Dinithi (29) and Dushantha (35), the young parents of Oshani (8) and Oveesha (4 months) greet us on the porch of their rented, partially constructed one-room they call home.
Dinithi tells us that many years ago, Dushantha purchased a small plot of land in the nearby village with the hopes of constructing a home of their own one day. However due to severe financial constraints, they have been unable to save enough to construct a home of their own. They currently live in a small one-bedroom shelter which is on a land that belongs to a family friend. In return for looking after the property, Dinithi and her family have been allowed to live in the partially constructed room for a nominal rent.
Dushantha works hard to make ends meet by working in a Fiberglass Factory close by to their village. His meagre salary of LKR 20,000 is spent on rent, food, children’s expenses and medicines for Dinithi’s elderly mother, Katherine (54). Each month they stretch their income as much as possible to provide for their entire family, but similar to most low-income families, Dinithi and Dushantha are unable to make ends meet.
Dinithi constantly worries for Oshani’s safety as she grows up in an unsafe neighbourhood. With no proper toilet and bathroom of their own, the family uses a open bathing area behind the house. The lack of adequate sanitation facilities makes the family even more susceptible to various illnesses and diseases. Each year as the monsoon approaches Dinithi shudders in fear for the safety of her family. The five members of the family all share a small 150 sq.ft. room, and all sleep on the floor. During times of heavy rains, they have no safe and dry place to sleep. Oshani tries hard to keep her books safe from the rain and the enclosed space which lacks adequate ventilation and lighting, is especially dangerous for Oveesha who is just a baby.
“We never imagined that our children would have to grow up in worse circumstances than we did. All we ever wanted to give them was a safe place to call home and an opportunity to do something good with their lives. Today, we are struggling to feed them even one meal a day. We can only dream of being able to provide them with a home of their own.”Dinithi Perera
The COVID19 lockdown has pushed Dinithi and Dushantha further into poverty, as they are unable to earn any money during this time. Negombo being identified as a High-Risk Area, Dushantha has been unable to go to work for nearly 6 weeks due to the indefinite curfew that has been imposed by the Government. At first even though the Fibreglass factory he works at offered him half-month salary in the month of March, they have informed him that he will not be receiving a salary in April. Today, they have exhausted all their options and are unable to provide even one meal a day for the children.
Dinithi longs for a time when she will be able to put her children to sleep without the fear of insects and reptiles crawling into their little shelter. She yearns to give Oshani and Oveesha every opportunity she was not fortunate enough to receive growing up, especially a sound education. Without a safe place to call home, a safe place to study and play or adequate sanitation facilities, Dinithi is uncertain about her children’s future. Dushantha and Dinithi will stop at nothing to provide little Oshani who dreams of becoming a doctor one day, the ladder she deserves to a brighter future.