Date Month 2000
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First-aid for village under fire

By Mallika Wanigasundara

Saman, Bandara, Ajanta, Janake, Chitra, Kumari, Sudath, Namal, Sumanawathie, Gnanalatha and several others - ten boys and ten girls from Tampitiya in the Eastern province followed a five-day in-house training course in first aid at the Dharmavijaya Foundation. Tampitiya ten miles from Maha Oya is an endangered village, which comes under mortar fire frequently from the LTTE.

All these young people have faced mortar fire, suffered trauma, and sorrow seeing the bodies of their loved ones, home guards and security services personnel being brought home. When the LTTE cadres come stealthily into the village or into the fields and kill young and old, women and children, cut off the ears of the dead sometimes, they have only the protection of the most vulnerable of security personnel-the home guards.

Tampitiya has 50 home guards to protect this village of 450 families. There are three security camps but it takes time to inform them with no telephone and even the siren broken down. Two years ago the LTTE attacked the village and 17 people were killed including home guards and STF personnel. On Vesak poya day five people were killed three years ago at Kosgolla nearby and the villages abandoned the village and moved to Tampitiya.

The Tampitiya folk have dug their heels in and are determined to stay. These stout-hearted people hang onto their lands and in any case have nowhere to go. Life goes on. At night often they sleep in the jungle or they huddle together in the houses in the middle of the village away from the periphery. Often you can hear the firing, said Saman.

So what do these hapless villagers have? They have 500 acres of cultivable land, but all the families get together and cultivate 25-30 acres close to their houses and the army camps. It is too dangerous to venture further, they say. They have a nursery school, a school, a post office, a Co-op, and a temple which is their safe house, and their illusion of security. The monk is their comfort and their protector.

There is one bus and it runs from Ampara, through Tampitiya to Maha Oya, which is where the hospital is, ten miles away. This is why the Dharmavijaya Foundation thought it is important to teach first-aid to these young people.

But first about the bus. If you want to go to the hospital, at Maha Oya, Kumari one of the trainees explained, say with a sick child, you take the bus early morning from Tampitiya. If you are lucky, she said, you can board the bus again at Maha Oya at around 4.30/5 pm for the return journey. But often, said Chitra and Kumari, the bus does not return. So you have to spend the night in the bus stand, hungry sometimes.

It is too far to walk and it is dangerous. Which means that if someone takes ill at night, you have to wait till morning. Bicycles are the main mode of transport, but not at night. So a knowledge of first-aid is most useful, said the young people. If someone is injured by mortar fire, they could try to stop the bleeding, treat the injured, provide first-aid for a broken bone, shock and snake bite .

The three Army camps around the village provide what security is possible, medicines and succour during emergencies, transport sometimes, and like the temple, a sense of security.

There is no telephone in the village. There is no bunker to run into when the mortar fire starts. The girls were chaperoned by a volunteer midwife Prema Punyseeli (51) who said that probably every one of the boys and girls were delivered by her.

Three decades ago she underwent three months training in midwifery at Batticaloa, and indeed it has stood in good stead for the village, she said

Sometimes babies are born in the jungle, she said. There is not even an ayurvedic physician in the village. They have all left the village after LTTE attacks, but we are sticking it out, she said. It was the Commanding officer of the nearest STF camp who persuaded the boys and girls to come to Colombo and follow the first-aid course.

Some of the boys are still in Grade 10 while others have passed their O'levels and have left school. The prospect for jobs is nil, except that they help with the paddy farming. Some have learnt carpentry and the girls sewing. All the families exist on Samurdhi payments, and on the meagre produce of their paddyfields and home gardens.

Lalith one of the boys still in school is one of the saddest. His father is dead: he has two sisters and his mother is disabled. She needs a tricycle to move about. Her name and address is A.M. Karuna-wathie, Welegedera, Tampitiya.

All these young people and their families have been traumatised by gruesome events, but they seem to have bounced back cheerfully, except perhaps Lalith, who looked sombre. One felt helpless and guilty about their hardships and the terror and uncertainties of their lives. In this area there has been exodus after exodus. Tamils to Tamil villages. Mixed families to either Tamil or Sinhala villages.

And so this wholly Sinhala village is isolated, but come what may they are at the moment determined to stay.

Anniversary of Russian Music school

A well-organized programme to mark the first anniversary of the Russian Centre Music School was held recently at the Russian Centre auditorium. Russian Ambassador Victor Zotin, was the Chief Guest. M.A. Ustinov, Director, and B. Ramanayake, Chief Administrative Officer of the Russian Centre were also present along with parents and friends.

Iranganie Ariyapperuma, music co-ordinator of the Russian Centre, said the School which reopened after a lapse of several years, is progressing very well with three departments -piano, voice training (singing) and violin . Five London-qualified and experienced teachers Ms. Indranee Hapugalle, Ms. Cleone Leitan, Ms. Rohini Wijeyekoon, Ms. Anusha Tissera and Ms. Manojie Gunasekera are on the staff.

The Russian Centre provides a well-equipped air-conditioned music room for students. It hopes to organize musical evenings, film shows, lecture recitals, etc. for the benefit of the students on a regular basis. Guest artistes will also be invited and promising students of the school will be given the opportunity to perform at the Russian Centre's regular public musical concerts. The school will present their own public concerts later on. The Russian Centre intends awarding scholarships to promising senior students to further their music studies in Russia.

A variety musical concert was presented by the students and teachers to entertain their guests.

The photograph - left to right shows:

Mrs. Rohini Wijeyakoon, M.A. Ustinov-Director Russian Centre, Manojie Gunasekera, Victor Zotin-Russian Ambassador, Irangani Ariyapperuma-Music Co-ordinator-Russian Centre, Indranee Hapugalle, Cleone Leitan, Anusha Tissera and B. Ramanayake-Chief Administrative Officer of the Russian Centre.

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