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School Lunch in Post-Tsunami Village

Although the 27-year war in Sri Lanka in now over, it has not been safe to visit Ulla village where our relief efforts first began. We hope to reconnect with the village later this year.

Community Friends’ work began in the village of Ulla, in the Arugam Bay region of Sri Lanka. In the weeks following the tsunami, our co-founders Carsten Henningsen, Deva Ratnakara, Seevali Ratnakara, Dr. Thilina Karunathilake and Jeeva Maddumage led a group of volunteers to Ulla. Carrying food, medicine, water-purification equipment, hundreds of battery-less flashlights, and stacks of artwork sent as well-wishes by school children in Portland, Oregon, they were among the first people to reach this remote village with tangible help.

Since those early days, Community Friends’ interaction with the community has been accomplished through the village school, its teachers and principal. Funds raised by Community Friends helped pay for new school uniforms, new school books, and other critical items needed to get the school functioning.

Almost immediately after getting to know the community in Ulla, it became apparent that there was an urgent need to properly feed the 100 or so children coming to the village school each day. In fact, we learned that this need predated the tsunami, serving as an indication of just how significantly the community was suffering and how inadequate the local economy was in supporting the basic needs of the families living there. So it became immediately clear what was needed in Ulla.

We developed a program with several goals in mind:

1) feed all the children in the community,
2) maximize school attendance,
3) encourage community involvement in the Program,
4) maximize the nutritional content of these lunches,
5) achieve self-administration of the Program.

Working together with the parents and community educators, we developed a School Lunch Program. 50,000 hot meals were served by parent volunteers in the first two years since of the program. And we are very satisfied in saying that school attendance has increased by over 25% since this Program began.

The village and local government have taken over this Program and are able to continue this important work without additional assistance from Community Friends.

Jay Goodfriend