Yesterday and today, we spent most of our time at the the school in Komari, a village in coastal Sri Lanka. Mercy Corps sent two psychosocial specialists to come in and hold counseling sessions with the teachers and children.
In Komari and across the area, teachers have lost their own children and have no drive to come to school and teach anymore. Having a frank discussion and informal group session helped the teachers gain hope and think about the children, even though it is hard. In fact, these teachers spoke to us and said that Mercy Corps' presence had given them new energy.
Today, the children came back to school - but only about 50 out of the 850 students. Some applied theatre experts, temporarily working with Mercy Corps, worked with the children the whole morning. Innovative games and sessions to talk about their fears and future hopes helped these children make a commitment to coming to school and bringing more friends tomorrow.
The teachers asked for help from us to motivate other teachers as well as the children. In the coming weeks, Mercy Corps work with a few groups on the ground to bring life back to the school. By being present, we realize that we can be of moral support to the teachers and the students.
We have also decided to clean up an area and set up volleyball and playground areas for children, so that they will like coming back to school. Parents indicated how seeing all the debris is still scaring the children.
The school is about an hour's walk for the children from the temporary camps they're staying in now. In order to make things easier, Mercy Corps is arranging for transportation.
Children and teachers have no clothes - nearly all their belongings were taken by the waves. So, Mercy Corps is distributing clothes for the teachers and providing sewing machines for a group of women in the camps who
will stitch new school uniforms for the children.
The water facilities in the school were damaged and contaminated by the tsunami. To help students and teachers return to school, we will make drinking water and snacks available until the school is repaired and fully functioning.
Teachers, who are often also parents, need a lot of support to go back and teach. In the coming months, Mercy Corps will continue to provide that support by being there and organizing activities for the children - and hope for the community.