War Child Canada’s (WCC) primary objective through its Sri Lanka Children’s Trauma Recovery Program (the War Child Sri Lanka Program) is to promote the psychosocial and physical rehabilitation of conflict and disaster‐affected children in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. This progress report will outline the impact of the program and the status of program spending, as well as provide an update on the current political situation in‐country and War Child Canada’s strategies for the future of the program.
With support from Webkinz Foundation, the War Child Sri Lanka Program, still in progress,
has been an overwhelming success. This program has made it possible for children and their
families, whose lives have been devastated by both the 30 year civil war and the 2004 Tsunami, to receive urgently‐needed psychosocial and educational support – helping to rebuild their lives and communities. In addition, families and local communities have received meaningfu benefits through engagement and reconciliation.
The War Child Sri Lanka Program has exceeded its targets and continues to reach more children than initially anticipated in the proposal submitted to Webkinz Foundation in 2008.
The positive impact of the War Child Sri Lanka Program has been experienced by over 3,000 child participants, 2,000 households and 155 local staff. This program is being implemented in a context of growing need and dwindling resources, and amidst an ever challenging political climate that has led to increasing violence. The support and rehabilitation taking place through the program is essential for communities in the Batticaloa District to rebuild and recover and has made an immense impact on the lives of the child and family participants.
Children. School‐aged children attend Webkinz‐supported play centres and village gardens after class five days a week and on weekends. Pre‐school children also attend programs five days a week. For many children participating in the program, conflict, insecurity and uncertainty has defined their life‐experiences to‐date. This program gives them a unique opportunity to express themselves in a safe and healing environment and to receive the individual attention and support that can they need to heal and grow. Most importantly, this program creates a safe space for kids to be kids.
Through storytelling, song, dance, performance art, handicrafts, and play the children are exposed to different issues which are relevant within their communities. The older children perform educational dramas on issues such as child rights, child labor, alcoholism, and domestic violence with the aim to raise awareness amongst audience members. Psychosocial healing of trauma is realized through a variety of activities aimed at identifying those children who might have personal problems or problems at home.
The play centers also serve mentally disabled children who participate fully in all activities with the other children. These special needs children not only find acceptance and learn new skills, but they also serve to educate the other children who become more patient and tolerant as a result of their interaction with the disabled.
Children who are nearing completion of their pre‐school program are taught a specific curriculum aimed at making sure they are ready to transition into primary school. They are also
evaluated by the teachers to ensure their readiness. Student evaluation records are forwarded
to the primary schools which enable a smooth transition.
The curriculum also incorporates health, hygiene, and physical activities. Another key element of the pre‐school program is the emphasis on ensuring proper nutrition. The children are provided with a nutritious mid‐morning meal daily. This meal is an essential part of their overall daily nutrition.
The children in the program are served by animators and teachers who themselves were affected by the tsunami. Many resided in displacement camps prior to working at the centre. The bond between animators and children is particularly strong and can be attributed, in part, to the fact that they have all shared the experience of trauma, conflict and insecurity.
Local Staff. The program has also benefited animators and pre‐school teachers, and creates sorely‐needed employment opportunities for local people in an area high unemployment – with tremendous social benefit to families and communities. WCC prides itself on working closely with local communities and always makes the training and capacity building of local staff its paramount priority, thereby ensuring sustainability through the promotion of local ownership. All of the program staff receive monthly financial compensation which not only contributes to improving their livelihoods, but also the livelihoods of their families. Program staff also receive intangible benefits such as increased life and work skills coupled with the benefits of witnessing the children’s growth, development, and transformation, as well as their own. This program is successful precisely because local communities are, themselves, stakeholders and take pride in their accomplishments.
Families. The benefits extend beyond those immediately associated with the project. At present, at least 2,000 households (approximately 12,000 individuals) have benefited from the program through the participation of their children. All the families in these communities fall below the poverty line, and are dealing with trauma and loss from both the conflict and the tsunami. The children’s development and growth is noticed and acknowledged by their families and many of the families, as well as the child participants themselves, reported that the skills and knowledge gained from the program are shared and taught to those in the household.
In addition, family members reported being positively influenced by the gains made by their children in terms of improvements in their behavior and overall temperament. The immediate community surrounding the children also experiences some of the residual positive impact of the programs in that they too witness the change in the children, which could precipitate and become a catalyst for their own change. This social benefit has also served to protect children and their communities, as children and youth are less engaged in petty crimes and/or violent acts.
The wider community. The program is a source of pride and has been hailed as a tool for healing in the community. Direct benefits reach the wider community and contribute to the improvement of the economic situations of many. For example, local business and service providers such as in the construction, food, transportation, educational materials, and banking industries – which provide services to the program – also benefit.
This program has helped to foster tolerance, understanding, community harmony, trust, and friendship between the Muslim and Tamil communities. Families have the opportunity to confront the mistrust and hostility amongst the community members, and genuine friendships have been forged. The importance of this program to peace and stability within communities cannot be overstated.
This project has been funded in part by a generous contribution of $102,000 CDN from the Webkinz Foundation. Strategies for continuing to meet needs throughout 2010 and into 2011 are currently under development. WCC anticipates all project funds to be spent upon completion in February 2010, with Webkinz funding completely expended by December 31st, 2009
War Child Canada Sri Lanka Trauma Recovery Program: Global Budget
December 2008 – December 2009
Total Budget (CAD)
|Psychosocial, rehabilitation, art and play activities||
|Lunch Program for 16 Children’s Centres||
Rehabilitation of 16 Children’s Centres: fences, latrines, repairs,
cooking facilities, water and sanitation
|Salaries of teachers and animators||
|Education and community capacity building||
|Running costs for 16 Children’s Centres, including communication and transportation||
|Monitoring, evaluation, skills training – local pasrtners||
|Sub-Total Direct Costs||
|Webkinz Funds allocated to WCC Sri Lanka Budget||
|Webkinz Project Funds spent by December 2009||
Strategies for the future
WCC will continue to work with children and their families to provide support for recovery and rehabilitation through innovative psychosocial and educational programming. WCC’s community‐focused approach ensures that programming has a strong foundation in the local traditions and culture, and also guarantees that community members feel a strong sense of ownership of project activities. It is imperative that WCC continue this important work on Sri Lanka’s east coast. The development and rehabilitation needs of children and families affected by the conflict are acute and will persist for years to come. As a quarter million Tamils currently held in government camps are resettled, there is likely to be an influx of displaced people settling along the east coast in Trincomalee and Batticaloa. These families will create additional burdens to extremely resource‐poor communities where government infrastructure and support are woefully inadequate and economic development is coming far too slowly. WCC is at an important stage of programming with an opportunity to improve the quality and expand the reach of its activities. For over a year the government of Sri Lanka has been increasingly hostile to international non‐governmental organizations. Despite obstacles to working, WCC maintained local relationships and continued its work. As the government relaxes restrictions to access, WCC will be uniquely placed to serve additional populations that are in urgent need of development support.