"If we want to achieve true peace in the world, we must start with the children."
Little Smile Sri Lanka 2011
Little Smile is a relief project for Singhalese and Tamil children in ne
ed and is financed Michael Kreitmeir and other donors. More and more the supporting projects, such as the farm in Dikkapitia with its exports of spices, contribute financially to the management of the social facilities. The plan is to be able to generate a 50% of our operation costs ourselves in Sri Lanka by 2014. Since the end of 2011 Little Smile Organic sells pepper, cinnamon and cloves also in tins, and each sold tin helps to secure this “Little Smile” in Sri Lanka’s future. The Little Smile Association (LSA) was registered as aid organization in 2002 by the Ministry of Social Affairs. In Germany the non-profit organization Little Smile e.V. supports the work of LSA.
The children’s village Mahagedara
in the mountains near Koslanda was started in 1999 and mainly funded and built by TV journalist and director Michael Kreitmeir. Since then the project has continually been developed and expanded.
The village includes five children’s homes, a service building, a school, a training workshop, a sewing school, a carpentry, a Buddhist and a Hindu temple, a guest house, a house for traditional medicine, houses for the employees, a traditional meeting house and huge plantations for spices and fruit.
In the first five years LSA focused on building and expanding the children’s village.
A smile for the nature
Another focus of our work was nature conservation. Therefore, in 2000 already we bought partially untouched mountain jungle and put it under conservation. This was the birth of the nature park “Little Smile for Plants and Animals” (LS P&A)..
Here the children can experience how beautiful and thus worth of protecting these last bastions of nature are. However, the major part of the jungle is reserved for the animals and only entered by the rangers. During its ten years of operation, LS P&A has become a habitat for wild animals. With the end of the civil war a construction boom has started in Sri Lanka and the high demand for wood endangers the last oasis of nature.
This makes it even more important that the Little Smile Association will be able protect this almost 100 hectares of mountain jungle from grubbing-up and poachers in the future too.
A smile after the tsunami
The tsunami and its results have fundamentally changed the life of many employees of the Little Smile Association. Quite a lot of time and energy was spent in the tsunami aid at the South and East coast, but at the same time it was important not to neglect our projects and work with the children.
After the emergency aid – especially in and around Kalmunai in the country’s East – numerous houses were built for the tsunami victims between 2005 and 2010, aid projects for the fishermen at the East and South coast were carried out and many more measures following the idea of “help for self-help” were realized and assisted.
Michael Kreitmeir had to give up his work as Film-maker, and even his life in Germany, to be able to face these tremendous challenges. Especially during this period of incredible helpfulness on one side and extreme confusion on the other side, many donors, foundations and aid organizations placed their trust in Little Smile. And trust obliges!
A smile for the sick
Neither the civil war nor the numerous road blocks could prevent us from keeping a promise we had given shortl
y after the tsunami.
Although it took a long time and was accompanied by lots of difficulties, we could finish and hand over an important service building and medical store for the Ashraff Memorial Hospital in Kalmunai at the beginning of 2010. This huge project marked the end of our direct tsunami aid, which took us five long years and sometimes pushed us to the limits of our capacities.
A smile for reconciliation
After the end of the civil war in 2009 it became clear that it would take a long time to bridge the deep gaps generated by almost 3 decades of separation and violence. An essential element for this is mutual understanding, not only in terms of language, but particularly in the way of thinking, religion, cultural specifics. And this is why LSA builds a meeting centre in Galle, one of the centers with Singhalese majority in the South. Starting mid-2012 multipliers from the North and East of the country – principals, representatives and people working in different fields of culture – could visit the centre where they get to know more about Sri Lanka’s culture.
We will focus in particular on traditional Singhalese and Tamil music following the motto: “Music brings people together”. It is also essential to establish a national and international platform for the traditional crafts. The centre is situated in the middle of paddy fields and could be reached from the airport via the new highway within only one hour.
After purchasing the land near Pilane in 2005, it was continually enlarged by repeated purchases in 2006 and 2008 until it finally reached its present size of 2 hectares.
In 2007 already the reconstruction of an old villa could be finished and in the adjoining buildings the classes for tsunami affected children and young people could be started. This teaching with a focus on languages and manual skills was provided till the end of 2009. In 2010 the construction work was intensified, so that the classes had to be relocated to another Little Smile centre in Galle.
Since then have been built:
Sanitary facilities for 500 visitors – kitchen and dining hall – main hall – meditation hall – temple area – two wells – three-storage pavilion. All the buildings have been constructed in the traditional style.
At present an herb and a spice garden are created which shall be finished in spring 2012.
A smile for traditional knowledge
Already in 1999, when the first children’s houses were constructed near Koslanda, Michael Kreitmeir noticed, that it would be an important gift for the children and their future to preserve and share ancient knowledge and experience. Especially the traditional art of healing “Ayurveda” is greatly appreciated by guests from all over the world. In many hotels, however, Ayurveda is reduced to a wellness program and the ancient knowledge and its embedding into the culture is left behind. Thus, Michael Kreitmeir collected knowledge and herbs practically since the beginning of his engagement in Sri Lanka. 1999 the first herbal garden was created in the children’s village.
2005 an area of 20 hectares of wasteland was bought, rain water lakes and mango plantations were established, the land fully fenced and houses built for the employees and widows with children.
Then in 2006 and 2007 a teaching hospital for traditional Ayurveda followed, where since mid-2007 young women from poor families are taught the traditional healing methods of Ayurveda.
A smile for education
“Education gives the poorest a chance to leave the vicious circle of poverty and violence” – this is far more than a smart comment. Neither in 2011 rural schools will be able to pass on to the young people the most necessary equipment for life. Therefore, Little Smile supports numerous schools, pays the teachers, provides school materials, trains computer teachers and builds small schools in remote areas. The most impressive example is the international „Maria-Theresia-College“, which could be opened in Kalmunai on the 5th of October 2011 and is run by the Carmelite nuns.
A smile for a religion
Little Smile helps where ever help is needed and reasonable in the long term – no matter if that means supporting the construction of a Hindu temple, the building of houses for Buddhist monks, a hospital for Muslims or a shelter for the Franciscan Order. However, it is not a question of mixing religions and certainly not meant to convert people – the heart of all this is esteem, respect and learning from each other.
A smile for prisoners
Since the time Michael Kreitmeir was arrested himself on some pretext and imprisoned in Monaragala, his heart also beats for the forgotten in jail. He spent the Christmas Eve 2010 together with “his” children and the prisoners and did not forget them afterwards. In May 2011 he opened a ward where he once was kept as a prisoner.
And first of all a smile for children
When Michael Kreitmeir started engaging in Sri Lanka in 1998, he primarily concentrated his work on the victims of the civil war, and among them particularly children, who he wanted to protect and provide with a home and a future. And so the children’s village Mahagedara was set up in a region in which Tamil and Singhalese, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and of course Buddhists were living.
Integration, understanding and mutual respect should set an example there. In 2004 already, two homes for girls were added in Palugamam at the East coast. For a long time not only the civil war raged over there, but also the conflict between opposing Tamil groups. With great personal engagement and related with high risk, Michael Kreitmeir supported the girls from Palugamam especially during the difficult period of the final battles in 2008 and 2009. When the civil war was over in 2009 an upswing started in the country’s important centers, but as always not for the weakest and poorest. Numerous children’s homes had to be closed due to material problems. And therefore, in 2011 Little Smile assumed financial responsibility for further children’s homes, e.g. in Monaragala and Badulla.
“There are no great inventions and there is no real progress as long as there is one unhappy child on this world.“