RYTHM Foundation secures a future for Sri Lankan mother Sivakumari
T. Sivakumari, 40 poured hot tea into the small cups in front of her before placing them on a tray. She carried the heavy tray carefully, placing each cup on the office desks before proceeding to collect the used ones.
“I had a very difficult life, having lost my father at the age of 19,” she began.
“I was born in Point Pedro, Jaffna, Sri Lanka and studied there until my secondary school. Our life was good until we had to move from Jaffna to Vallipunam in 1995 due to the conflict,” she said.
Her father Thangarasa fell sick after arriving at Vallipunam and he passed away three months later.
“It was a time of uncertainty for the whole family. We didn’t know what to do as we have just moved to the new place and we lost the head of our family. As we were contemplating on what to do, my brothers said they will sacrifice their schooling and went to work as labourers to support our family,” she said.
Times were difficult after her father’s passing and the family survived on what little her brothers brought home.
Soon after her father’s death, Sivakumari met Sathyavan and the duo decided to get married despite her family’s objection. The couple was blessed with two boys Krishanthan and Kalaiarasan. Despite Sathyavan’s meagre salary as a labourer, the family led a simple and happy life.
It was not long before the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka forced the family to be placed at the Vavuniya camp in 2009 as displaced persons. They only returned to Vallipunam two years later and slowly resumed their lives.
“I thought things were getting back to normal but I didn’t realise that cracks were beginning to form in my marriage. I was devastated when my husband left us to marry another woman in 2015. I was numb and could not do anything for several days,” Sivakumari recalled.
It soon began to dawn upon Sivakumari that her husband was not coming back and she needed to take charge of her life.
“So, I started working as a labourer, earning LKR 600 (USD3.30) per day. It was not a steady income as I only get paid when I have work to do. On days that I did not have work, there won’t be any money for us to eat and on such days, my children and I would go hungry,” she said.
The future looked bleak, but she had to stay strong. Her sons were still in school and needed their mother to earn for them.
“I cried a lot then, I was sad and unsure where life will take me and my children,” she said.
Then came the news that she was eligible for the government’s housing programme which will provide her a house with the size of 550 square feet.
“I was happy when I found out but in order to complete the housework, I needed more money so I took some loans from private companies,” she said.
To repay her debts, Sivakumari started looking for additional jobs and that was how she came to know about LEADS, a non-governmental organisation in her area, which manufactures eco-friendly bricks.
“I went to the LEADS’s office and asked if there is any job for me. Within days, I was hired,” she said.
“It has been three months since I started working here as a general worker. Now, I earn LKR 800 (USD 4.40) per day. I clean the office, make tea twice a day for everyone at the office and maintain records of bricks and other details,” she said.
“I am really happy with my life now, I have a steady income from this job, I can use this money to pay off my loans and support my children if they choose to further their studies,” she said.
LEADS is an implementation partner of RYTHM Foundation dedicated to helping Sri Lankans in various areas with basic needs, family development and education among others. Production of eco-friendly bricks is an important project by LEADS and is funded by RYTHM Foundation. The bricks are manufactured according to the standards set by the government of Sri Lanka and then sold at affordable prices directly to home owners.