Opening ceremony for multipurpose building in Pooneryn

by Agnes Zehrer/RBU,  2013/03/13

Pooneryn is a small town in the north of Sri Lanka. At first glance, the town is situated idyllically, surrounded by rice fields, vegetable gardens and wildly romantic wet land, where white and purple lotus are blooming. It is only on closer inspection that you notice the many problems that the inhabitants of this area have to face every day.

Pooneryn is the administrative centre of a region severely affected by the civil war. The small town can only be reached via a bumpy and muddy road that represents the main connection from Jaffna to Mannar and, in its current state, becomes impassable during the rain season. Yet change is going on here as well: a new road is being built diligently. This is supposed to provide better access to the remote area. Apart from that, a functioning infrastructure, which is still lacking in many areas, is supposed to be created.

Barely four years after the end of the civil war, there is still a lack of the most basic necessities: there is no electricity. Medical care– if offered at all – is very poor. Many people live in small huts and have no access or just very difficult access to water. There are some elementary schools, yet secondary schooling or job training is barely available in this region.

The people mainly live off the crops they grow in their gardens. Many of them grow rice for their own needs and sell what is left over. Some of them additionally work as fishermen or in the building sector since many little houses are currently built in the area.

Since the next hospital is far away and large parts of the population have no access to medical care, the construction of a health post was an urgent concern for the local population as well as for the Sri Lankan humedica staff and the team in Germany.

On Tuesday, 07th March, 2013, the new health post in Pooneryn was opened. The building was financed entirely by the German Hartmannbund foundation “Ärzte helfen Ärzten” [“Physicians help physicians”] and, in future, is supposed to provide up to 40 people a day with basic medical care. First treatments were carried out even before the building was officially opened and more treatments will follow soon. During the planned consultation hours from Monday to Thursday and on Saturday, one doctor and two nurses will be on duty here. A pharmacist, who will be in charge of the dispensary, is supposed to be employed as well.

In the new multipurpose building in Pooneryn, the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon symbolises a new beginning. Photo: humedica/Agnes Zehrer

All patients will be provided with treatment and medication free of charge. For more complex treatments and operations, however, the patients have to be sent to the next hospital, since these cannot be offered at the small health post.

Furthermore, the building serves a second important purpose: It is used as a training centre where courses are held and further training is offered free of charge for the local population. Some equipment has already been acquired: six old sewing machines. From a European perspective, they seem rather antiquated, yet here, they serve their purpose very well: since they are powered by a foot-driven wheel, they run without electricity.

Thus, local women are given the opportunity to generate an important additional income for their families. First sewing courses have already been held in the new building and, thanks to the humedica family sponsorship programme, many families have received their own sewing machines in the following.

The opening ceremony was mainly attended by women and little children since the older children were at school and the men at work. The German humedica team was represented by the co-founder and managing director of the organisation, Wolfgang Groß, his deputy Bernd Herger as well as humedica staffer Agnes Zehrer. Among the other participants were pastor Sam Rajasuriar, the managing director of humedica Lanka and Nallasingam, the coordinator for the family sponsorship programme.

After the festively decorated house had been blessed and the traditional ribbon in front of the entrance had been cut, the guests gathered in the main room of the building. In the following, the house was inaugurated with prayers, songs and dances by a girls group. Pastor Sam Rajasuriar and Wolfgang Groß expressed their heartfelt thanks to the generous donor of the building and all those involved in the project.

Again and again, they emphasised the building’s importance as a local health post and a training centre for the local population. They also talked about the difficult times of the civil war and addressed the resulting problems that people struggle with up to this day. The speeches were translated each in Tamil, Singhala and English so that all the guests were able to understand what was being said.

At the end of the festivities, they painted a hopeful and optimistic picture of Sri Lanka’s future. This is how pastor Sam Rajasuriar put it when the problems of linguistic communication were addressed: “When we all speak one language we will all finally understand each other.” This common language need not be a language of words, but can be a language of deeds as well.

Please support us by registering for the family sponsorship programme in Sri Lanka or by making a donation which we will use to offer training courses for women and medical care for all. Thank you so much.

      humedica e. V.
      Reference “Family sponsorship programme
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

      IBAN: DE39 7345 0000 0000 04747

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