Aiding Children Together, Inc.
Children on the estate during ACT's first visit. The families were living in deplorable conditions and most of the children were not attending school.
Aiding Children Together, Inc. Projects
When ACT incorporated in 2008, our hope was to support two nursery schools and a project serving families of tea estate laborers. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the creativity and hard work of our local partners, within a few years ACT had grown to support 6 ongoing programs and numerous special projects. Details of our primary projects are featured here. Click on the photo galleries to scroll through and read more details about the programs. Join our mailing list and visit our Facebook page for current news and photos.
At right, several years later children on the estate are clearly healthier, happier and more vibrant. They are attending school and have hopes and dream for their future.
Children on the Udugama estate outside the classroom ACT renovated as part of an initiative to encourage education.
SUPPORT TO LOCAL SCHOOLS
Through our involvement with children living in poverty on nearby tea estates, ACT has developed a relationship with the Upper Homadola Junior School, a public, government-run school serving students in grades 1 - 8 . The majority of students are children of laborers on nearby estates, as well as children from Udugama village. Education is the only way out of a life of poverty on the estates. When ACT first began working in this community, the school was in decline with low enrollment and sporadic attendance. Under the leadership of a new principal and with support from ACT, enrollment is up to about 140 students. In 2011, support from ACT enabled Smyrna Church to bring electricity and running water to the school for the first time. We hope to continue to support the growth of this school, and the education of these vibrant children, through future projects.
MONTESSORI NURSERY SCHOOLS
ACT supports two nursery schools in Sri Lanka, a large well-established Montessori in Galle, and a smaller, developing school in Lahugala, an area in the Eastern province heavily impacted by the war. Smyrna Church Montessori School in Galle provides a quality early childhood education to children from impoverished families who could not otherwise afford such an excellent program. In addition to learning to read and write in their native language, children also learn basic English. This will give them an advantage in future educational and employment opportunities.
VOCATIONAL TRAINING CENTER
Planning for the Vocational Training Center at Smyrna Church in Galle began in 2005 after the tsunami. The original intent was to retrain fishermen and others who had lost their means of supporting their families in employable skills such as carpentry, masonry and iron works. The plans evolved to include a computer training center, which currently provides education in this highly employable skill to dozens of young people from low-income families who could otherwise not afford such a valuable program. This opportunity will open many doors for the impoverished students, who upon completion of the program will be qualified to pursue skilled jobs in many venues or seek more advanced training. The center also provides computer classes for younger children.
UDUGAMA ESTATE PROJECT
Poverty in Sri Lanka is concentrated in rural and remote estate areas, where laborers live and work on tea and rubber plantations. ACT works with one such community near Udugama. Here, the children of laborers were living in extreme poverty, without electricity or clean water. Their parents earn as little as $2 a day working as tea pickers. Without the support of ACT, most of the children would not attend school, as they live in a remote area and many barriers prohibit their school attendance and success. By supporting ACT, you help to bring education and a better quality of life to these children, breaking a cycle of illiteracy, poverty and servitude. ACT works to alleviate these inequities by promoting educational opportunities and improving nutrition and living conditions. ACT has sponsored numerous programs directly benefiting this community, including an on-site school, a clean water project, health education, and supplemental nutrition.
WATER PROJECT Access to clean drinking water is a basic need that goes unmet for far too many families. When ACT first began sponsoring this community, the families did not have access to safe drinking water. Mark Nanayakkara and the team from Smyrna Church quickly became concerned about the numerous health implications, and devised a cost-effective solution that improved access to clean water and quality of life, and also involved the community members in its implementation.
IMPROVING LIVING CONDITIONS Estate families were living in crumbling rowhouses, with leaking roofs and no access to electricity or clean water. These inadequate living conditions along with poor nutrition contributed to many illnesses. ACT provides supplemental nutrition and financed repairs to the family homes, increasing size of the living space and replacing leaking roofs. Solar panels have brought electricity to the homes for the first time.
EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT Education of the children is a primary focus of ACT's efforts on the estate. A shell of a structure was transformed into a classroom and a teacher was hired to work with the children and support their integration into the village school. The teacher, Suresh, has continued to tutor the children over the years and monitors their attendance and progress in school. The oldest children have completed their junior secondary education at the local school and with support from ACT are studying for the advanced exams required to continue their education. For the first time the children are thinking about a life beyond the estate.
TUTORING AND ENGLISH CLASSES
ACT funds several initiatives that are designed to support the education of rural youth at risk of dropping out of school. In 2013, Smyrna Church launched a new program in Hingurana. This area in the Eastern Province has historically had very low educational results, with few students passing the exams that allow them to continue high school.This program provides tutoring by trained teachers to more than 50 students every Saturday. The program has been greeted with enthusiasm by local families and administrators. In 2015, ACT began offering English classes to school children in the village of Udugama. Speaking English provides a tangible advantage in seeking future opportunities for employment and in continuing education. The program brings together primarily Sinhalese children from the village with predominantly Tamil children from the estates, promoting greater understanding between two ethnic groups with a history of conflict. One of the oldest youth from the Udugama estate program helps to coordinate this program. Response has been tremendous with 87 children and youth signing up to participate. We hope to build a small center and expand the program to offer tutoring in other subjects as well.
Students in Hingurana receiving tutoring with support from ACT.
One of the first classes graduates with certification.
ACT supports a number of projects designed to improve conditions for poor children and families in several rural villages throughout Sri Lanka. Each year grants from ACT provide hundreds of children and youth with school supplies, backpacks, shoes, uniforms and scholarships.
Through a partnership with The Foundation of Goodness MCC Centre of Excellence, ACT provides scholarships to deserving students who lack the means to further their education. ACT also supports other FOG initiatives, including village redevelopment efforts in the war-ravaged north and backpack distribution. Visit the FOG website,www.unconditionalcompassion.org, to learn more about their great work in Sri Lanka.
HOME REBUILDING FOR TSUNAMI SURVIVORS
At right, a family lives in a temporary shack after the tsunami leaves them homeless. Below, the family in their new permanent home, built for them by Smyrna Church with the support of donors in the United States. Click here for more photos and information.
SMYRNA HIRUSARA CENTER
Street children around the world are exploited and vulnerable to abuse. Since 2011 when a grant from an ACT donor enabled the Smyrna Hirusara Day Care Center to open its doors, Smyrna Church has been working to change the lives of at-risk street children in Galle. Before entering the program, the children were malnourished, at risk of abuse, and not attending school. Smyrna Church designed a program to care for these children during the day, facilitating their healthy development and education and getting them off the streets as much as possible. The children attend 5 days a week, receiving healthy meals, clean clothes, medical attention, hygiene instruction, nurturing, and opportunities for socialization and education. The program has been so successful that we are exploring the possibility of expanded weekend and evening hours.
One of the newest and youngest members of the Smyrna Hirusara Center with her dedicated caregiver.
Visiting the Center, it is clear that the children at the Smyrna Hirusara Center are happy, healthy, and thriving.
While the program originally planned to serve 10 street children between the ages of four to ten, word about the program spread and enrollment quickly more than doubled.