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Phase 69: October to December 2016

At the beginning of November our watchman, whom we all simply called uncle, all of a sudden died of a heart attack during working. For almost exactly 5 years, we could always count on him. For many children he was part of the Little Smile family, kindly smiling he always stood at our gate. Thus, there was great dismay and deep sorrow among us all. One day after his death, we gathered at his guardhouse to say prayers of the three different religions here.

For those who live with nature like we do here in the children’s village Mahagedara, death is nothing strange or unknown but part of our daily life. Wild cats, monitor lizards, snakes, but especially stray dogs threaten the life of the smaller animals. In the middle of October, in front of the horrified kids a dog killed mother duck “Beauty” who was fearlessly trying to protect her four ducklings. Since dogs breed rather uncontrolled in Sri Lanka, they increasingly pose a threat for the last wildlife animals.
The four little orphans quickly found foster mothers in our Wisdom house. After the solemnly burial of the mother duck on our pet cemetery, the new mothers enthusiastically stroked the ducklings and chattered excitedly. The daily care, however, lands in the child minder Dilhani’s lab. And Lokuthaththa promised to protect the children’s village even more than in the past against stray dogs.

When a woman with 6 children suddenly needs shelter there are not many institutions which will accept her unconditionally. For us this is indeed difficult as well, but the really important and precious things in life are seldom easy.

Before the great examination stress begins in November, the Tamil School in Koslanda also wants to show that they have produced during the 2016 term a lot of art and craft work. And since almost fifty Little Smile kids attend this school, Michael Kreitmeir and the child minders have come to admire the artworks in the large school exhibition.

Again and again Michael Kreitmeir visits one of the children’s homes which are supported by Little Smile. Whenever he comes, he brings time and patience and listens to the wishes and problems of the child minders and the children, just as he does here in the Child Development Center in Monaragala, and he takes the problems of which there are always a lot, very seriously. Like in any other children’s home, it is also very difficult in the institutions financed by Little Smile, to find motivated and qualified personnel. The work with children is no job like any other and needs a great deal of understanding, patience, frustration tolerance and a particularly large amount of love.

A good morning! There is nothing better than a sunrise on a Sunday morning when the kids don’t have to go to school and have some time before the joint breakfast. It is still cool, that is below 30 degrees, and so playing and romping is even more fun, especially when this helps to throw Anka from the main house out of her bed. But it’s impossible to be angry with them when you see their joy and so the best thing you can do is to join their laughing and playing.
Particularly for our Tamil girls the almost 5 km long way to school is quite long. Therefore, it is good that the children’s village has its own bus since four years, with the effect that our kids don’t need to start their way to school like many other kids in the country early in the morning when it’s still dark and are already tired when they arrive at school. To start the school day with the Little Smile bus without pushing and shoving, without jostling and quarreling, with a smile on your face instead, helps to bear the daily school routine.
From the very first day it was a matter of major concern for Michael Kreitmeir to live and propagate in Little Smile respect, esteem and tolerance towards all races and religions. Even more: In Little Smile’s institutions tolerance is the daily practice because Tamils, Singhalese, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians all live together, learn together and pray together as one big family. And why shouldn’t work outside what works so very well here on a small scale?

On every full moon day the girls from Mahagedara have to climb up the mountain to Hill Top where our boys live and the Little Smile temple stands. This trip is very popular in Mahagedara and the ritual ceremonies with the old Sami up on the mountain are also a great pleasure for the non-Hindus . Every day the boys gather here with Bawani and three times a week and of course, on the Hindu holidays the Hindu priest comes as well.

For the bishop from Badulla the time of the Christmas celebrations already starts at the end of November, because he wants to celebrate the birth of the Saviour together with the believers of all his institutions and communities. Because those kids from St. Ursula, who are going home over the Christmas holidays, should also have the possibility to celebrate Christmas with their bishop and Michael Kreitmeir, the Christmas party 2016 takes part already at the end of November. Little Smile also finances St. Ursula the oldest children’s home in the UVA province.
On December 11 we all celebrated the 90th birthday of our «Oma», to be exact Lokuthatha’s mother Maria Kreitmeir. Already in the morning the kids had put on their finest clothes – there is sufficient time for such things during the holidays. In front of the main house, everything was decorated festively with countless flowers from the garden, with roses too, because they were grandma’s favorites. And since a special birthday requires a special present, our grandma got a new urn from her nice Christina. Hard to believe how alive someone who died more than 10 years ago can appear.
Good that Anka has learnt how to make cookies from her mother. The kitchen in the main house is full of delicious aromas – typical Christmas cookies like Spitzbuben and Spritzgebäck raise Christmas feelings. The girls are full of enthusiasm, especially because they can sort out the broken pieces and those cookies that have become too dark and eat them right away. I wonder if kids like Sandia, Chamilla and Dinuka will continue this tradition in Sri Lanka when they are grownups. 

Almost one kilometer the Christ Child has been carried uphill from the Lady Chapel to the main house. A big surprise awaited the child there – a tree solemnly shining with hundreds of small colorful lights. It’s been 16 years since we last celebrated Christmas in the main house. 2016 it happened again, and it was simply wonderful, because the Christmas feeling was unbeatable (see also “Christmas in Little Smile”).

Not only but particularly for our little ones, the absolute highlight after the common prayers, the singing, the nativity play and the exchanging of gifts, was the additional sweet gift that arrived on Christmas – tons of sweets. To be able to eat as many sweets as you want – that’s a true sweet dream come true for the kids. Unbelievable, how much our little ones can eat and their stomach can tolerate. 
On Christmas Day lots of visitors came to the children’s village.  The teachers and students from our Ayurvedic training hospital in Buttala also came to visit Lokuthatha and Mahagedara, the heart of the Little Smile family. The young teacher from Buttala, Saradha, grew up and learnt here, this was her home and so she comes to visit us on every special holiday to show: I will never forget what I received here.
Especially in difficult times, it is important to protect the light of the Holy Night and carry the Christmas message into the New Year too. The son of God, the Messiah, looked completely different from what people had expected. And so when he came there was no room for him in most houses and hearts. Provide more than only a refuge for the unprotected and weak accept them just as they are no matter what race or color, because: “Remember, whatever you did for the least of your brothers and sisters, you did unto Jesus himself.”
On New Year’s eve we made a big campfire, children and child minders danced around the fire and said good-bye to the old rather difficult year 2016. There were good but also very difficult moments, but what really counts: We all – the big Little Smile family – survived, even our grandpa far away in Germany, Hermann-Josef Kreitmeir will welcome the new year 4.5 hours after the children did so in the Sri Lankan mountains. Thus, there were many reasons to be most grateful and happy and so we celebrated and had lots of fun at the campfire – without a drop of alcohol.