…There are many care leavers there that do not have enough food to live on.
Food Distribution in Northern Central Province
In July 2022 Brighter Path carried out a large project in the Northern Central Province of Sri Lanka. This is a remote area of the country, about 200 km north of Colombo, parts of which can be difficult to access. Daily life is a struggle for many families in the area that typically live in small huts in the forest, or in paddy fields far from the main roads. Harvests have been poor in the last few years because of government policies banning the use of fertiliser, and there has been ongoing conflict with wild bull elephants that destroy crops, flatten huts, and trample farmers. There are many care leavers there that do not have enough food to live on. This situation has been exacerbated by the severe fuel shortages that have reduced food supplies arriving from other parts of the island and isolated the many people who cannot access the local town of Anuradhapura.
Brighter Path has responded by organising an emergency food distribution programme of 75 emergency ration packs. Each ration pack contained lentils, flour, chickpeas, onions, chillies, spices, cereals fortified with micronutrients, dried fish, soya meat and a 10kg sack of rice. The packs also provided soap, toothpaste, and sanitary products.
The logistics of our operation were complex. In particular obtaining enough petrol to drive to Anuradhapura from Colombo and back was very challenging, since there was no fuel at all in the Anuradhapura region.
We provided packs to three distinct groups in need. Firstly, care leavers either living on their own or with their young families. Secondly, to orphaned children who have moved in with relatives or neighbours. Finally, to families with young children living in extreme poverty. The assistance to this last group, known as ‘family strengthening,’ seeks to keep families together and to prevent parents giving up their children due to abject poverty. A small amount of help can make a real difference and reduces the number of children entering the care system.
As our Sri Lanka colleagues set about delivering the ration packs, often to the most remote dwellings hidden away at the end of small forest roads, they heard tale after tale of hardship. During one such encounter, they spoke to a young care-leaver mother who has struggled to care for her baby and young son without a reliable income after her husband was killed by an elephant trying to protect their crops.
In addition to the food distribution, Brighter Path was able to provide 60 packs of school supplies to children in need. There is a national shortage of paper and stationary, and with prices rocketing, the poorest have nothing to write on. These packs will enable children to continue going to school or to carry on studying at home if their school has closed due to fuel shortages.
We were delighted to welcome British High Commissioner Sarah Hulton OBE to visit one of our transition homes today. Sarah was given a tour of the house by one of …