The Story of Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka’s First Homeowner supported in 1995.
Selwyn, a police officer in Hatton, and his wife Jegajothy lived with their 3 young children in the quarters the police provided for them. Closing in on his retirement age, paramount on Selwyn’s mind, was ensuring that his wife and children had a secure and stable home to call their own. Investing in building a house was an impossible dream, his pay being just adequate to provide for the day to day living expenses of a young family. Ensuring that he provided for his children’s education was critical to Selwyn. How could he provide for their needs today as well as build a secure future for them tomorrow? It was whilst this committed civil servant was mulling his options that he came to know about Habitat for Humanity, which was rooted in the deep conviction that every family deserved a safe and secure place to live. Inspired by the hope that reading about this organization gave him, Selwyn, a man of initiative, wrote to Habitat Sri Lanka, stating his need. Thus, 25 years ago, Selwyn became the very first homeowner to work in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka, to build for his beloved wife and children the house of their dreams.
Over 20 years later we visit Jegajothy in the house that Selwyn built for her. Dressed in a bright pink cotton dress, complementing perfectly the cheery pink house, this diminutive lady of 68 sits and reminisces of how Selwyn built this Habitat house with his own hands. It is now 13 years since he passed on. Her three children are all grown up and working in Colombo in established companies and Jegajothy looks forward to their weekend visits. In their absence she finds great pleasure in pottering around the beautiful garden that she and Selwyn planted together.
The house Selwyn built for her is perched atop a hillock that overlooks a tea plantation. Strengthened by the knowledge that with the support of Habitat owning his own home was no longer a distant dream, Selwyn saved up to purchase this picturesque block of land. The innovative alternative technology introduced by Habitat which used the very soil of the property that was dug out to build the foundation to make earth compressed blocks helped Selwyn mitigate the expenses. How Selwyn himself, with his own hands, made the bricks for their house is still fresh in Jegajothy’s mind. The joy of moving into their new home, the memories of her children having ample space to study and play, how within two years of moving in they were able to also add an extension to their home, creating more private space for their two daughters, are for Jegajothy memories of happy and fruitful times.
Selwyn, the guardian of his family, was very moved by his experience of working alongside Habitat as a homeowner. The community instinct that led him to become a Police Officer found at Habitat Sri Lanka a new avenue for public service to his beloved Hatton community. When two years after moving into their home he retired from the police, Selwyn lost no time in signing up as Construction Supervisor with Habitat. Building on his own personal Habitat Home Owner experience Selwyn helped other families to build their own house of dreams. Today those families that benefitted from Selwyn’s commitment to help his community through Habitat, to have access to safe and secure homes of their own, remember the personal interest he took in their progress. He taught and helped them to build their own bricks, supervising in detail the safety and security of their homes. The strong, solid homes that have weathered the pass of time are very much his legacy as they are Habitat’s. Inspired by the spirit of Habitat for Humanity, Selwyn has left behind, not only a house of dreams for his beloved Jegajothy, and a solid future for his three children, but a strong and secure community that is forever knit together by the experience of helping each other build brick by brick, the house of ones dreams.