Shantha (42) and Niluka (35), were high school sweethearts, who have now been married for 18 years. As youth they dreamed of beginning a happy life together and starting a family of their own, in a home of their own. They never imagined that life would take them along an unchartered course of hardships.

Today, Shantha and Neluka live in a one-room wooden shack with their two teenage daughters, in Kadirana, Negombo. Their current home which is only 180 sq.ft (16 sq. meters), is built with wooden planks that have now begun to decay over time, due to dampness and heat. The broken mud floors and the wasted tin sheets overhead provide this little family limited protection from adverse weather conditions and diseases. They barely have enough space for all four of them to live in this house and all four of them have no alternative but to share a single bed due to the inadequate space in the house.

Shantha, is a daily wage labourer who works as a mason whenever he is able to secure work. He is the sole breadwinner and works hard to ensure that his wife and daughters are able to have at least one proper meal a day. The Covid19 lockdown has only made Shantha’s economic hardships worse. With Gampaha being identified as a High-Risk area, Shantha is one of the thousands of daily wage earners who are unable to provide for their families due to the indefinite curfew that has been imposed.

Shantha tells us about Nethmi Inesha (15), his older daughter who is preparing to read for her Ordinary Level Examination next year and the younger daughter Nethmi Bhagya (5) who entered Grade 1 this year. Their current living conditions do not provide adequate space for the two girls to engage in their studies in a peaceful environment. They do not have electricity and have to study with the aid of kerosene lamps. Amidst the Covid19 pandemic and curfews being put in place in Katana Region, Shantha and his family have faced even more dire conditions, as they have been confined to their tiny home with inadequate space and facilities.

They do not own a toilet of their own, and are compelled to share their neighbour’s toilet. The girls have very little privacy and Shantha constantly worries for their safety. His worries are made worse, by the fact that they live in a neighbourhood rife with reports of sexual abuse of young girls. The fact that financial constraints have kept him from building his family a secure home with a lockable door, keeping his family safe from intruders, weighs heavily on his heart.

Over the years, with great difficulty, Shantha managed to save a little money in hopes to building a more stable home for his family. Being a mason, he was able to work on the construction himself, and he began working on what would be their new home more than two years ago. However, Shantha was forced to use his savings to provide for his children’s school needs and to sustain their family when he was out of work. Today, the incomplete structure beside their home is a daily reminder to Shantha and Niluka that they have not been able to provide their daughter’s a safe place to call home.

“I have tried for so many years to build a safe home for my two daughters and my wife. Being a mason and not being able to complete this house for my family has always been something that has worried me. Waking up each day and seeing what could have been our house, is a daily reminder of how I have failed them. My dream is to build a home where my girls will have a room of their own to study in peace.”

Shantha Jude Perera

Katana, Gampaha District

They do not own a toilet of their own, and are compelled to share their neighbour’s toilet. The girls have very little privacy and Shantha constantly worries for their safety. His worries are made worse, by the fact that they live in a neighbourhood rife with reports of sexual abuse of young girls. The fact that financial constraints have kept him from building his family a secure home with a lockable door, keeping his family safe from intruders weighs heavily on his heart.

Over the years, with great difficulty, Shantha managed to save a little money in hopes to building a more stable home for his family. Being a mason, he was able to work on the construction himself, and he began working on what would be their new home more than two years ago. However, Shantha was forced to use his savings to provide for his children’s school needs and to sustain their family when he was out of work. Today, the incomplete structure beside their home is a daily reminder to Shantha and Neluka that they have not been able to provide their daughter’s a safe place to call home.