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Bridging Lanka Monthly Report
Don’t Rain on my Parade! – November, 2021
Worst Flooding in 58 Years!

Mannar Island is inundated! Although now is the normal start of the wet season, we have not seen anything like this level of inundation before! Houses and household items were drenched by eight feet of water. Newly laid roads had to be excavated so that flood waters could find an escape route. Thousands of families are stranded, hobbled together in relatives’ houses or in public facilities like schools and churches. Villagers have rallied around cooking hundreds of kilos of rice and curries for destitute families. Water, water everywhere...
Displaced and in Danger

One impact of the flood waters is the homelessness faced by a multitude of families, but a victim group that remains invisible is Mannar’s donkeys. Being lovers of dry conditions they choose to populate Sri Lanka’s arid zone of Mannar Island, so being confronted by such wet conditions in their usual urban haunts have forced large numbers to migrate to congested Mannar town. Unaccustomed to dodging fast travelling trucks, buses and tipper trucks, many are sustaining grievous bodily injuries. Our donkey rescue service has had many call outs during this time.
Keeping Hospital Patients Safe by Jerad Anton, Development Officer

The director of the Mannar General Hospital asked Bridging Lanka if we could fund a Reverse Osmosis water filtration plant for both patients and staff. After many meetings led by Rojan, BL manager, we worked out the water capacity needed, the location and installation works. First I tested the hospital mains water which was not good. Now that we had finally found a dependable RO supplier, Blue Water, they came and identified what RO system was needed - with a price tag of Rs 300,000 (approx AU$ 2,000). We had no idea where the money would come from. Then we were contacted by a person from Colombo, Roshan Sembacuttiaratchy, who admired Bridging Lanka’s work so donated that amount!
The machine can produce 1,200-1,400 litres of safe drinking water each day. The RO plant is now conveniently located near major patient wards including those for pregnant mothers. I did all the plumbing and electrical work while the Blue Water crew installed the system. I will train a maintenance team from the hospital to care for the machine and change filters and membranes when needed. I will also monitor the process twice per month. 
Cooking Up a Storm of Virtue by Terence Jeyaretnam

Another entertaining conversation while preparing Sri Lankan fare - compliments of Shaun Christie-David of Colombo Social and Plate it Forward and popular young comedian, Suren Jayemanne. This was the second serving in an inspiring menu of simultaneous fun, cooking together and helping struggling families in Sri Lanka - through our Bridging Lanka Conversations series. Together with the inaugural conversation with Minoli De Silva last month, we raised $6.540 towards Bridging Lanka’s essential work in Mannar, northern Sri Lanka – thanks to some very generous people!

The session with Shaun and Suren was lots of fun. We learnt about the great work Shaun is doing with asylum seekers and with the delivery of free food to vulnerable communities through the Covid lockdowns.  The potato and jackfruit snack pack was amazing, and there were some quality cooking tips. We are hoping to have Peter Kuruvita join us for a session in February ’22. Watch this space!
Jammin’ to the Rhythm of Love by Lindy Drew-Tsang, Director, Brisbane

OSince COVID, the Bridging Lanka Directors in Australia have been coming up with novel ideas to raise funds.  My good friend Sandy Trenevski and I have recently launched our label, Mellor House, a not-for-profit that is raising funds, 100% of which goes directly to Sri Lanka to support Bridging Lanka’s community development projects.  

So far our all-natural products include maple macadamia nuts, marmalades, classic strawberry jam, mango and mango/passionfruit jams. We make the most of local produce from neighbours, friends and relatives, pleased to find a use for the seasonal glut. A wonderful supporter at the local fruit markets provides boxes of strawberries and mangos and a good-hearted 80 year old business woman whose company prints the labels for free.  Last week we even had a mother and daughter auction three bottles of mango jam for $475! Love is our inspiration.

