A Place to Call Home: From Floods to Freedom

By Anita Ramesh

Before the devastating floods ripped through Sri Lanka in late 2014, Mithuja and Nivanraj lived in a small, tin-roof cottage with their grandmother in the impoverished village of Aaryampathy.

When torrential rainfall pounded the Batticaloan countryside and triggered massive floods, more than a million people were affected. More than 6,000 homes were destroyed, another 16,000 homes were damaged, and 37 people lost their lives, according to Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center.

Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), the international arm of BCFS, operates a foster care program in two of the hardest hit cities in the region, Batticaloa and Weligama. CERI connects orphans in the region with loving family members and provides food, clothing and case management to the displaced children and their caregivers.

Nivanraj and Mithuja came to CERI as 9- and 4-year-old orphans. Their grandmother, Maheswary, cared for them and three other adult children of her own – all under one roof in a shabby tin structure.

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When the flooding began, CERI teams trudged through waterlogged streets searching for children and families in danger. CERI operated an emergency shelter for dozens of displaced foster families whose homes were destroyed.

“We could survive on biscuits when there was nothing else to eat,” said Mithuja’s grandmother. “CERI cared for us and never left us alone. They brought us and kept us in a safe place until the flood receded and offered groceries and medicine. They built a shelter for us.”

Mithuja and Nivanraj’s home was wiped out in the flood. The entire family of six crammed into a temporary shelter, powerless to rebuild everything that was lost. CERI gave them food, clothing and water, and CERI case managers worked to ensure the children could continue their schooling. Mithuja and Nivanraj found peace by studying their schoolbooks by the glow of an oil lamp.

But there was, indeed, a light at the end of the tunnel. CERI pledged to build the family a new home.

Construction began at daybreak on a Saturday. The family, CERI staff and a volunteer crew gathered together for early morning prayer before laying the first stone. About a month later, Mithuja, Nivanraj and their family moved into their brand new 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom home, complete with electricity, plumbing, a kitchen and a dining room. The family is humble and thankful.

“Your love and care resembles that of a mother on her child that we can’t forget,” says Mithuja. “Jesus has compassion on us and he rewards us with unexpected blessings. It’s like a dream and Jesus has fulfilled our desire. We thank the Lord from the bottom of our hearts.”

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