like a flower I'm growing fine
Sachie Fernando and Anuradha Samarajiva find street children experiencing
new hope at the cosy haven of the Friends’ Child Care centre
Children sit around a table studying, take afternoon naps, or giggle
happily with their friends. In reality, this isn't a traditionally
perfect home scene, but it's easy to imagine it as one when you
step into Friends Child Care. Located in the interior of Dehiwala,
60 children who would otherwise be living out on the street are
given the chance to lead normal lives in a warm and protective environment.
visitors are greeted by the project team leader, Nilanka, a degree
holder in sociology and social anthropology. The staff headed by
a matron, are all screened carefully and undergo comprehensive training
in matters pertaining to child welfare.
centre focuses on improving the children's living conditions and
providing education.Aged between five and 16, some of these children
have been working from a tender age and were deprived of an education
due to the lack of a birth certificate. This issue has now been
brought to the notice of the relevant government authorities. Depending
on their ages, the children attend either normal school or are given
vocational training. Boys learn skills like carpentry and technical
training, while the girls are taught sewing and dressmaking.
Colombege , a representative of the humanitarian organization, World
Vision Sri Lanka, says, they "live like a large family".
The centre is well equipped with facilities. The authorities see
to it that cultural and religious diversity is maintained. The centre
aslo sees to the interests of the parents of these children and
has initiated a programme to rehabilitate them. Part of their problem
is the "barrier between normal society and the street dwellers"
says Chandila. To overcome the distrust between the two communities,
they have monthly parent meetings where professionals speak about
family planning and income generation.
described some of their success stories to us. There are many children
who are at the top of their class even though they've never been
to school before. Having undergone vocational training, one of the
young men at the centre is now working happily at Maxies. The centre
also has its branch in Kandy and a drop-in centre at Kotahena.
Friends Childcare Project receives most of their funding from overseas
although much more is needed.Yet, the biggest problem these children
face is prejudice. The main aim of the programme is to build a "positive
public image" and overcome the discrimination these young people
face. It is not enough to be sympathetic, we need to be more constructive