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Health Clinic for Tea Estate Workers

Since September 2007 volunteers from Community Friends have been visiting the village of Waitalawa in Sri Lanka’s upcountry highlands to hold a free health clinic for villagers. This community is made up of fourth generation tea estate workers, descendants of Tamil laborers originally brought to Sri Lanka by the English during colonial times. In fact, the community clinic facility is located in the plantation overseer’s former residence.

Just like our school lunch program in Ulla, Sri Lanka, we observed that the conditions all around us spoke louder than our preconceived ideas about what we were there to do. Fortunately, Deva and Seevali, our Sri Lankan directors, have access to a large pool of interested volunteers. So we were fortunate enough to have three doctors contribute their time, equipment and broad experience in helping the tiny community in Waitalawa.

During the day, our three doctors, Ajith, Tilina and Shalika (front left to right), along with Deva and Seevali (left to right rear) visited with over 80 villagers. For many of these villagers it was the first visit they had experienced with a doctor in decades. The utter lack of medical support in the region meant that people with ailments from far and wide came looking for help as soon as word made it out. Due to the volume of patients, we issued numbers to folks in the “waiting area”.

As Community Friends grows, our hope is to meet the health-care needs of the community by offering more than one clinic per month. Clearly the demand is greater than our resources.

Jay Goodfriend