Flood Relief in Jaffna
The first of the three locations that the Youth team and I visited was the furthest of section of the Northern District; the Jaffna peninsula as it was not only the hardest hit but one of the first areas to flood and therefore received ample time for the flood water to retreat. Prior to the departure, we asked the town council to send us the list of families that required aid, which accumulated to 500 people and approx. 125 families.
After what seemed like a seven-hour journey across the scope of Sri Lanka, we finally arrived at the town hall where lines of families were waiting to receive the parcels. I was shocked to the sheer number of those affected from the floods as the numbers on paper did not truly help me envision the utter amount of those displaced. We formed a conveyer-belt like formation, where an assembly line was formed from the truck with the packages to the first cues. What impacted me the most was not the physical act of handing out the readied parcels to those waiting in cues but in fact watching them leave the crowd of impatient on-lookers and walk to a corner under the shade of a palm tree and meekly opening their bags to inspect the goods.
I remember seeing an irritated toddler resting on his pregnant mother’s arms, his tiny hands jittering away at her face, tears flowing down his, and the mother trying to the hush the child, but in turn aggravating him even more. I recall his restless body losing balance and threatening to fall, his mother dropping the net and bedsheets to catch her son. Her squatting and collecting the net and sheets, her skirt brushing against the wet mud, staining the intricate colorful embroidery. I saw her drop her bags and reach for the parcel of dry rations, scrummaging through the plastic to appear with a packet of lemon puff biscuits. She hastily ripped the packaging open and offered the cookie to her son. I’m not sure if it was the thought of tasting the crunchiness of the biscuit or the bright yellow of the packaging that captured the attention of the child, but her son soon quieted his tantrum and allowed his mother to gather their bags and leave.
After undergoing this experience, I not only felt grateful for what I have but felt this strange feeling of awe; as if I admired the families’ resilience and ability to persevere in the face of adversity. I realized that these families have inspired me to adopt their determined mentality of ‘never giving up’, and to not lose spirit when faced with a disaster, as it will only weaken you more. I was also appreciative in a way that I got to experience firsthand what true community service was rather than seeing an impoverished family’s predicament plastered onto a poster asking for donations, despite not offering any assurance that the money would be used to benefit such communities. Thus, in a way, I was enlightened to see how useful the donations were and assess, for myself, the extent of our team’s impact on their recovery efforts.
The outcomes that I felt that were explored during this experience was;
- Identifying a global issue and engage with issues of global significance (2 outcomes)
During this experience, it was clear that the Global Issue of ‘Class disparity’ and ‘Natural Disasters’ were explored when shaping this program to be a ‘Flood Relief program for marginalized Communities’. This issue was made the focal point of the project as the primary justification for my relief efforts was to alleviate the plight of those communities affected by the floods.
- Demonstrate how to initiate and plan a CAS Experience
This outcome was also explored within the course of two blog posts, given that in the first one, titled ‘ Introduction to the Flood Relief Program’, I not only justified the grounds for this program but showed the process in which sponsors and donations helped to purchase the much – needed products to give to the families. Thus, the execution of this plan is apparent above, as it highlights both the manner in which the team and I delegates the products to the families and the way in which the families responded to our relief efforts.
- Show commitment and perseverance
Commitment and Perseverance were shown as an overall sentiment of this program, given that the Youth Team and I were determined to the ensure that the plan blossoms into fruition and was not a suggestive, half done proposal that would have been discarded if there weren’t enough sponsors. But more importantly I felt that the source of commitment and perseverance stemmed from the affected families’ uncanny ability to maintain a brave smile when accepting our donations and shaking off the looming emotions of being disheartened and discouraged.