FODAD in COVID-19 time
A year ago, we were in Sri Lanka. Arriving at the airport, we went through a temperature scan and at the hotel we were given masks and told to use hand-gel whenever we came in or out. Security on the door was strict and had been since the Easter 2019 bombings but tourism was picking up again. It’s hard to believe that a year on, we are still living through the pandemic and haven’t been able to return to Sri Lanka. However despite the difficulties and challenges, there has been no break in continuity of FODAD's support for its projects.
Where We Left Off
After one of our most successful trips for Friends of Della and Don, we left Sri Lanka on March 1st 2020. We were excited by the way things were going at the Government school we support, by the successes of some of the children we had known for 16 years, by the constant use of our clinic and the children supported through it and most of all by how well the village children were doing through attendance at our schoolroom on the beach. We had enjoyed a memorable day out with the girls whom we had first met at an orphanage in 2005. We had supported their schooling. Now many of them are married, some now with children. We had a brilliant time reliving our memories. We hired a bus, and they sang all the way to the resort we visited and then all the way back. Their husbands and children joined us too. We should have been back to Sri Lanka in October and there now. We are always there in February. Some of you may know what FODAD has been doing in the time of Covid through Facebook or Instagram but for the many of you who are not on those platforms, here is a quick update.
FODAD & COVID
On March 23rd, 2020 Sri Lanka imposed a nationwide curfew that has remained in place on and off since then. Airports and ports were closed and Sri Lankans who repatriated had to stay in approved quarantine hotels or government camps. Sri Lanka has registered less than 400 deaths.
The impact on both the economy, employment and education has been severe.
Our village is dependent on fishing or on employment at the hotel. Fish markets shut down and the hotel closed to tourists – resulting in mass unemployment.
Thanks to Smartphones we have been in touch with Udaya (the fisherman who runs almost everything for us) at least once a week.
Our schoolroom teachers are part-time and for each discipline only teach once a week. We continued to pay them. They all have families, and we see them as members of the FODAD team.
When schools briefly reopened for a short time, we made sure that we followed government guidelines in our own school room. It was thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and we supplied hand-gel and masks for everyone. Every day, the beach is cleaned. There is much greater understanding around the importance of plastic disposal and the danger it poses to the environment and their livelihoods in the village.
Covid safety measures
We have supplied food and emergency funds in the village and paid medical bills when necessary. In May we were delighted when Rasanga who attends our schoolroom got 3 As in her O’level exams which she had taken the previous December. This was solely due to her attendance in the schoolroom and her own determination and brains of course.
Smith, whom we had visited with such pride, in his first month at teacher training college could not do his online lessons when the college closed. He was the only student without a laptop or internet connection. FODAD bought him a computer and supplied internet, so he can participate online in his lessons alongside his classmates.
On December 26th we joined the children virtually as we commemorated the deaths of those who died in the 2004 Tsunami and at New Year, we arranged for the children from our village to have a party on the beach. We joined it briefly on WhatsApp. They were having the best of times.
Throughout, we have been extremely touched by the messages of concern from people in Sri Lanka we have known during the past sixteen years. They have been horrified by the numbers in the UK and worried about us because we are “old”. One of the hotel employees sends us a daily message. Our charity is so personal and we know almost everyone who has benefited through donations. We hope you feel as if you know them also.
Today, we heard that the schools may be allowed to reopen next week, and I am hoping to hear that our small clinic will reopen also. As I write the schoolroom is being refurbished, the benches and chair repainted and we are keeping our fingers crossed! As always, a huge thanks to all of our supporters (moral and financial) for allowing us to continue what we do during these extremely challenging times!