So far I’ve made $1,000 that will go toward the wages of two new female workers. Their role will be to support the recently graduated Fighting Fit peer counsellors in their demanding work of supporting and counselling Mannar‘s young people who are facing hard times.
Sydney Siders – Diarise Now! by Terence Jeyaretnam

For those in Sydney, join us for the Flavours of Lanka Sydney Gala Dinner to be held on 19 March, 2022. It will be on the same evening as the now-postponed (due to Covid) Flavours of Lanka Melbourne Gala Dinner with Dilruk Jayasinghe and Sashi Perera as the entertainers.  All proceeds go to Bridging Lanka’s projects that help poor Lankan families and address youth alcohol and drug issues. The Sydney event will feature comedian, Suren Jayemanne. We hope to stream the comedy skits to each other’s venues during the evening.  The Melbourne event was booked out within two weeks, so I would encourage the Sydney-siders to get your tables of ten sorted, and book as soon as possible. I extend heart-felt thanks to Shaun Christie-David of Colombo Social and Plate it Forward for catering at cost, and for Suren for volunteering his time and talents.  Bookings for the Sydney dinner can be found at: 
Breakthrough! By A.B.F. Rojan, Manager and Better Parenting Facilitator
The Better Parenting program run by Bridging Lanka is the kind a project that is very important for our society. Why is this so important for parents? How can this help parents? I like to share my experiences. I have already finished running 4 sessions but every session is a new experience. 

Here’s a small story: first session I noticed every parent has some confidence about what they are doing for their children. It’s only good parenting and we are the best parents. Second session: they start thinking. Much discussion happened. Third session: I can feel how much pain they have in side and feeling helpless. They start to cry. Session four: they too are stumbling in raising their children. Now slowly they are realising how much they are destroying their children. Slowly parents start to talk about their children honestly. Before when the child made a mistake parent action is yelling and hitting the child but now they start to think and talk to the child. So many parents feel helpless. 
Here’s one example: one 10 year old girl has a bad habit stealing money from her mother’s purse but her parents don’t know how to stop this. They try so many ways to stop this habit. They yelling and give hard punishment but nothing works. The parents getting more depression. After a Better Parenting session a parent starts to think. The father says to his daughter, “You made this mistake but I am not going to hit you. We can discuss and solve this issue. Next time your mind try to think about stealing money please come to me and we can talk about it. After 7 days the child come to father and asks help. She says, “My mind said take money from my mother’s purse.” At that moment the father and mother have no words they are so happy. He asks her what she wanted to buy – some chocolate – so the father buys her some and has a small party with her. They all enjoyed that day. The parents feel so much happy.           
Challenging Spin-offs Part 1

One of the participants of the parent support group approached us confidentially about her son who had been diagnosed with autism, lack of speech development, hyperactivity, anxiety, restricted repetitive patterns of behaviour, ADHD and dyslexia. When Bridging Lanka director and Better Parenting facilitator, Rojan, met with the mother and 13 year old son, they read the clinical diagnosis but then asked probing questions about her son’s experience. These serious behaviours were traced back to when he was two years old, coinciding with his father leaving for Switzerland as a foreign worker and having little to do with his family thereafter. At the conclusion of three hours of honest and painful conversation a modest plan of action was devised. The relief on the face of this parent was palpable.
Challenging Spin-offs – Part 2

Being aware of the Fighting Fit program, the Mannar Zonal Director of Education asked us to support a dedicated principal of a primary school in the impoverished village of Santhipuram. The principal had tried several strategies to improve the learning opportunities of her students but was despondent at her failures. The two hour conversation with us highlighted a litany of woes including significant truancy, dysfunctional home life (poor female headed households, domestic violence, fathers in prison or unemployed, parents instructing children in packaging drugs for sale) and parents not supportive of their children’s education because they were largely uneducated themselves.

At our behest, the principal agreed to run a trial focused on the families of the children in Grade three – 14 students in all. We have planned an intensive response involving visiting each household, understanding the families’ circumstances at depth, developing specific responses as well as working closely with each of the 14 students.
Nurturing Youth to Bring About Change by Kavivarman Mailvakanam, Project Officer

In May I started a 6 month leadership course with a non-governmental organization call Educate Lanka. Its focus was on leadership qualities and becoming a good leader. One of the exercises was to identify a social problem, develop a problem statement, observe and evaluate the effects of the problem and trial some solutions. This was to become our projects for practical learning. This also involved producing a project video. The social issue I chose was youth violence in Mannar, focusing on influencing my friend Ashak to stop his violent ways. 
Through the program my level of confidence increased in interacting with new people and public speaking, and I formed new friendships! The course ended this month and I received very positive feedback about my participation and video. It is the first time I did a documentary video and I thank Bridging Lanka for their support and especially Eric for the filming and video production work.
Regrouping & Defending our Space

