Organized self-help lifts Vanni villages

[TamilNet, Monday, 01 December 2003, 00:11 GMT]
"Under 'Village Upliftment Project' economically worst hit villages in Vanni are identified and efforts are channelled to improve social and economic well-being of the residents through self-help. Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), local NGOs and Tamil expatriates are also financially helping us to carryout this project," Administrative Head, Anbarasan, told TamilNet during a recent visit to the interior villages of the Vanni.

Village_Upliftment_Project
(L-R) Sunderamoorthy, Director TECH (a local NGO), Kumaran, Project Officer and Anbarasan, Head of Village Upliftment Project on a visit to inspect Navatkadu land clearing operation (Click for a larger picture)
During the initial phase of the Village Upliftment Project, twenty eight villages were identified for urgent action. Seven active leaders among village residents and four members from locally operating NGOs are selected in every village to form a village level committee to provide the focal point for action in each village, the organizers said.

Village residents select lead persons to head subcommittees for Education, Economic Development, Health, Village Affairs, Women's Affairs, Arts/Culture and Sports. The subcommittees are tasked to identify areas for improvement, plan for self-help projects and to solicit financial help from NGOs or TRO, Anabarasan said.

Both parents in many families living in these impoverished villages work as day laborers and spend most of the day away from their home. A work day usually involves one or two mile walk early in the morning to the work place or to obtain transport, followed by 8 to 10 hours of manual work and return home late night.

Village_Upliftment_Project
Village Upliftment Project officers at their monthly meeting reviewing progress (Click for a larger picture)


The Upliftment project officers' first priority was to arrange help to look after the pre-school children in village community centers during the day and to offer a safe place for the school going children to study at night until their parents return. Volunteer teachers working with minimum compensation have already made significant inroads into improving welfare of these children, according to Mr.Sunderamoorthy, Director of TECH (The Economic Consultancy House -- a local NGO).

Mr. Sunderamoorthy pointed out that a recent project funded by US expatriates has enabled the Village Upliftment Project officers to install Solar Home Systems (SHSs) to all of the community centers in these villages. This has allowed children to study in well-lit areas without worrying about the cost of keeping kerosine based lanterns, he said.

Village_Upliftment_Project
Sign board leading to Children's Garden in Ilankopuram in Mullaitivu district (Click for a larger picture)
Village_Upliftment_Project
Teachers and children taking time-off outside the buildings in Children's Garden in Ilankopuram (Click for a larger picture)

Village_Upliftment_Project
Teacher distributing sweets to under-5 year olds (Click for a larger picture)
Village_Upliftment_Project
Viswanathan Nilamani, teacher-in-charge at the Ilankopuram Children's Garden (Click for a larger picture)



Ilankopuram village in Visvamadu, Mullaithivu district, is a disadvantaged village whose residents are mainly hill country Tamils of Indian origin displaced in 1973 .

In 1973 the SLFP government under President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s mother, Mrs. Srimao Bandaranaike, deployed army, Police and gangs of Sinhala thugs to drive thousands of Tamils overnight from their estates in the hill country. Some of the main Sinhala gangs attacked the impoverished Tamil resident labour families were led by President Kumaratuna’s brother Mr. Anura Bandaranaike.

A lone estate worker, Sivanu Latchmanan, who tried to organise a resistance to the forced and often violent evictions, was shot dead.

The acquiescence of the corrupt and nepotistic Ceylon Workers’ Congress was bought by the SLFP regime before it began the onslaught on the Tamils of the hill country.

The evicted Tamils were driven to destitution, begging in the streets of hill country towns such as Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Hatton. Many children and old men and women died of starvation on the roadside.

Others went north in search of succour. Some were helped by Tamil social service organisations to settle in the Vanni. War and resulting destruction have made the lives even harder for these residents.

In Siruvar Poonga ('Children's Garden'), Ilankopuram, teachers organized as part of the Village Upliftment Project and funded by TRO, look after nearly 140 children aged between 1-5 years.

