April 7 2020
SOS Children’s Villages Offers a Lending Hand to Struggling Sri Lankans
The COVID-19 is an unprecedented pandemic that hit Sri Lanka in the mid-week of March. The country has never seen such a predicament in its history, thus making it an extreme challenge for its government to counter the problem with necessary measures such as medical and quarantine facilities, social support systems, safety regulations etc. Yet, the Sri Lankan government has done a great job in tackling the pandemic with available resources that has proven to be one of the most effective in Asia. The country has been in a state of lockdown since the 20th of March with certain areas being given temporary freedom for movement. Depending on the severity, some areas were marked as red zones that saw even tighter control measures. Now, the government is taking steps to ease the workforce back to their jobs by gradually lifting the lockdown.
SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka was able to do its part to the best of its capabilities in contributing to the social support system dynamic of the matter via its Family Strengthening Programme. Currently, there are 1454 families benefitting from this programme through 9 different locations scattered across the country. Predominantly, these families live below the poverty line, engaged in daily labour, street vending, farming, fishing, and other types of work that yield a meagre income. Out of them, 677 families were identified as in need of urgent support, since the curfew imposed had stripped them of their daily income due to the drop in demand for their work. In addition, they do not have a secondary source of income to sustain themselves through these times. The survey to identify these families was conducted by SOS Children’s Villages in coordination with pre-existing Community Based Organizations (CBO) that were initially set up by SOS Family Strengthening Centres in respective locations.
Despite of the strict curfew imposed, SOS Children’s Villages was able to provide all 677 families with relief packages worth LKR 1000 each. Each package contained rice, canned fish, spices, and dry rations. This has been a life-saver for them and were gratefully accepted with teary eyes. One could only wonder how long they would have had to bear hunger if these packages had not reached them on time. The biggest challenge was to organize the required purchases and arrange deliveries of these relief packages to identified families in need without breaking curfew regulations. This was overcome with the support received from government authorized wholesalers who also offered to make deliveries using their vehicles which had special curfew passes issued by authorities. Not just relief packages, these families were also sent leaflets indicating clearly all precautionary measures that needs to be taken to protect themselves from the coronavirus. They were also provided with safety items such as face masks and hand wash. At a time when almost all economic activity has come to a standstill, it was no easy feat to organize such community projects. Fortunately, the confidence and reputation government and the community has on SOS Children’s Villages helped SOS staff a lot when coordinating these activities.
Deliveries began on the 2nd of April that ensured all 652 families received the aid they were hopefully waiting for with much expectation. It is noteworthy that all of this was done without making direct contact with the beneficiaries, but instead through efficient and effective coordination carried out by staff of SOS Children’s Villages, especially the ones involved in the Family Strengthening Programme. It would not have been possible without the involvement of the National Director of SOS Children’s Villages and all Project and Village Heads who worked together as one SOS Family to make this a reality.