It would be remiss of us to pretend that the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has not affected what we’re doing. After careful consideration from the team in conjunction with the Women’s Development Centre, we are making some changes to the way we’re running our Sri Lanka 2020 “Give a Girl a Dream” project.
First and foremost, the centre is a safe house for young women and girls who are pregnant or have a baby. These are one of the most vulnerable groups of people in society, and we have no intention of bringing Covid-19 into the centre by continuing ‘business as usual’. That being said, in our work to refurbish and improve the centre, we have had to turn the place upside down; all furniture and belongings are currently elsewhere, many of the lights and fans are currently disconnected, walls are half-painted, and so on.
We are not giving up on this project; we are keeping our word. We have instead put precautionary measures in place to ensure we can finish the work and ensure the girls’ safety.
1. Painting, decorating, plumbing and electrical work will be finished
Having engaged and paid for local contractors, we will continue this work and ensure that it is finished as promised. However, we will work to ensure that these contractors are kept separate from all of the girls, babies, House Mothers and other staff who live and work at the centre. Luckily this is possible as the dormitories are in a separate building, and they had found other workspaces while we carried out refurbishment work anyway. The Heir Foundation team members who remain in Kandy will live (as they have been) in a remote house, away from the town, and will only travel from this house to the centre; nowhere else.
2. Other non-essential work will be put on hold for now
We had planned educational work, other refurbishment, procurement of new furniture and supplies – and so on. This will still happen; just not yet. While we’d like to supply the centre with these important things, we must ask the girls to hold on a little longer. This way we can feel confident that we are not putting them at unnecessary risk.
3. We are educating the centre
We are working with the House Mothers to help them understand the seriousness of the situation. At the weekend, we arrived to find all of the girls ready to go to the local hospital for a routine check-up. After explaining the risks associated with doing this, the House Mothers quickly realised that a check-up could wait. One girl who was experiencing complications related to her pregnancy has had a doctor brought in to the centre, away from the other girls.
4. Our volunteers are doing what’s right for them
We understand that some of our volunteers cannot stay, and need to get back to their families and livelihoods – especially as a Sri Lankan border closure looks likely, and imminent. As such, only a core team will be staying in Kandy – limiting the amount of exposure the centre gets to the outside world and ensuring that everyone can do what feels right for them.
We are incredibly grateful to our volunteers who have agreed to stay in Sri Lanka, and who continue to work hard for the girls in the centre during very difficult times.
We are also extremely grateful for your continued support in a time when it is difficult to think about anything other than Covid-19; unfortunately the pandemic only worsens the situation for those already in need.