Imapact Story

The Peacebuilding Fund gives Sivam a new start

Sivam (48) has happy memories of his early life in the North of Sri Lanka.

“We had a nice house – a beautiful, large, old-fashioned ancestral home.”

His father owned agricultural land and about a hundred neighbouring families had an income by being able to work in these fields.

“We were a united community. We thought of them as well as us. That’s how we lived,” he continues.

When Sivam and his family were displaced from Vasavillan East village in 1999, he thought it would be for a few weeks, at most a few months. It turned out be years. “Agriculture was all we knew, and in displacement we didn’t have that. We were lost.”

Sivam and his family moved multiple times, in some places trying their hand at farming and in others, doing some trading.

Once the newly elected government began to release land previously held under the High Security Zones, Sivam was able to come back to the land he loved so much. “We came back 16 years later,” he says wistfully. “Our family home was just gone. Not a trace.”

It was quite a task to even identify the family property. “It was a thick jungle, with huge trees. I could not even find where exactly our house used to stand.”

However, with some markers they identified with great difficulty, the family began the process of trying to start life from the very beginning. “To be honest, I didn’t want to start again. Everything my family worked to achieve for so many years, was just gone. How can we start again with nothing?”

Although resettling was hard, Sivam was provided a helping hand by the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), which is supporting the construction of temporary housing and latrines for returning families. 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 land released by the Government from former High Security Zones. The PBF is also supporting peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts of the current government, which was elected to office in January 2015.

Through the PBF, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provided Sivam’s family with a temporary shelter, while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) facilitated the provision of a latrine and water supply.

With this support, the family is making the best out of the situation. It is clear that Sivam has inherited the work ethic of his father. With his nephew and cousin, he worked hard to clear the surrounding land so his property would be ready for the permanent home being provided by the Government together with other development partners. Sivam and his relatives have already begun work on their permanent home.

In the meantime, his temporary shelter is spotlessly clean, and his front yard is neatly swept. “It is because of this house and latrine that we were able to return immediately. Otherwise, who knows how long it would have taken? We could not afford to build even a temporary house on our own,” Sivam explains.

While beginning from almost nothing is hard for Sivam and his family, they are determined to make the best of their situation, now that they are back on the land they cherish so much.

“I want to go back to farming, once we get back our agriculture land as well. That is what we know, it is in our blood,” he says.

“At least we were able to come back to our own land. No moving from place to place anymore. The only thing we can do is start again.”