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World Vision initiative helps 2000 children get 'back to school' in Sri Lanka's displacement camps

Reuters AlertNet

1882 days ago   Article ID# 26887
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World Vision Lanka

LONDON, U K (Reuters AlertNet) - World Vision Lanka is setting up special Child Friendly Spaces and Temporary Learning Shelters in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) to provide a place for children to heal from the many ordeals they have been through.

"Thousands of children in the camps have a critical need for psychosocial support. Creating safe places for children to play helps keep them safe from the risk of abuse and neglect," said Suresh Bartlett, World Vision Lanka's National Director.

Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) have been set up in three camps which offer a safe, secure environment for young children to play and interact with their peers and essentially be children again. Eight Temporary Learning Shelters (TLS) provide facilities for emergency schooling enabling children to study and increase their knowledge.

Schooling is a means of restoring a sense of normalcy to the lives of children and can help them overcome distress. Education offers a regular routine, opportunities for self-expression and the chance to engage with peers - all vital elements of normalcy for children whose lives have been disrupted by conflict and displacement.

World Vision is working with the Ministry of Education to source teachers from the area and among the IDPs to work in the temporary schools.

Study packs containing exercise books, drawing books, pens, pencils, crayons, water bottles, clothes and school bags have already been distributed to 2000 children who will be enrolled in the temporary schools. The children are all enthusiastic about the prospect of resuming their studies.

"I love to continue my studies here, I'm studying in Grade five but I have missed my classes for more than 5 months already. I don't have any books with me to study, I only have a few clothes," said Naharubikka (10)

Throughout Sri Lanka's 26 year long conflict, a sad fact that has emerged is the profound effect the war has had on the lives of children.

A visit to the IDP camps strikes a chord in one's heart as you see how much the innocent children have suffered. It is truly saddening to meet the displaced children, they still manage a smile, but the once bright eyes are now glazed over and they are visibly drained after their countless ordeals over the last few years.

Children, by their very nature, are usually the most vulnerable group in any society. Conflict and displacement increases this vulnerability and presents another range of additional threats for children, including separation from their families, increased risk of abuse and exploitation, forced conscription and exposure to targeted violence or landmines.

Most children have spent their entire lives in the shadows of this violent conflict. The sound of persistent shelling and gunfire was constantly in the background as a grim reminder of their circumstances. Many of them are severely distressed after having seen other children and even their own siblings killed or injured.

Children and their families were frequently displaced - some more than ten times in a year often at short notice. They were forced to abandon some of their belongings as they shunted from village to village in search of safety, clinging onto small worn out knapsacks hastily packed with their most treasured possessions.

There are over 60,000 children among some 200,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who fled the conflict zone and are accommodated in camps in the districts of Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka and in Trincomalee in the east.

World Vision is supporting these IDPs through the provision of Water, Shelter, Food, Non Food Relief items and Child Friendly Spaces and Learning Centres.

Copyright 2014 Reuters AlertNet   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1882 days ago   Article ID# 26887

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