Another early departure from Arugam Bay which was such a nice, hipster town with good shopping, restaurants and most importantly surfing! We will certainly be back in the near future.
Having travelled a long way yesterday without stopping, almost every Tuk needs fuel so we all convoy to one small station just outside town and que up which leads out the drive way. The attendant filling our tanks can only laugh as we keep him busy for about 45mins and then all head off again.
We only travel approx 10km’s when we see another male wild elephant on the side of the road (100m). We all stop to admire the majestic beauty in elephants and can feel him watching us also wondering what all the attention is about. A quick wave good bye and we are off again.
The landscape has now completely changed compared to the coastline. Jungle forest and tall mountains now surrounds us. The weather also drops to a more comfortable temperature and the roads begin winding in and out.
We reach the first meeting point that is another water purification plant built by the foundation and PMTT group in 2015. The village again is so happy to see us all arrive (on time!) and they explain how much impact the system has had on their lives over the last 2years. Most of us take advantage of having access to clean drinking water anytime we need it, not having to conserve water, walk miles to get it, which are the common things this village was faced with daily. One of the women in the village explained to me that at the age of 5, her daily family chore was to walk to the nearest town (I estimate 5km’s away) with 2 plastic bottles to get water by herself. Having two children myself, I cannot imagine asking them to walk that distance alone to get water for the family but that was a way of life for the village and it was never questioned. After a small snack and tea, we head another 20km’s away to visit a special needs orphanage that the foundation supports in many ways.
Upon arrival, we are all immediately struck with the facility being quite large but having the appearance of a general home. We enter the area where the kids are waiting for us, and I then I realize this is going to be very emotional for everyone and I begin to hold back my own tears and emotions seeing that most of these children have special needs. Some in wheelchairs and some bound to beds – I am lost for words. There are 85 kids in the orphanage at various ages and the facility is managed by a husband and wife who themselves have 3 young kids who help daily. Typically you would expect to hear the couple have their own child who has special needs, or another family member which is how it all begun. However, for this couple it is not the case and they do it all solely out of the kindness of their hearts. Their 3 children are all healthy and happy. The husband and wife, aged 37, started the orphanage by chance when someone left a child at their doorstep that they could no longer care for, in desperation and hope that this couple would take care of him. They took this child with open loving arms, then more and more children were being left in their care until they decided to officially open the home as an orphanage and seek support.
The group spend time with each of the children playing and trying to communicate. Even with the language barriers, we manage to interact and lift their spirits even for just a short while. There is clearly a lot here that needs to be done if the kids are to have any future and the whole experience hits all of us and me personally so hard that as we leave and say good bye to the children, none of us speak to each other and avoid eye contact as we head to back to where the Tuk’s are parked. For those of you who know me, I am a true believer that a higher being does exist and now after meeting the husband and wife who have given up their entire lives to care for the kids who are truly disadvantaged, I am even more convinced there is a god.
I decide to do everything I can to help them in developing the facilities more and will contact the husband directly to pledge my support with donations knowing that they are using every cent/rupee for the kids in need.
(What better time to start this support by collecting donations now. Thanks to my beautiful wife, you can also help me to help these guys by donating at my crowdfunding page that she set up https://gogetfunding.com/helping-the-meth-sewa-foundation/ I know that there were still many of you that wanted to show your support so please help me to help them. Thank you.)
We head off again towards the hotel and as we get close by, we run out of petrol in our Tuk. Now getting experienced with running out of petrol, I immediately transfer funds through my mobile to the support team following us and pay for petrol. They arrive 30mins later fill our tank and we head off for the last few km’s.
After a long day on the road and emotions running high, no lunch again, I decide to freshen up before heading back into Hambantota in search of dinner. We find a Food City where I can replenish water and snacks and begin looking around the town talking with the local business owners.
At first, its difficult to find anyone accepting a card for payments however as we begin to search further we find a few but none of them are restaurants or serving food. I decide to talk with a few business owners about the challenges they face and decisions to not be an acquirer of card transactions. Some did have a terminal but it had stopped working and no one came back to repair/replace it, some had minimum transaction limits imposed that they could not maintain, and some just could not afford the operational overhead and decided to stop accepting cards.
This is another town where we could do so much to support local businesses and bring them into the digital commerce world for the sales of their goods and services.
The interview and discussions with the local business owners for me are a great learning opportunity and re-inforce my assumptions on where and how we need to be focusing our support.
Completely tired and still hungry I snack on the way back to the hotel from the purchases I made at Food City and then head to the room to sleep relaying the day over again and again.