Thursday, July 23, 2009

How a Home Helps

A woman and her grandchild stand on the porch of their newly-built UMCOR house.

Today as I sit behind my desk in the UMCOR home office in New York City, I find it hard to believe that just last week I was traveling through the lush but often troubled country side of Sri Lanka. A nation ravaged by a decades-long civil war and by the 2004 tsunami, Sri Lanka is taking fragile steps to peace and stability.

As we drive down dusty roads and cross waterways by ferry I am amazed at the beauty and resources of this island nation. UMCOR began working there in 2005 to help tsunami survivors recover and then we extended our scope to help people affected by the war, too. I spoke to people now living in permanent houses built by UMCOR and the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka who had been displaced by the war ten or more times in the last 15 years. They are so grateful for peace and for a permanent place to call home.

In many cases the home they now have is one they never would have dared to dream for. Shabbdhin, a man who lost his family’s home to war, tells me how the UMCOR house helped them. Before they lived in a thatched home and the maintenance of the thatch walls and roof actually cost him more than to maintain a house. The thatch home actually kept them in poverty because it prevented this shopkeeper’s family from being able to save enough to build a permanent house.

"We are very happy to be here," Shabbdhin says. "My children have stability and a study place." They’ve used their savings to purchase household goods, send their children to school and even purchase a TV which gives them a link to the outside world.

I never cease to be amazed at the simple things that keep people in poverty and the simple solutions that can help them to move beyond it.

By Michelle Scott, Executive Secretary for UMCOR Communications

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