Building Better and Stronger

Building Better and Stronger

In his 30 years as a Mason, it is only through the Homes not Houses Project that Thangavel is able to achieve his dream of building with appropriate technology and thereby saving the forests and rivers of his beloved motherland.  As part of the EU Project, Thangavel received international standard training in appropriate technology construction. He was trained in building homes using Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB), and currently serves as the Master Trainer for all CSEB homes constructions. No river sand or brick kilns are used in the production of CSEBs, which makes it one of the most eco-friendly construction technologies available. Thangavel intends to promote this method of construction long after the project is over, as he feels it is the most environmentally friendly, cost effective and comfortable home that suits the warm climatic conditions of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.  The aesthetic look of the blocks needs no finishing on the walls and the welcome coolness inside homes reduces the use of the fans. “It’s almost like an air-conditioned home”, says Thangavel with great pride as he stands next to the recently opened CSEB Home in Puthukudiyiruppu in the Mullaitivu District.

 

Breaking Barriers

Breaking Barriers

Meghamala (47) is a single mother living in Katana, caring for both her aged mother Agnes (82) and her granddaughter Oshadi (7). While she has two sons, her eldest son (Oshadi’s father) works as a daily-wage labourer and contributes little towards Oshadi’s well-being and daily needs. Meghamala’s husband who was the sole breadwinner of the family throughout their 20-year marriage, left her and the children destitute when he abandoned her. Without a place of their own to call home, Meghamala and the children were forced to move into a rented one-bedroom space, and have been living there for many years. Although she has inherited a plot of land, she lacks much-needed funds to build a home.

Not having any other means of providing for her family, Meghamala began her own home-based business of sewing door-mats with fabric. This small-scale business generates only a very limited income, therefore Meghamala also depends on her younger son Nishad (24) to support her and the family. Very often Meghamala and the family have been forced to seek help to pay rent and meals, from neighbours and relatives, which weighs heavy on Meghamala’s heart.

She says, their dire financial circumstances have been exacerbated further due to the Covid-19 crisis. She no longer makes any sales on her doormats and her two sons are also without an income as daily-wage labourers have lost all job opportunities during the quarantine period.

To Meghamala and her family, a new home would be symbolic of self-reliance. They will be safe in a space of their own and there will be no additional burdens of having to pay rent and risk of eviction – and this will no doubt help enhance their quality of life and sense of stability.

“Each month, we’re at the mercy of our landlord, unsure if we will be evicted if we’re unable to cover the cost of the rent. All I have ever wanted to was to know that my family will one day have a place of our own to call home. A new home would mean the world to us… it would give us breathing space.” – Meghamala, Negombo

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Hoping for a Safe Haven

Hoping for a Safe Haven

Irangani (42) and her family of five, live in a small tin hut which only has space to accommodate five plastic chairs and a small wooden stove. Irangani and her family spend the day in the hut and go to her mother’s house many meters away, just to sleep at night. The family has been following this routine for the past 23 years due to the inadequate space and lack of security of their current temporary shelter.

Irangani’s husband Nimalasiri (48) is a daily-wage labourer who earns only LKR 22,000 a month – that too depends entirely on whether he is able to secure work that month. Together they have a young daughter, Dinudi (11) and two sons, Sarath (26) and Chamira (21), who also work as daily-wage labourers, hoping to supplement their father’s income. Unfortunately, Sarath met with an accident a few years ago and has been unable to work since.  Following the accident, Sarath has been unable to do any strenuous work. This not only took a toll on them financially, but it was also been emotionally challenging for all of them having to watch Sarath adjust to his new life. 

Irangani and Nimalsiri have tried hard to provide the best medical treatment to help Sarath recover, by obtaining a loan to cover the expenses. Speaking of her son’s condition Irangani says, “it is unbearable to watch him like this; he was independent and capable but now he has no job and is unable to do basic things; he has not been the same since the accident.”

“Every day is a constant battle to keep going. A home of our own seems like a distant dream. My entire married life has been spent in this little hut, my children have not known any other home. I’m praying for a miracle for my family. For a second chance at life for my children. My dream is to be able to provide a home that is safe and secure for my children, without having to move from place to place every night.”

Irangani

Yatawatta, Matale

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Irangani’s dream was to give her children a sound education, but her sons were never able to pursue an education due to financial constraints. Now her only hope is to ensure that Dinudi is given a ladder to a better future. Dinudi loves going to school and will be scored well at the recently concluded scholarship examination. However, Irangani and Nimalsiri find it difficult to pay LKR 500 needed for Dinudi’s extra classes monthly and LKR 1,500 needed to stitch two uniforms for her each year.

The family depends on Irangani’s mother for safety, as they travel to her house each night to sleep. With no access to electricity, Dinudi studies with the aid of a kerosene oil lamp and Irangani travels at least 500m to the closest well each morning to collect water. Having no access to adequate toilet facilities, Dinudi very often waits to go to school to use the school toilets or waits to go to her grandmother’s home whenever possible.

A Mother’s Dream

A Mother’s Dream

Perinparasa takes care of a household with 7 vibrant members in it. She is a daily wage laborer and works regularly at nearly by paddy fields. Her husband is a fisherman and spends most of his time at the coast of Batticaloa looking for work to provide for their family.

Her eldest son works in Saudi Arabia and earns a salary of LKR. 25,000/- (approx USD 160), and sends his family in Batticaloa a portion of it to contribute to their living expenses.

Perinparsa commented that “a home is where a family can live happily together and feel safe no matter what problems happen in life”.

Her eldest daughter Shyalini (20 years old) is looking at new opportunities for work, and has applied for jobs at reputable local companies to widen her horizons so she can also help take care of her five younger siblings. She is excitedely waiting for a seccond interview with a globally renown garment factory in Batticaloa. Should she succed in securing a job, Shyalini would be the first woman to be employed and receive a stable income in her family.

This conventional home constructed through the “Homes not Houses” European Union funded project, has given a safe space for Perinparasa’s children to grow up in, and for them to create happy memories together, while having the necessary space and security to study and play.