Population Statistics of selected Villages

District

Village

Number of families

Number of family members

Mulliyavallai

Poothanvayal

115

460

Mulliyavallai

AarumahathanKulam

47

402

Mulliyavallai

Navatkadu

92

380

Mulliyavallai

Sooripuram

55

300

Puthukudiyiruppu

Venavil

143

680

Puthukudiyiruppu

Karnan Kudiyiruppu

53

220

Oddusuddan

Vasanthapuram

60

262

Mallavi

Therangandal

159

700

Visvamadu

Ilangopuram

158

612

Visvamadu

Theravil

96

416

Visvamadu

Bharathipuram

110

520

Vaddakachchi

Mayanoor

300

1200

Vaddakachchi

Sampukulam

250

960

Vaddakachchi

Ten House Scheme

100

420

Kilinochchi

Santhapuram

300

1200

Kilinochchi

Barathipuram

293

1120

Kilinochchi

Inthupuram

180

720

Kilinochchi

Malaiyalapuram

151

1076

Kilinochchi

Vasanthapuram

150

600

Kilinochchi

Selvapuram

200

810

Kilinochchi

Vivekananthapuram

157

921

Kilinochchi

ThondamanNagar

135

548

Kilinochchi

Krishnapuram

285

1271

Kilinochchi

Ammalkulam

517

2068

Kilinochchi

SelvaNagar

276

1094

Akkarayan

GandhiKiramam

120

575

Akkarayan

Ootupulam

125

610

Mulankavil

IranaimathaNagar

280

1250

Source: Village Upliftment Project Publication



Village_Upliftment_Project
Sivakumar Naguleswary, a beneficiary at the Navatkadu settlement waits to receive her own plot of land (Click for a larger picture)
Village of Navatkadu in Mulliyavallai, Mullaitivu, is being used as a model resettlement farm. Many of the village residents currently have temporary huts in lands not owned by them and live in constant fear of eviction. Under the Village Upliftment Scheme, the landless villagers are being given plots of land for legal ownership. Sivakumar Naguleswary and her sister are two of the families among the 35 families waiting to receive title to their own land to build their future.

Many of the landless families in Navatkadu are second or third generation hill country tamils uprooted from their central provincial towns in the 70s.

"Local villagers were initially hostile to the new refugee families often preventing new families from obtaining water from irrigation channels feeding the village fields," Anbarasan said.

Village_Upliftment_Project
Residents showing the collected personal statistics of other soon-to-be owners of lands in Navatkadu (Click for a larger picture)
Village_Upliftment_Project
Villagers temporarily occupying lands that do not belong to them in Navatkadu (Click for a larger picture)

Village_Upliftment_Project
Dirt path leading to Navatkadu (Click for a larger picture)
Village_Upliftment_Project
Sign board in front of community hall in Poothanvayal (Click for a larger picture)



Sooripuram and Poothanvayal are two other villages in Mulliyavallai that are included in the Village Upliftment Project. Poothanvayal has a new Common Hall built using financial aid from FORUT. Villagers benefit from regular visits from mobile health care clinic such as those run by the International Committer of Red Cross (ICRC).

Kumaran, who is the local Project Officer in charge of Sooripuram, said that village children attend two schools within a mile distance in Vattapalai. In addition, the Village Upliftment Project has organized a pre-school in Sooripuram where teacher, Maheswaran Subashini, attends to the needs of the children.

Village_Upliftment_Project
Public hall built with the assistance of FORUT in Poothanvayal, Mulliyavallai (Click for a larger picture)
Village_Upliftment_Project
Village Upliftment Project officers looking at a newly built well in Poothanvayal village (Click for a larger picture)

Village_Upliftment_Project
Sign board along the lane leading to Sooripuram Village (Click for a larger picture)
Village_Upliftment_Project
Maheswaran Subashini, teacher supported by the Village Upliftment Project, with the pre-school kids under a shady tree (Click for a larger picture)



In close proximity to Vattrapalai Amman Temple, there is Ootangarai Pillaiyar temple. Both temples provide focal points for religious activities for village residents in Mullaithivu district and surrounding villages. There is a prevailing myth among villagers that the injury to the Ootangarai Pillaiyar's Ther (chariot) by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) was the reason for the 28 July 1996 debacle at the Mullaithivu SLA camp where more than one thousand SLA soldiers perished when the camp was overrun by the LTTE.

 

Latest 15 Reports
 
Find this article at:
http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=73&artid=10518