Visitors since January 2005: 955278

Phase 76: July to September 2018

Rocky, our female German shepherd was part of the Little Smile family. First in the children’s village Mahagedara and then in the boy’s home Hill Top – she was always at Michael Kreitmeir’s side. At the beginning of August, after more than ten common years, the news came from the mountain: Rocky has gone - a very sad and hard farewell forever.
Some call it paradise, for others its hell. In Sri Lanka extreme contrasts lie often only a few kilometres apart.  While in the mountain village Ella hundreds of tourists amuse themselves every day and admire the beautiful scenery, there is often misery and violence in the small tea villages. A woman with infected burns, an illegitimate child, no work and no future, no travel brochure shows this – human fates Little Smile is dealing with.
Sri Lanka once had a well working health care system and sick people received help even if they had no money. These times are gone. Slowly, almost unnoticed the State-run hospitals have largely become distribution centres for cheap medicine. Mass treatments taking no more than a minute, months of waiting for a surgery – only those who can afford a treatment in one of the private hospitals and medical centres have a chance to get quick and good medical care. But even if people take all their savings, like this father, who wanted to pay for a medical treatment of his son, they often end up as petitioner here at the main house.
Group picture with many ladies. At the end of July the one-year sewing course ended in the children’s village. Under the watchful eyes of the government auditors 12 of our trainees and 4 external course participants pass the examination. Luxmi, (middle row, far left) who has been responsible for the sewing school in Little Smile for many years now, could be proud.
Only one of the matrons in the children’s village has not grown up in Little Smile. It is easier to find a precious gemstone than a person who is willing to take care of children in need around the clock. You carry a very great responsibility, pubescent girls and boys are not easy and society is anything but grateful. Especially the responsible public officials often treat the matrons arrogantly, even offensive. However, in Little Smile they don’t get far with such behaviour. Michael Kreitmeir protects his employees whose engagement helps to bring a smile for children in need.
At the end of a life full of work and hardship many widows cannot even afford a proper meal each day. The workers only get a one-off payment from the tea companies at the end of their professional life and when this money is used up the old people are trapped in a vicious circle of homelessness, misery, hunger and disease. Death often appears to be a salvation rather than a punishment. No wonder that more and more old women from the Tamil villages see their only chance in the children’s village. The number of those who regularly get help here rises from month to month.
Parting hurts – we experience that whenever a child leaves us because the school is over or the situation of their families has improved so that they can go home. Not only we are suffering from the pain of parting, but also the kids and young people who leave us. All the greater the joy that so many former residents come to visit us, like Dikshi and Gajanthani. Whenever possible, the two come over from the provincial capital Badulla, where they prepare to obtain the high-school diploma in a branch which the schools here do not offer and after only a few minutes it is almost as if they have never been away.
Jagath – we haven’t seen for quite a long time which is only natural since he lives and works far away in Dubai. When it got serious with love, however, he came back to Sri Lanka to marry, and of course he dropped in and presented his wife to his Little Smile family. He wanted to show her where he grew up, and of course he visited Bawani on Hill Top where he met his childhood friend Dhiviya, who has brought her little daughter to the meeting.  
In Little Smile long absent does not mean soon forgotten. This is not only true in case of former children and matrons or the fact that you live somewhere else. At Little Smile attachment continues even after death. Anyone who has ever been part of our community stays alive through our memory, through friendship and in some cases also through love. Almost one year ago, Hermann-Josef Kreitmeir, Lokuthatha’s father, died. On August 8, however, we celebrate his birthday in gratitude for the close connection he granted over so many years, and even beyond his death he stays connected through his son who founded Little Smile.
The roof of the farm’s guest house was just finished when it became the playground for monkeys who enjoyed throwing the roof tiles down especially when they discovered people down there. We tried to fix it with cement, but in the end we had no choice but to remove all tiles and build a “monkey-proof” roof. The struggle for space is an ever-present problem here. Wild animals, such as monkeys, but also elephants and wild pigs often come to our farms or the children’s village and destroy what we have built up laboriously.
