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Feeding Stomachs, and Minds, in Sri Lanka

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The country of Sri Lanka is recovering from a decade that saw a tsunami and a civil war. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is one of the charities that has to come to the aid of the people.

CRS has helped rebuild infrastructure damaged by the tsunami. At the same time they have also been helping those displaced by the conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers.

Recently, Laura Sheahen of CRS took time to answer some questions about the effect of the conflict on children. She explains what CRS is doing to help and how you can get involved.

Tell us about the harsh circumstances facing children in Sri Lanka.

In Sri Lanka, hundreds of thousands of civilians fled their homes during war. Though many have returned to their villages, some families still live in camps for displaced people, where conditions are poor and little education is available to children. With nothing else to do, small children might typically run loose around the camps.

What kinds of support is CRS providing to help children in Sri Lanka?

With support from Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Sri Lanka is running preschool classes for 696 children in camps. All classes are facilitated by 26 teachers trained by volunteer Caritas nuns. The children range in age from 3 years to 5 years.

On a typical day, children learn the Tamil and English alphabets as well as numbers and counting. They also draw pictures, build with blocks, and practice Tamil and English poems and nursery rhymes.

Do the children receive school meals?

Each child receives a high-nutrition cereal consisting of white rice, legumes, corn flour, peanuts, coconut, and sugar. They also receive fresh milk. The meals are prepared and distributed by rotating members of Parent-Teacher Associations.

How can people help the CRS program in Sri Lanka?

CRS, through its partners Caritas and the Jesuit Refugee Service, is now working both in the camps and in the villages that people are returning to. The programs focus on preschools as well as evening coaching classes, which provide students with a teacher guidance and a space to read if their family situation is difficult.

At this stage, Catholic Relief Services has been using its private funding to serve Sri Lankan children in the camps and return villages. Interested donors can contribute via the CRS website. CRS hopes to expand its work in return villages and to serve more children.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.