Visitors since January 2005: 927062

Phase 75: April to June 2018

The day comes when you need to let go the children and young people you have protected over so many years. During the blessing ceremony at the Singhalese New Year’s celebrations Michael Kreitmeir remembers all the good and the difficult moments since Dikshi once was brought to Little Smile as a little shy girl. Now her family wants her back and the 16 year old girl will obey. And we? We hope that what she has learnt with us has made her strong enough to find her way into a good life even as a Tamil woman.
During the New Year holidays in mid-April the whole country seems to be travelling. The streets are desperately congested many restaurants and hotels are closed, because their owners are on vacation. Even in the neighbouring village of Koslanda almost all shops are closed for a week around the 14th of April. Hence a New Year’s trip might quickly turn out a disaster. We in Little Smile are lucky. Surrounded by all this beautiful nature there is no reason to travel far away. We prefer to make just a little excursion to our nature reserve or to Rajagiri, the king’s rock of Little Smile. We bring along food, huge amounts of good mood and ideas for games – everything a child could wish for.
The New Year holidays are also the time for visits, and so it is no wonder that many former residents take the chance and visit the place that was once their home. More than 10 years Nadeeka lived here and had a happy childhood and youth. Later as a staff member she even found her husband, our bookkeeper Sanjaya, here. In the meantime she herself is a mother and proudly presents her daughter where she once was a child.

Colombo is far away – not only geographically. It is not only the six hours’ drive that separates the life in the capital from our life here. The German ambassador Jörn Rohde who visited the projects of the “German in the mountains”, was surprised to see how much everything complies with nature, the children’s needs and their development, no matter if on the organic farms, the children’s village, the boys’ home or here in Little Smile’s nature reserve.

