An electrical fire destroyed 19 family quarters at a housing colony in Kelani valley, part of the Fordyce Tea Estate near Hatton. The families were shifted to temporary emergency accommodation comprising a single 5 square foot room each. The site floods in rainy season and there are problems with electricity supply.
Over a year later the families are stuck in the mud when it rains and the community, all Up-Country Tamils comprising Hindu and Christian families, has been caught in a debate between the estate operators, Hayleys, and the government about the provision of replacement quarters.
Hayley’s offered to rebuild houses but the site was unsuitable. The government seems to have begun to build new, bigger houses with a kitchen garden that conform to new housing standards, but this may be a promise ahead of the March parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile community activists lobby for the families and that National Christian Council of Sri Lanka gives gives occasional food rations, soap and school materials, worth about Rs 4-7,500/£17-34 per family. This is much needed support as tea pickers earn less than £3 a day.
Poverty is not just about a lack of money. Its means lacking power, access and opportunity to make a difference. Thanks to support from NCCSL, there has been a little progress and the families know they have not abandoned.