Seemawelia is in the diocese of Chilaw, where the famous, multi-faith Munneswaram Festival takes place each year. To see Michael Coyne’s superb gallery of pictures from the festival, click here
In the remote, impoverished parish of Seemawelia, the local church and a group of determined Catholic villagers are working with Caritas to build a set of substantial brick houses, replacing the improvised clay dwellings they have used for years. It is perhaps ironic that the material needed to build the houses is what the residents have been sitting on all along; an irony that was certainly not lost on Shama Herath, one of the villagers. “Businesses often come here to dig up clay for their brick factories, yet we’ve been using it for these temporary homes for years and years,” she said. “It was Caritas who made us aware of what’s available right here and got us motivated.” Nissanka Fernando, a Caritas worker, explained their role in the project. “We believe that everybody has something,” he said. “Our responsibility is just to show them what resources they have.” Further help came from Father Jude Nicholas Fernando, director of the local diocesan Family Apostolate Centre and chairman of the Dimuthu Foundation, a Sri Lankan NGO. With the support of a benefactor from Italy, the Foundation has bought enough land to erect 43 new houses. Impressed by the villagers’ effort and enthusiasm, Fr. Fernando also donated equipment to dig and transport the clay. The bricks are now being formed and three skilled masons from the village are being amply aided by several others, eager to give their labor. The new houses will make a vast difference to the quality of life in this far-flung parish, where people have endured a miserable existence in their temporary dwellings. “The rainy season is horrible here,” said Menika Kumari, a mother of three. “The children are vulnerable to many sicknesses like fever and coughs.” “The men have to go out of the village to earn a living, laboring on farms and estates for just 250 rupees ($2) a day,” added another villager, P.K.Padmasira. As a final difficulty, the nearest schools are too far away to be easily accessible. Once again Fr. Fernando’s foundation has helped out, with a scheme that provides the village children with bicycles.
Related reports: Catholic Priests Build Hostel for Buddhist Novices Caritas builds jungle homes for displaced Hindus