Ranjith, who grew up in the children’s village and now works on our farm, shows the German ambassador how to cut cinnamon. The work on the farm in Dikkapitiya is designed to protect humans and nature, and this is true for all our products, no matter if white or green pepper, hand-rolled tea or fresh cinnamon. Jörn Rhode is particularly impressed by Little Smile’s freshly fermented pepper which will now also impress the employees of the German Embassy.
Nearly all small tea farms had to give up in the last decades, many factories were closed and innumerable Tamil workers lost their jobs. At Little Smile we take on responsibility for nature as well as for people who have only learnt how to produce tea. And that’s not all: Little Smile Organic also produces the ancient tea varieties, aims at diversity and gives especially old and poor people work and thereby dignity. We hope that one day apart from the positive effects for people and nature we can also gain some economic success with our hand-rolled tea and the special tea types, particularly with Eliya our partner tea project.
It’s like a virus, a contagious disease: If your neighbour has a car, you also want one although the roads are already chronically congested and even a small car such as this Chinese model costs up to 10 annual salaries of an average earner. Many of the money lenders specialized in this type of business, and often the purchase of a car is the beginning of the proud buyer’s financial ruin. How good that our senior employer, Nalin, is able to fulfil his mother’s and his wife’s dream and ensure their social status without expensive loans. This time the boss’ advice was ignored.
While everywhere in Sri Lanka people are seriously indebted because they bought a car, Michael Kreitmeir decided to sell his BMW X3. Now that projects, like the international school, in the remote Kalmunai have been finished and put into operation he can do without it. And since cars are taxed with up to 400 % in Sri Lanka and the maintenance costs are constantly increasing, the time is ripe for this step. Additionally, this sets an example in a society in which a persons’ value is measured by status symbols, particularly by the size and price of their car.
Twenty years ago, when Michael Kreitmeir started building a home for children, it was extremely difficult to get fruits. Still today it is difficult to find fresh fruit in and around Koslanda. Almost everything that is good and full of vitamins goes directly to the hotels or is exported. The cultivation of fruit and vegetables in the children’s village which started quite successfully is nearly completely harvested by the monkeys in the meantime. We are lucky that apart from the big old mango trees around our teaching hospital in Buttala we also have thousands of lemon and orange trees and have planted numerous passion fruit and banana trees in a monkey-free area. The result: vitamin bombs for our children.
The destruction of nature, mass tourism in parks, the ever-growing number of larger and larger agricultural plants and the increasing urban sprawl are seriously threatening wild animals’ habitat. While the small deer and leopards almost unnoticed have vanished nearly completely, the slowly dying of the last wild elephants is only noticed because of their huge size. Searching for space and food they come to regions like the mountain jungle around the children’s village where no elephants have ever lived before. We would not complain about the constant destruction, especially of the palm and banana trees or our vegetable garden, but they become more and more aggressive which makes it difficult to protect workers and particularly our children. Fortunately, there are electric fences that only chase them away without hurting them.
Even though Little Smile supports schools on a regular basis, buys furniture, teaching material, builds toilets and class rooms or pays teacher’s salaries, the quality of education, especially for Tamil students, is poor, very poor. This gradually led to the decision to operate a state-recognized school on our own. We will have to overcome many obstacles to reach our aim, but something of high value is never easy to get and we are used to solve problems.
Enjoy learning, a right to education, esteem and respect of teachers towards their students and not always the other way around – there are so many things that should be improved in the present public education system. Since criticism is not welcome at all and those who are responsible lack understanding, over the medium term there is only one way out of this misery: We must take our children’s education into our own hands, placed under state control, but based on one single aim, namely to challenge and promote children and young people according their individual abilities.
Year after year at the end of May the big sports event takes place at the Maria Theresia College in Kalmunai. Despite the long journey Michael Kreitmeir got caught by the enthusiasm of kids and parents – as always sister Lucrece had organized everything perfectly. Unfortunately, this was probably her last sports festival as director of the school, which owes her a lot and which would not even exist without her engagement. The order’s leadership plans her transfer, but still there is hope that the Mother Superior will listen to the requests of parents and children who wish to keep sister Lucrece as their director.
It was like stirring up a hornets’ nest. When we saw the misery in which so many old people working on the tea plantations were living in and started to help them, it was as if an avalanche had been set off. Largely unnoticed by the public, ignored by the state, many old people, especially widows, live a miserable life. The flow of supplicants in front of our office does not decrease. However, we can only help to ease the most urgent needs, there are simply too many old people who are left alone, hungry and often without a home having to bear their last months or weeks, sometimes even years like a punishment.
It was a present from sister Lucrece to Michael Kreitmeir at the last sports festival in Kalmunai. Instead of ending up in a saucepan, the turkey was named Luci and was brought to our garden. But our little paradise for animals is frequently attacked by semi-wild dogs. While many chickens and our best cock were killed, Luci survived severely injured. In Sri Lanka dogs are more and more becoming a real plague, spread diseases and kill everything that is smaller than they are.
It is always a big pleasure for Michael Kreitmeir when former residents come for a visit and present like Dammika here on the picture another “grandchild”. “As long as you notice your age mainly by the fact that kids become adults and little girls become mothers, you can be happy and grateful”, says the founder of Little Smile. When asked how many grandchildren he has, he replied “more than hundred and no end in sight”.
The leaves of the manioc plant are mashed in a stone mortar as a good and healthy green supplement to rise and curry. It’s amazing how many things from the mountain jungle are edible and are also very healthy, and if it tastes good, what else could you ask for? And whoever thinks that cooking in Sri Lanka is a pure woman’s job is wrong in case of Little Smile. Even our young boys are very excited when they can help in the kitchen and be the first ones to taste.
The gods, above all Bawani’s favourite Ganesh, mean it well with us. The manager of the boys’ home on Hill Top is firmly convinced about that and her trust in it was further strengthened when a mighty cannonball tree fell right next to our mountain villa without any major damage. Even the most skilful woodcutter would not have been able to do so, but a Hindu god is a Hindu god and Ganesh is not just an ordinary god.
Bawani always manages to feed her boys well, but David was a real challenge for her. At the end of a several months long journey through Asia the 20 year-old German wanted to experience the real life on this continent. He wanted to live with the natives and this opportunity he got on Hill Top for nearly six weeks long. The surprisingly thin white boy obviously had a hole in his stomach – whenever Bawani offered him a meal, no matter if Singhalese or Tamil, he was more than delighted.

Our kitchen fairy, Selvi, got a special kind of baptism in the mountain stream that flows through the children’s village. She could not cope with the combined energy of our 12- and 13-year old girls and ended up in the water. Great shared fun in the water, away from noisy tourists, waste and drunken persons – especially for girls Little Smile is a small paradise where they are safe and can have a good time.

There are so many stories happening in and around the children’s village which are worth to be told. This man for example: Already years ago when Michael Kreitmeir came to Koslanda for the first time, he walked along the road with a sack full of stones. Since he had been cheated about his finding of gemstones more than fifty years ago, he is doing that each and every day. He takes stones out of the jungle and carries them many kilometres to the house where the man who once betrayed him had lived and tries to sell them. He does not speak anymore, lives on handouts and will probably carry his stones as long as he lives.