Child development centers in Sri Lanka continue serving amid pandemic
Nazarene child development centers in Sri Lanka have been serving above and beyond to help care for their students during the pandemic by making home visits to help ensure the well-being and educational progress of the children they serve.
Kaveesha*, a teenage girl who attends one of these child development centers, relied on stories and lessons she learned about Jesus and His love to sustain her during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“I am not worried!” she told a teacher who visited her home during one of the first COVID-19 lockdowns. “I am reminded of the many stories that I’ve heard in the [center],” she continued.
The lockdowns were a difficult time for Kaveesha’s family. The first case of COVID-19 was identified in Sri Lanka in January of 2020, and waves of lockdowns and school closures began seriously taking effect in March. Children were sent home both from school and from the after-school enrichment provided in child development centers.
For Kaveesha, the pandemic intensified the economic struggles for Kaveesha that had started when her father passed away a few years earlier. Suddenly, her mother had to find a way to support her children on her own. Because the area they lived in wasn’t considered safe, they moved to live with one of Kaveesha’s older, married sisters.
Kaveesha’s mother started cooking meals to sell to local villagers, earning around $1.50 per day to help contribute to the household. Once the pandemic hit, though, even this small amount wasn’t guaranteed; they couldn’t even get enough food to keep them healthy. To support the family, the staff at Kaveesha's child development center delivered multiple free food packs to her home.
Beyond food support, Kaveesha’s teachers also made sure that she was able to study at home during school closures, which have continued in Sri Lanka on and off into 2021. Her village does not have provisions for internet or cellular phone connection, making online learning impossible.
According to the United Nations, school children in Sri Lanka lost up to 141 school days in 2020 as a result of COVID19-related closures. However, the learning resources that Kaveesha's teachers delivered helped her study at home for important national tests.
“I am very happy because able to prepare myself for the exam with the notes and exam papers I received from NCM Lanka,” Kaveesha said.
So far, NCM volunteers and center staff in Sri Lanka have distributed food to approximately 4,500 families struggling with hunger during the pandemic. Other relief projects focused on distributing medicine, hygiene supplies, financial support, and educational guidance have also made a difference.
In 2022, the staff of the 23 child development centers in the country plan to perform more intense home assessments for children to determine their post-pandemic educational needs. Their prayer is that all child development centers will be able to open soon.