By Victor Karunairajan
(March 03, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Omadiyamadu Community of about 200 families live in destitute and devastated circumstances, They have good agricultural lands given to them under the Mahaweli Scheme but have not been issued any official titles yet; neither do they have the means and facilities to develop them appropriately. They need infrastructures and starter packets and also need to be organized as a development community with a credit union of their own and educated in environmentally friendly agricultural systems.
Nearly all of them live in makeshift huts, and essential sanitary needs have been shockingly compromised if not altogether nonexistent, There are no schools for the children and not even any kind of health services. They have to travel several kilometers along dirt tracks to obtain such needs. Even though technically it may not be so, they live in a kind of feudal state depending on avaricious moneylenders from neighbouring areas who exploit them to the hilt.
The war has taken its deadly share of lives of its young males and the community stands starkly in need of leadership and direction and this must be helped to emerge from its grass roots to make it meaningful to the community.
Omadiyamadu became a challenge to the JDCSI and is one of its new outreaches with weekly gathering, worship and fellowship discussions headed by Sister Indra. They meet under a shady tree in the front yard of a typical family of the community, As an immediate need a wattle and mud chapel is under construction but hampered severely
especially by the poor access the community has, and funding constrains, Lying some twelve kilometers off the main Valachenai-Polonaruwa Road, the Rev Selvantha and I had to tackle a rough trail interior of elephant and leopard country to reach Omadiyamadu on a 2-wheeler. On the 75-km ride from Batticaloa, the youthful parson often reckoned his pillion rider as of his own age, a complement naturally appreciated despite the bumps and sudden swerves to avoid toppling over.
There were fresh elephant dung and we had to keep a watchful eye; a loner on the track may not like the sound of a two-stroke engine. Two days earlier Marimuttu Kanapathipillai and her family in whose yard the JDCSI chapel is being built had a
lone pachyderm virtually visiting them but gently passed by; may be it recognized the chapel! A few months earlier a neighbor was attacked and his hut destroyed. Herds of them are often seen at the edge of the jungle especially at dusk and have caused destruction to crops; and elephants love bananas.
Meeting some of the families and talking to them informally was an experience by itself. How little are their needs, how much they have to shun or deny themselves to merely survive in such circumstances and yet the sense of being satisfied with their lot and the remarkable faith they have made me wonder who really are the children of the earth.
The Rt Rev Dr Daniel Thiagarajah who envisioned the Omadiyamadu Project is expected to visit them in the near future with a package to launch a development activity. While leaving the village I looked at a cowshed in the community and turned my eyes skyward being an evening hour for the Star of Bethlehem.
That reality enshrines the hope of the people of Omadiyamadu; the heavenly sign is in their hearts.
By Victor Karunairajan