she also took him along to her village several times.

“SOS takes care of abandoned children like me …” says Ishan somberly, sitting on a grassy slope outside his house in the Village. “ It is a very good place to live in, I feel very happy in this house with this family—no different from any ‘family’ I see on TV, they are my own brothers and sisters; I like celebrating my birthday with them—I wear a new suit, cut a cake and have a lot of fun. And when I become an engineer, I will take my Mother to live with me,” says Ishan smiling happily.

The miracle of reunions, the miracle of survival, the miracle of transformation—SOS is the catalyst of many such stories of transition and triumph.

Whether it is tiny, three-day malnourished, abandoned babies now flourishing at the Village or children rising far beyond their own expectations to reach for the stars.

Seuwandi is often termed a ‘lucky house’ in the SOS Children’s Village Moonragala as it produces the maximum number of Advanced level students; House Mother Lalitha is justifiably proud of her students, especially 20 year-old Dilrukthika who has recently got admission in the Police force to become a constable. “I am lucky to have lived in a place like SOS and got a chance to study. I may never have got such facilities to enable me to enter the police force” says Yashodagratefully. She has also won 13 different medals for various sports such as volleyball and athletics.

20 year-old Sayuriwas just four when she came to SOS along with her siblings; she credits her education and her goal of becoming a dance teacher to the encouragement she received at SOS over the years. Her SOS mother Jayantha’s mission to make sure all of the children find a ‘good place in life’ is well on its way to fulfillment, with University degrees becoming a common aspirational goal.

21 year-old Maheshis among the earliest and most earnest disciples of the teachings of SOS, vowing to carry forward the values taught to him in his chosen profession of marine engineering. “I was only 7 years old when I first came to SOS. I had lost my parents one after another; later my sister died as well. At SOS I got a loving home with a mother, siblings, aunties, uncles, friends and a school to study. From that day onwards I started to rebuild my life. SOS helped with advice on everything. My SOS Mother corrected my mistakes, taught me how to live in society. I will become a captain in the sea one day and make them all proud!” declares Maheshstrongly.  

Divakar, who has watched Mahesh grow into adult-hood, helps him sort out legal documents and certificates needed for his marine courses before joining the children and staff for evening prayers in the open grounds outside.

As the sun sets over the sprawling, layered, green carpet-like lawns ringed with majestic trees and cloudy hills beyond, the melodious chants of young voices raised in a Buddhist prayer fills the open skies with hope and optimism; the lamp lit in front of the statue of the Buddha burns brighter.
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