It’s been eight months since we last visited our Digana, Kandy district office, our Youth Nation Digana group and our youth development officer, Shamini. Rolling lockdowns and inter-district travel restrictions have stymied our regular fortnightly visiting routine. In order to clear the airwaves with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers who had been hounding our youth group members, Rojan, BL manager, invited one of them to meet with us. During the long two hour session we explained Bridging Lanka’s work via a presentation and then embarked on frank discussions. The outcome was an amicable relationship and a much better informed CID. That night we regrouped with our youth from Muslim, Sinhalese and Tamil backgrounds.
Challenging Male Dominance in the Fitness Industry by Jaslin Thanapala, Fitness Trainer

Both our Powerhouse gyms at Adampan and Kunchukulam are doing well, offering regular fitness programs to our clients. The message is slowly getting out that the morning sessions at the Adampan gym are for women only. Soon we will be employing a female to generate more interest among the female population. Then we will arrange fitness training sessions for her. We will also explore weight reduction programs as that has become a need.
Dancing Queens & Kings by Kumanan Mailvaganam, DAT Coordinator

For most of 2021, the Donkey Assisted Therapy program for differently abled young people has been in abeyance due to rolling lockdowns and school closures. With finally getting the green light, the MARDAP director thought a visit to the Donkey Clinic & Education Centre would reacquaint the youngsters with our friendly donkeys. Boy did they have a ball! The donkey connection was soon warmly kindled but the highlight was the wild dancing that our Project Worker, Hindhujan, initiated. The males and females just wouldn’t stop dancing! Unfortunately this did not lead to the resumption of the DAT program as the rains flooded most of the youngsters’ houses. We hope for brighter days soon.
Pressured Month by Eric Fernando, Graphic Designer

This month I focused on designing the presentation slides and doing the Tamil translation work to complete the Better Parenting sessions. This was to meet our deadline for winding up the Fighting Fit grant from the Australian government. There were totally 8 sessions to complete and the pressure was on! To translate from English to Tamil, I had to first understand the information deeply. I felt anxious as I learned lots of things about being a parent, parenting styles, discipline, love languages and much more. I started to realise how parents are struggling to nurture their children. Thanks Kumanan anna for your help. I also designed a flier inviting women to join the Adampan gym.
Back in the Education Business by Jerad Anton, Development Officer

Prior to the Covid problems Bridging Lanka ran English and ICT classes from our Youth Empowerment Hub in Kunchukulam. It engaged two teachers. Then nothing. Two years later we have restarted English classes run by our new parish priest, Rev. Fr. Mariya Cline. He was keen to start English classes and asked Bridging Lanka for exercise books and English-Tamil dictionaries, which we supplied. Fr. Mariya Cline has set up a basic classroom in the church hall. He has also arranged for a volunteer teacher to conduct other subject classes. Both of them are doing pretty well so soon the class numbers will be expanded.
Birthdays Galore!

The year 2021 has been blessed with the coming of age of many of our young male staff. The practice here is that the ‘key’ birthday starts with deafening fireworks at midnight lit by a bunch of friends who descend on the sleepy birthday boy. Cake and soda and a raucous ‘happy birthday’ sung out of tune and plenty of photos which hit the social media highways instantly are all part of a well-established ritual now. Kavi was one such birthday recipient. Later that night, a dinner, a photo retrospective and dancing complete the celebration. So much undercover prep for these events but the enjoyment factor compensates for the hard work. This year just from Bridging Lanka alone, Eric, Luman (Jaslin), Hindhujan and Eric have joined the ranks of adulthood – finally!
Planning for the Future

Through the kind donations of a small group of ardent supporters in Australia and Singapore, Bridging Lanka has purchased one acre of land adjacent to the Hendro Animal Rescue Centre (HARC) site in Olaithoduwai. It is 200 metres from our Donkey Clinic. The reason for the purchase? Many: a possible future office and accommodation space for Bridging Lanka as rentals in Mannar Town increase sharply; the land is planted out with coconut and murunga trees which fetch a high income that could offset BL salaries and expenses, and it would contribute toward food security in these unpredictable times through the proposed planting of organic fruit and vegetables. 

In Australia, Bridging Lanka Ltd is a public benevolent institution (PBI) with charity status with the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission, deductible gift recipient status and charity tax concession status with the Australian Taxation Office. All donations are tax deductible.

In Sri Lanka, Bridging Lanka (Guarantee) Limited is a registered not-for-profit company with the Registrar of Companies and as a Voluntary Social Service Organisation with the Secretariat of Non-Governmental Organisations.
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Bridging Lanka contact details:

28 Mellor Street
Kedron, QLD 4031
86 Esplanade Road
Mannar 41000
Sri Lanka

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