a home away from the homeless
By Marisa de Silva
The Paynter Home, to shut down? Not yet, but, it
may be forced to soon, if its financial difficulties do not ease.
The Home is sending an SOS to help keep this landmark institute
in 1924, by Rev. Arnold G. Paynter, with the aim of providing a
stable, secure and loving environment for children who are less
fortunate and from broken homes, as well as those who have been
orphaned or abandoned, the Home gives children a formal education
and/or vocational training, depending on their needs.
Paynter, daughter of the founder said that a third of those in the
home, are street children, sent there by the Courts. Some had arrived
with little or no education and socialization, she said. The 29
children now being looked after by the home are from different backgrounds
and races and from a young age they learn to co-exist.
initially all the children attended the Sinhala medium Government
School, Paynter Memorial, founded by Rev. Paynter, now the Tamil
children attend St. Xavier's School (for boys) and the Good Rest
Convent School (girls), she said.
most recent arrivals spoke only a street argot of Tamil slang, when
they came," said Kathleen, adding that now however, their Tamil
has improved significantly and they also speak Sinhala and understand
English. Students having difficulty coping are given individual
attention including tuition she said. The Home's most senior student
will be sitting for her O/L this year and is receiving special attention
to ensure that she has every opportunity to succeed, she said.
apart, some of the children are given piano lessons, whilst others
follow computer lessons. The Home's two-acre farm has been a source
of profit, and it is this revenue that has kept the Home afloat
for the past year, as income from other sources was not received.
Manager Ravi Thangarajah expects to make a net profit of Rs. 300,000
from agriculture over the course of a year, provided he has the
funds to put in the crops etc., says Kathleen. Unfortunately though,
these funds are non-existent because all the farm revenues are being
used to help the children. Expenses have risen over the years and
it now costs Rs. 150,000 a month to run the Home, with as much as
Rs. 80,000 being spent on food (about Rs. 72 a person, a day). Salaries
of the eight staff members, school supplies and fees, children's
medical expenses, clothing (particularly footwear) and maintenance,
account for the rest.
question asked from time to time is whether the Home has outlived
its purpose. "It has not. It is just as needed today as it
ever was, perhaps more so. Many of the children who seek refuge
at the Home, are some of the most vulnerable. It is our goal to
see them do well in life, so that the cycle of dependency and poverty
is broken," Kathleen said emphatically.
Valesca Paynter (or "Aunty Val" as she's known by her
young charges!), my mother, at 88 is still very much the heartbeat
of the Home," says Kathleen. In the past, the Home received
help from around the world, as well as from tourists who visited
the Home, said Kathleen. However, over the past year or so, all
that income seems to have dried up, she adds. Now, most foreign
aid is directed towards particular projects, like, fixing leaking
roofs and building a new kitchen. "While such projects are
always welcome and appreciated, at the moment our priority must
be to feed and maintain the children and pay the staff.” There
has also been very little in the way of local donations to the Home
over the past year, she said.
the Pramuka Bank went into liquidation in 2002, it stripped away
all of the Home, farm, and Mission's financial reserves, she added.
Despite all the problems, the children are happy and thriving and
they have been blessed with a united and dedicated staff, who have
even given up some of their salary so that the children's needs
could be met. Kathleen's fervent hope is that people will help the
Paynter Home continue its work. The Paynter Home now has its own
website at www.ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/paynterhome