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A Journey into Misery and Squalor

Little Smile, 14 February 2002

Although there is so much to be done here in the village and the days are always too short for me, we finally managed last Monday to to take some of the children to the area from which they came.

Dimbulagala, Polunaruwa and the villages beyond, from which several of our children come, were incredible. Bandula shed tears when in the evening we were again alone, except for the dirt and thousands of mosquitos. It really moved him to see the conditions in which Shrima, Nadeeka, Shanti, Niluka, Jeewani Sunetra, Maduka und Chaturi had lived. Things had been a little better only for Sudarma, since father and brother had fallen in the war and mother received a small pension. Shrima's und Niluka's mothers begged us to take their little brothers. Unfortunately, this was not possible in this unjust world. Things are also very awful for Maduka's and Chaturi's family, who do not even have a shack but have to make do with a "hole" covered with palm leaves, no doors. Mother lives there with a little brother. To make matters worse, a man has joined them, but he is continuously drunk and beats the woman regularly. I grapped him, lifted him in the air, shook him and threatened, but it is clear that these poeple know nothing other than a spiral of violence, misery and alcohol from which we have rescued at least a few children.

We can never send Niluka or Shrima "home" again. Since the new government is in place, there is no more fighting in the area, but violence has become the norm, especially toward women. The fate of Shrima's sister Manschula hit me pretty hard. Also a pretty little girl, just one year older than Shrima, she is a victim of continuous attacks as her mother and 4-year-old brother cannot protect her and their lean-to home does not even have a door. She will surely soon be pregnant, and the vicious cycle begins again. As Manschula and Shrima stood next to each other, but worlds apart, my skin had goose bumps in spite of the heat. Shrima, Shanti, Sudarma, Nadeeka and Danuschka accompanied us on this trip, the girls spent one night "at home" and Danuschka the night with his monk in the temple. Sharnti and Shrima were sick the next day. Worse still, we were delayed picking them up and the girls nearly panicked for fear that we had left without them.

I tried to film some, but the long trip made many demands. The car from Sandasiri broke down ( clutch) and Nande had to spend 2 hours on repairs. Bandula and I ate nothing for 2 days. On Monday, we were underway for 14 hours (beginning at 4 a.m.). MBut most of all, we were affected by the destitution and misery around us. People were constantly following us to give us their children, for whom life is pure hell already in the earliest years.

I am accustomed to quite a lot and have learned to live my powerlessness in the face of so much misery, but being so close was really hard. In the late evening, at the Temple in Dimbulangala, we shared with two old men a small shack that certainly had not been cleaned since it was built and in which the mosquitos felt quite at home. We sat out in the hot, tropical night and, as a group of wild boars past us just a few meters away.

We will review periodically the situations of allour children. We just cannot constantly send away needy children while keeping children whose family situations have improved such that they could live at home again. Of course, Bandula and I fear the moment when we have to send our first child back for such reasons. We love them all, but there should be at least a little justice.

A very importan piece of news: after a long search, we have finally found the right person. Although only 25 years old, Lucian has a good English education and has studied computers and psychology. He has directed a childrens' home in Negombo for the past year and so he knows the difficulties involved, especially in leading and training staff. He spent 2 days with us, during which we spoke very openly about everything and I was able to allay Bandula's concerns and anxieties. He too knows that one person alone cannot master all the challenges here and that among our staff nobody is far enough along for the job. Lucian can also take over the bookkeeping, treasury, planning and parts of the English lessons. He will start working with us on 11 March and I have a very good feeling about it.

I am holding back a little on our construction projects as the exchange course for the Euro is very bad and I prefer not to change to much. The sewing school has a roof, as does the little office building next to the school.

Unfortunately, there are problems with our carpentry workshop. There is so much bureaucracy attached to gaining approval for woodwork and everyone involved wants to pocket something for himself. We have to be careful and can use the machines from Germany only in secret. But especially for the carpenters there is so much to do. We need furniture for Lucian's appartment, cabinets are in great demand as we have 6 new children, and we have no installations yet for the office and the carpentry workshop.

Maria and Peter Bonas have now been with us for 12 days and are very helpful, although they pay each day for their room and board. Peter has made a "timetable" ot of wood. Without good planning, nothing functions here. Maria has sorted the entire linens and has introduced the staff to her system for keeping order. Next they will take on the bookkeeping and the English lessons. In the afternoons, they spend lots of time with the children, but wihtout interrupting their routine. Such guests are really so wellcome here.

I could go on forever, so much happens here every day. To write this, I got up at 4:30 a.m. But, it is important to me that you know what is going on here. Only in tis way can we overcome the great distance, only in this way can you remain this other part of the Little Smile family.
I thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and help.

A heartfelt Ayuboowan and Buduh Sara nay

Your Michael Kreitmeir,Kusuma, Indrani, Chitra, Shantamalar, Damajanti, Darshani, Dammi, Lila, Chasry and all the children of Little Smile