In July we found the two girls completely neglected in a hidden corner of a tea plantation in the neighbourhood, one of them sick and with severe burns, the other one abused and totally dirty, she has never seen a school from inside. Only 8 weeks later the young women have gained enough confidence again to come to the children’s village from time to time, to listen to our advice and let us help them and the little daughter at least occasionally.
Once again: A relative of whose existence we were unaware appeared at our gate with a letter from the probation. Without consulting us, the authorities allow this person to take the child away only because of some kind of family relationship. And we can only hope and pray and quickly cook the favourite soup for the farewell.
Throughout the whole year leaves are falling from the trees, so it’s no surprise that sweeping seems to be one of the favourite activities in Sri Lanka. We do not simply burn it, but compost it. Before that, however, Dilakshi bathes in a sea of leaves – gardening should also be fun!
Koslanda, a remote place, far away in the mountains, but despite its remoteness every now and then visitors drop in not least because of the little elves and goblins – pardon children – who live there.  At the end of August, the new priest of the cathedral in Eichstätt comes to the children’s village, to visit the exotic son of his parish, Michael, and his protégés. The chaplain was overwhelmed by what he saw, not only the 1000 year old cave temple impressed him a lot. However, what fascinated the Christian priest the most was the children’s laughter.
Like every August there are fires in the children’s village, this time on three sides at the same time. The meter-high flames get uncontrollable within minutes, because we had no rain in three months and everything is extremely dry. It is Sunday afternoon at the end of August, no workers around who could help us. Michael Kreitmeir, some matrons and a few older children can only try to prevent the flames from spreading to the houses of the kids. Again the fire has been laid intentionally, because people are envious of kids who live in a children’s home and are happy instead of being dirty and miserable beggars as is usual in the country.  
Three birthday „kids“ on September 18th. When in 2003 two Michaels and one Robin celebrated their birthday for the first time together, the big Michael could still hold the little Michael and his twin Robin on his arm. 15 years later, he prefers not to do so.  The triple birthday party with the whole Little Smile family was fun nonetheless, and what will be in 15 years, the big Michael is thinking. 
One day after his birthday, Michael Kreitmeir has to appear in court for the last time – then the nightmare is over. Over two years the department of probation and child care services tried to intimidate him and bring him into line. Treating children and child minders with respect is not part of that line nor is genuine child and youth welfare. At the end, however, there was nothing the authorities could blame Kreitmeir and Little Smile for, quite the contrary. Kreitmeir used the opportunity to explain to the Court, what Little Smile’s concept is about – that everything they do is focussed on the children’s well-being. The responsible officer was then released from his tasks related to Little Smile and the trial was annulled, without indicating reasons just like it was once started.
Manju the child minder from the Moonlight house and the trainee Nadeesha finally made it, or rather the chickens the two take care of.  No more lack of eggs! Not the biggest ones, I admit, but every beginning is hard, and it was surely not easy for the two women to protect our chickens over such a long time. The free-range farming has its price here. Again and again chickens disappear more or less traceless, and also dugs and turkeys. They are killed and eaten by wild dogs, birds of prey, wild cats, constrictors and poisonous snakes. It’s not easy being a chicken or the one who is responsible for the poultry.
Abi is not one of the quickest, neither doing sports nor when it comes to give the correct answers at school. So there is still much room for improvement regarding the school marks. Unlike the teacher’s assessment at the public school, we do not consider Abi to be stupid or lazy. Her gifts and interests lie elsewhere and it is our task to find out, how we can challenge and promote the girl.
In 2020 classes are supposed to start at the children’s villages International Little Smile Academy. Until then, there is still a lot to do, not only in terms of construction. In August the new office is built at the entrance to the children’s village, while further down the second school building slowly but surely rises into the sky. Nothing remains the same. Those who live and work with so many children every day in a rapidly changing world can write more than one book about it. If you don’t want to fall behind, you must stay active and shape the changes in time – not only but also with cement and steel.