At last A.R.C (Aid Reaching Children) have achieved their goal!!
When the Tsunami first hit Sri Lanka Linda Garnham left Guernsey with the aim of building an orphanage for the casualties of the Tsunami. On arriving in Sri Lanka she joined forces with various agencies and did initial assessments to see what would be required to go ahead with this project. She visited a few orphanages and homes for the physically and mentally disabled – the people in these homes seem to be left and actually it was a disabled man who was managing this one place we visited called the Sambodhi Home. There was so much work to be done at this home it was awful people sleeping on urine soaked mattresses sanitation was non existent. Very little food and half of the building falling down. We agreed we would help but couldn’t give a full commitment to this project as it would have been out of our financial limits. We built a gate and put up fencing to secure the home and also cleared up all the rubble left by the tsunami. This home had lost 38 people 10 of which were children and some of them have still to this day not been found.
Linda then moved on to another orphanage, this was heart wrenching. It is called the Rhunu State Orphanage. There were babies in cots (rusty old things) left in dirty nappies and hardly any care being given, this was the most upsetting time of her trips out to Sri Lanka so far. The conditions were appalling. ARC made a plan that this would be the place that we could use the money raised by the Guernsey public to refurbish the whole place and make it a lot better for the babies and even employ locals and get them trained up properly that they could be eventually be left to care for these poor babies. Things weren’t to go as planned though. We met with a man Danny who had come in from America with his wife Michelle (he said) and they had undertaken to do all the necessary work. We visited a few times and they seemed to have everything under control work was being done to clear up and everything was looking good. Even the security had been tightened up and we now had to sign in. Danny talked to us about the possibility of building our own home and things were starting to look up. We came back home with the intention of going out the next trip to sign contracts for land and to do all the legal documents required. We were in for a bit of a shock the next time we went. When we got there the whole place had been totally refurbished there were new cots for the kids there was a new milk room and new buildings going up next door. What a remarkable difference. Then one day I received a phone call to say Danny had left Sri Lanka as certain allegations had been made about him and that Michelle was now getting death threats. It came to light that Danny was not Danny Curry as we knew him he was Danny Taze and Michelle wasn’t his wife. He was a convicted sex offender and all foreign NGO’s were now banned from being involved with orphanages, we weren’t even allowed to visit these poor children any more. The government are now in control of the orphanage and it is again in the same state as it was when we first got there. We were told to pull out completely. We then called Impaktaid who we had been working closely with and they were advising us on good projects to get involved with. In the mean time we found our own home with 28 boys and started helping them with various projects that they needed. The boys were keen to help when we put up a new perimeter fence which took over 56 rolls of wire. We held parties for the boys down at our hotel and spent the day on the beach with them they thought this was great fun. We go back to this orphanage every time we visit. Again because of doubts of corruption and people warning us that money was being misused we decided to pull out. This was really sad for ARC as the staff had started bonding really well with the boys. But Linda was determined that the Guernsey peoples money was to go in the right project and money wasn’t wasted.
After another month Impaktaid trustee Jerry Porodo got in touch with Linda and said he had a very interesting project if we would like to get involved. He explained to Linda that the present , in which 8 orphan boys from the Rhunu State Orphanage, was in need of complete refurbishment and some new buildings were needed so it could then house 50 Tsunami orphans from various parts of Sri Lanka. They also wanted to build a library so that this could be used by the children in the community and use part of the building as a community centre. The initial cost would be in the region of 5,000,000 rupees roughly £27,000. After doing a lot of research and checking on the present monk that is in charge of the Sri Sugatha Home it was decided this would be the project for ARC. Costing was done and legal documents drawn up and the first lot of money was sent to Impaktaid for the building to commence. The price had now gone up by a further 3,000,000 rupees so the cost of the whole orphanage is now standing at £45,000 which is more than we estimated but still agree to pay. The building is being done by a reputable local construction team, and the walls are being built to a very high standard. Only the other day 19 of the team hand mixed 137 sacks of cement to put the base of the new library in. The orphanage was due to be completed at the end of January but because of heavy rain over the last couple of months work is slightly behind. It is hoped that we will be finished by march the last roof and plastering, tiling and new electrics will then be put in place. Once the building is complete we will all get stuck in to paint and then go out to buy new beds, wardrobes, cookers for the kitchen, utensils etc. We will also fit and kit out a new IT room and will buy computers for this. Our future plans are also to go back to Hikkaduwa where a lady is working with 175 sponsored children who have been placed with their immediate family. These children are with already very poor people and it is a struggle for the families to keep them with them. It will eventually come to a point where these orphans will be taken into homes like ours, we are desperately trying to help with these 175 children, once they get taken into state homes it is very difficult to get them back with their families so if we can avoid that situation by doing another sponsorship programme we will set this up.