According to official statistics, over 54% of the population of Colombo lives in huts, slums or unauthorised dwellings. The city’s infrastructure was built 100 years ago to cope for 35,000 inhabitants but with the migration of people to Colombo in search of work – and particularly from coastal areas after the Tsunami – it cannot cope and many of those in the slums live in dreadful conditions with inadequate sanitation.
Dwellings often house multiple families in single rooms and when it rains, the properties can lie under water for many weeks. Disease spreads rapidly and the conditions cause all kinds of social problems. In 1995 there were estimated to be about 10,000 children between 6-14 years old that were sexually exploited for commercial purposes. A major source of childen for exploitation are the slums and shanty towns in and around Colombo. People say that children just disappear.
Many do not attend school and never know when their next meal will be. So it is comforting to know that Fr Mahendra, the priest to whom Della and Don first turned to for advice on helping after the Tsunami, is now trying to make a difference in one particular slum area. He wants to educate the children – both academically and to improve their understanding of social and health issues. Originally 30 children turned up when he started; this number has already swollen to 70 who come every day to a building adjacent to an existing school.
We know the children at the Village School which we already support are from mostly poor and under-privileged backgrounds but these are in a different league; all are under-nourished and the school uniforms are deceiving – these kids really do have nothing. So FODAD has agreed to fund this new project by contributing to the cost of food which will provide them with 3 nutritious meals a week.