Hope blooms as Sudhakaran returns home
The scorching sun and dust seems to envelope the little houses in Sampoor East in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. In front of one of the houses however, a sea of bright flowers takes visitors by surprise.
It is the home of Thavagnanasingham Sudhakaran, who lives here with his wife and three children. “My daughter planted these,” he says, gesturing towards the colourful garden. The flowers provide a much needed respite from the sun drenched, dusty surroundings.
The family returned to their land in August 2015, nearly ten years since they were displaced when their property became part of the military High Security Zones in the East. They came back to a bare land, where previously stood a house Sudhakaran and his wife had built. They had lived in that house for just one year. “Although it is good to be back on our own land, I feel sad when I think about what we had before. We had our own house and didn’t depend on anybody,” says Wijayalatha, Sudhakaran’s wife. “We came back to nothing.”
Once the land was cleared, the family began the process of resettlement which was facilitated by a Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) project to provide temporary housing and latrines. With a funding base of $1.47 million, the project is providing assistance to facilitate the safe and immediate resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons to lands released by the government. The PBF is also supporting peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts of the current government, which was elected to office in January 2015.
Through the PBF, Sudhakaran’s family received temporary housing provided by UNHCR and a latrine provided by UNICEF. However, the start of the project encountered difficulties, as the rains started while the shelters were being constructed.
“We were living in a little hut while the shelter was being built,” explains Sudhakaran. “It rained hard and the floor became so muddy that we couldn’t sleep in the hut anymore. But the floor of the shelter was already constructed, so we slept on that and didn’t suffer as much as we would have.”
Their temporary home now complete, the family is slowly settling in and are waiting to construct their permanent house, which would be provided by the government with the support of other development partners.
The children’s education is the main priority and even while displaced, Sudhakaran and his wife made sure their children continued their schooling. “Before we were displaced, we had a good income from our own land where we used to cultivate groundnuts,” Sudhakaran explains. “Now, I work as a daily wage earner, but work is not regular. it is very difficult to manage the education of three children as well as fulfill the daily requirements of the family.”
Sudhakaran is grateful for the UN support his family received. “From the start, we were told exactly what type of assistance we would get, and that was exactly what we received,” he says.
“Starting life again is very hard, but this is far better than being displaced,” says Wijayalatha. “We want to educate our children and earn a decent income, but we have no capital at all to even start something on our own.”
Yet, the brightness of the flowers in their garden seems to reflect the family’s hope for a better life. Wijayalatha continues, “We are home now. It is good to be back at last.”