The project was to take the unwanted Playzone from Checkers Guernsey to the Ruhunu orphanage in Galle, Sri Lanka. A team of eight set about this task not knowing anything about building this enormous Plazone. Or knowing if they would be leaving tons of metal, hundreds of coloured plastic tubing and miles of netting in a heap on the floor of the Ruhunu orphanage when the planned two weeks were up.
What was also unknown at that time was that a baby girl that had been admitted to the orphanage six months earlier was about to be saved from a lifetime in care just in the nik of time.
A six month old baby girl had been abandoned in an unused toilet at birth She lay there for three days before being found, by this time the flies had laid eggs on her which had turned to maggots and were eating into her flesh especially her eyes.
Seven of the team got started with the building and the other member of the team, Linda Garnham, the founder of ARC slipped away to visit the babies in the nursery. With Linda, it’s always babies first business later whenever we visit Ruhunu. Making her way around the thirty cots or more Linda came across one baby who had one of her eye’s closed and the other one didn’t seem to be able to focus, as she picked up this baby she asked Deepika, our local contact out there to found out more about this little one. That was when they were told of what a terrible start in life this baby had suffered. Deepika explained what her life had entailed so far and how the maggots had damaged her eyes and that it’s difficult to get a doctor to look at her because she’s an orphan and doesn’t have the funds to pay for any medical help. We were also informed that this baby had been turned down for adoption twice because of her sight disability and should she be turned down a third time then her future would more than probably be to remain in the orphanage.
Immediately Linda told Deepika we have to do something we have to get her help. That day permission was given by the Commissioner for Rosanjali, as we discovered the staff had named her, to be taken with Linda, Deepika and a carer to a local hospital. The queue at the hospital was horrendous and the immense heat made it all the more so, but eventually they reached the front. The consultation with the doctor lasted all of two minutes, but that was enough for him to say he would send her to an eye specialist, the appointment was made for three days time. It was because Linda (white and from Guernsey) was with her that this happened, had a local person taken Rosanjali to the hospital that’s where the treatment would have ended. Hardly fair but a fact, nobody argued as too much time had passed without any treatment and if this baby’s sight was to be saved she needed action asap.
The doctor at the hospital put eye drops into her eye and after an examination informed us that there maybe an operation he could do but wasn’t promising that her sight could be saved. He actually said that because we were foreigners he would be able to perform this within a month as he new he was guaranteed payment. The joy of Rosanjali possibly being able to see was a little overcast because of this, what about other babies, children that we’re not there for, how many will go without treatment because they don’t have a foreigner to get them help. But sad though this is for the time being we put it to the back of our minds, there was a chance for Rosanjali and we counted our blessing for that at least.
Finally our two weeks had passed, the Playzone was standing to its full glory and the children at Ruhunu orphanage were enjoying every corner of it. The icing on the cake was that before we left, Rosanjali was able to open her eye due to the eye drops that had been prescribed by the doctor.
Still no sign of her being able to see, but nevertheless an improvement.
We had all got attached to Rosanjali and would have given anything to bring her back with us, but none so much as Linda. Every so often an extra special child comes along and this was one of those times. Linda spent the last few minutes with Rosanjali, telling her that she would do everything to give her a better life than what she had had already, it was hard but eventually Linda handed her back to the carer and walked out. This time more than most was very emotional.
Back home we got the date of the operation Linda wanted so much to be there but that was not to be. The day of the operation came and of course so did all the ‘what if’s’ What if something goes wrong, what if she still cant see, what if she’s actually worse off. The wait was unbearable but then came the phone call, hi Linda it was Deepika. “Hi what’s happened” The operation went well. Phew that’s a relief….and? Well said Deepika we have to wait until the bandages are off before we know if it has been a success.
Another anxious wait but once again we had a date of when she would return to the hospital and we would know the results. Then came another phone call from Deepika and she could hardly contain herself. She can see, it was a success and she’s been smiling at me, smiling and looking around. Tears and loud laughter on both ends of the phone. She can be put up for adoption again now then? Yes said Deepika. What happens if she’s turned down though? She will be available for adoption but never put forward.
That’s not what Linda had promised Rosanjali in the last few minutes of her holding her. We had been told previously that if local families turned down a Sri Lankan baby three times then that baby would be available for foreign adoption. So, that’s what Linda was looking into, by hook or by crook she would keep her promise and make Rosanjali’s life a better one. Linda didn’t have to look for much longer, yet another call from Deepika brought excellent news. A local family looking to adopt a baby girl had put an application in for Rosanjali and was accepted.
One year on and the baby that had been destined to spend her life blind and living in an orphanage is now a very important member of a very happy family.
P.S. and the PlayZone is still standing. What a result.