Living on rent for nearly 18 years and constantly having to move, Anne Thushari (39), Anthony (42) and their five sons – Ramesh (20), Ganesh (17), Kavindu (14), Aloka (9) & Yohan (2) have not known the comfort and safety that comes with a permanent home. Today, they live on a 2 perch land near the lagoon, the land was donated to them by the Municipality where Anne works as a daily wage labourer. Anthony managed to build a temporary structure on this land with wooden plans and other raw materials he was able to secure from friends and neighbours.

This small unstable structure they call home, is a basic single unit space built with wooden planks for walls and tin roofing sheets. Some walls which have deteriorated due to dampness are now covered by tarpaulin sheets. The tiny space is shared by all seven of them, with hardly enough space for all of them to sleep on the floor. They also use the same space to cook in and without a separate toilet, a small space is partitioned as a makeshift bathroom, which is used by all of them to wash and bathe in. They do not have access to any adequate sanitation facilities and Anne and Anthony confess that the boys and both of them are forced to use the lagoon to relieve their daily sanitary needs.

As a young man Anthony was a sea fisherman; however, considering the danger of the job and not wanting to leave his wife and five sons alone for extended periods of time at a stretch, Anthony has chosen to work as a lagoon fisherman. As a lagoon fisherman Anthony earns less than half of what a regular sea fisherman would earn, and while Anne also works as a daily-wage worker attached to the Municipality their combined income is approximately LKR 30,000. But with five sons to educate and feed, their combined income is not sufficient to provide for the family’s needs. Their oldest son Ramesh, is now a trainee electrician and their second son Ganesh, is currently receiving training to be a boat mechanic – they hope to complete their training and help their parents financially.

Anne’s sister who lives close by has been a pillar of strength to her. Particularly during the Covid19 pandemic, Anne and Anthony were faced with a huge challenge on how to provide for their five children with both of them being daily wage labourers and not having any income for nearly two months. It was Anne’s sister who helped them in everyway she could. But this still meant that the boys would be able to have only a single meal of rice and dhal every other day. Even under normal circumstances the family lives only on one meal a day, which saddens both Anne and Anthony as they feel very sad that even with all their hard work and efforts they are still unable to provide their children with a safe and stable environment to grow up in.

A new home would not only provide this family with the safety and stability that comes with a proper home, but it will also have a direct impact on this family’s hygiene and health along with hope that they can build a better life for themselves.

“I have five boys to feed and every day I wonder how I am going to get through the day. Every single day is a challenge for us and we can only hope that someday things will get better.”

Ann Thushari