03/25/2005: "MinnesotaHelpsSriLanka: Easter weekend review from Group 2"
Here is our Group 2 week in review, Happy Easter to all.
The building team continues to give their sweat equity down at the village site. The community center is coming along nicely. The half wall is nearly done and the foundation and staging area are being prepared. Homes are quickly getting rebuilt as the building teams work with the village masons. From a personal note: watching our building volunteers in action is really inspiring - they are some of the most dedicated solid workers I have seen. They came here to build and once they were able to start - they dug in with all their might.
The village loves their new playground equipment and keeps the volleyball courts busy at all hours. The soup kitchen is starting to have some regular feeds. Everyone really enjoys coming together as it shows a sense of village solidarity.
The nursing crew spent some time in refugee camp settings. They also set up some day clinics in villages treating old wounds. They also were gracious to go to the girls orphanage to clean and paint two rooms. The girls were thrilled with the violet blue hue of their bedrooms. Never underestimate the nurses as they also went to the building site and helped with adding rubble to the community center base to prepare for the concrete pour. Plus, the nurses made many hundreds of aid bags to distribute as care to various village areas.
The teachers worked hard organizing all our supplies (we have a ton of them) to prepare for distribution. They were also elated to be able to purchase some mattresses, kerosene stoves, washbasins, milk and other aid items for a refugee camp/school that they are working in. This week was hard in the village as it is the 3-month anniversary of the tsunami and many villagers were upset about some after shocks coming on the weekend. The teachers work to help the children and the adults become reacclimated with the ocean. The teachers also helped with some muscle work and by cleaning at the community center.
Many of us were able to attend a parliament session to hear how the political process works here in Sri Lanka. We came away with the same frustration as we see in America. Few politicians were present - lots of talking occurred - and no action was taking place. Our Minnesota group did get a mention and that will be recorded in the minutes as part of governmental history. Some in the government want to tax all the billions of aid money the government has been given. This does not sit well with the people who are in need. It appears many politicians really have little first-hand knowledge of the working problems that are occurring in refugee camps.
We were treated to a nice light lunch and then taken to see one of the politicians’ mansions. It added more clarity to the caste division within the country.
One of the villagers gets married this weekend, so some of our volunteers will be attending to see how the cultural marriage ceremony varies from the US. Other group members will be going to a "spirit ceremony" to help commemorate the loss from the tsunami. Several of the volunteers are Catholic and will be attending Sinhalese Easter Services so they can experience how Sri Lankans celebrate Easter.
It has been interesting to hear some of the loud-recorded music coming from the area churches over this holy weekend.
The group coordinator and I went a nice young family's (middle class) home in Negombo where we were treated to a wonderful supper - that was prepared to please our Minnesota taste buds. We met the husband, who is a singer at the hotel/beach where we go on Sundays. He has a beautiful voice and we enjoy his American versions of popular songs by the Beatles, Bee Gees, Moody Blues, etc. He was taken by the nice ways of the Minnesotan crew and thus a new friendship was formed. That is some of the positive we take away from our journey to Sri Lanka.
We have our ups and downs but overall we are glad we have been given this opportunity to come to a country that none of us had known before. We will come away with stories to share as we return to America on April 6th. Time is flying by as we enter our 4th week into this endeavor. We send all our loved ones, families and friends good thoughts.
Sincerely, Pam - Group 2 Communications Coordinator