Visitors since January 2005: 965365

Phase 44: July to September 2010

Once again we were disappointed! We wanted to build an international school for the sisters of the Carmel convent in the north of Kalmunai. But unfortunately the building contractor the sisters had recommended abandoned the construction site after only five months, because he managed to get some major orders from the government. “Somehow we will get it done”, Michael Kreitmeir promises the sisters during a visit at the beginning of July.
It’s always difficult to say goodbye to a child – even if it’s only for two years. Divia wants to get the general qualification for university entrance, which for Tamils is not possible to achieve in the region of Koslanda. Therefore, Michael Kreitmeir will bring her to nuns who run a boarding school in Batticaloa at the east coast. Due to the pain of parting this new period of life starts for Divia with some tears.
They had promised it to each other during the civil war. Now the girls from the “Sternstundenhaus” in Palugamam proudly present their Lokuthatha what they have planted in the garden. Where fear and violence have ruled for such a long time, bananas, mangos and papayas are now cultivated.
And suddenly some governmental department ordered that children up to grade 4 have to wear long trousers and jackets in class as a protection against the spreading dengue fever. In the morning the children proudly show off their clothes, but with the increasing temperature…and it’s unlikely that the mosquitoes won’t find their way. Moreover questions remain, why this order does not apply for Tamil schools or why older children remain unprotected, and why all the garbage piled around the schools is not simply cleared away in a joint action? But such questions are not welcome, hence the little ones have to sweat and together we are counting the days till the beginning of the summer holidays.
We finally managed it - two buses with more than 200 children and employees with their families started to the big festival which is celebrated every July in Kataragama. The core of the three-week long spectacle are the holy elephants. Never before, so many people have come to the southern tip of the island to pray, celebrate and watch the processions and especially the elephants.
Where thousands of people are crowding, the only chance for children to catch a good view are shoulders they can climb upon. And thus Brigitte Härtung’s and Michael Kreitmeir’s shoulders were in such a demand that these “seats with view” were exchanged among the little ones every five minutes, so that everybody could take a look at the colourful procession.
Her name is Loku – „big one“ – although the new canine lady is tiny small. Loku is a real foundling from the garbage dump. She was half dead till Samantika took pity on her and slowly nursed her back to life. Samantika is our little expert on dogs, for one year now she has been responsible for “Rocky”, our female German shepherd. Therefore, Loku has quite a good chance of surviving more than just a few months.
Almost all child-minders grew up in the children’s village themselves. They had to accept a big share of responsibility being there for their younger brothers and sisters, simply because it’s almost impossible to find externs who are willing to take care for the children with discipline and love. And this is why you have to THANK these young ladies every now and then and give them a small treat. Sometimes this is a short trip, a common meal or, as shown here, costume jewellery a guest once gave us and which brings joy and motivation.
Only once in your life you turn 18! And even if this is true for any other birthday, the 18th is something particular – at least theoretically you have reached adulthood. More than 10 years ago a small and extremely skinny boy with protruding ears had been brought to us. His father had been killed for a few Rupees. Today Damit (last row next to the child-minder Bawani) is a young man, who is preparing for his high school graduation, he is head boy and an excellent marathon runner. The picture was taken in the boy’s house on Hill Top where a little birthday party was celebrated.
Little Smile is noticed everywhere – even politically responsible people such as the minister Udith Lookubandara take notice. During his visit to the children’s village the minister was deeply impressed by the cleanliness and order everywhere and the buildings too – but most of all by the children’s faces which were beaming with joy at him.
The darkest chapter in Little Smile’s history to date started on August 17th with the arrest of Michael Kreitmeir, its founder and director. Whereas his son Manuel, who had been arrested together with him, was released the next day, Michael Kreitmeir was detained for 8 days in prison. Miraculously, he was released on the evening of the 25th of August. The picture shows him together with his son Manuel and the local manager Anton in front of the prison walls.
They came from far away to assist Michael Kreitmeir in prison, no matter if this carries the risk of getting in trouble themselves. The Carmelite Sisters from Kalmunai and the Franciscans supported the founder of Little Smile with this important sign of solidarity and with their prayers. Right after having been released Michael Kreitmeir met the Sisters and Brothers.
Precisely one month after he had been arrested, Michael Kreitmeir voluntarily returned to prison to keep his promise. Not only does he bring the prisoners a traditional candlestick and a TV, his visit is also the biggest possible gift one can make, because it makes clear that you can keep your word without being selfish.
Eight long days and nine even longer nights they have shared a very small cell. Especially during the first days the fellow prisoners were the ones who encouraged Michael Kreitmeir. “Try to keep calm and optimistic – if not it will ruin you!” Now Michael Kreitmeir will support them to get a fair trial, which is a promise he has made to himself.
On his birthday, September 18th, Michael Kreitmeir made himself a special present by making a present to others – in this case the Franciscans in Sri Lanka. He gave them a wonderful piece of land with a magnificent view, a big house, a tea plantation and many old trees, which will become Sri Lanka’s first Franciscan novitiate.
Mikel’s and Robin’s birthday is on the same day as Lokuthatha’s. Mikel even is born at the same hour, although some years lay between them. And thus their birthdays are celebrated together.
Even if the boys, who are older than 12 years, live on Hill Top some kilometers above the children’s village, Michael Kreitmeir visits his big boys regularly, because they are a part of the Little Smile family too.
Donald and Thomas came to collect information for a shoot for Stern TV. Three days they have been experiencing intensively the world of Little Smile and Michael Kreitmeir – they came as journalists and left as friends.