YOU ARE SAVING LIVES IN INDIA
My name is Shanti.* I was born in Sri Lanka but for the last 25 years my family and I have lived in a refugee camp assisted by Act for Peace’s partner, the Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR), in the state of Tamil Nadu in south-east India. I want to thank you for your kind support; it has saved my son’s life.
My son Hari* is 25 years old now. When I was pregnant with him, we had to flee the war in Sri Lanka and came to the camp in India where he was born. Because of the trauma he was born early and had a dangerously low birth weight.
Ben Littlejohn / Act for Peace
The first two years of his life were a constant battle for survival. We spent much of those two years at the hospital with doctors. Finally, they ran tests and discovered that Hari had a hole in his heart. Nothing could be done at the time but we looked after him and managed his health as best we could.
We are not sophisticated in the ways of the business world and our inexperience has exposed us to exploitation by middlemen traders. These middlemen provide us with short-term, high interest loans to cover the costs of honey collection. Once we have the honey ready, often the middlemen traders demand we sell it to them at a low price to quickly repay the loan. The traders may pay only 500 rupees ($4.50 AUD) for 750mls of our honey. Every year it has been hard to make a profit and get ahead. As a village we thought: “How do we make our honey selling business better?”
I was so proud when our boy started school but he suffered from bad headaches and vomiting.
As time went on, Hari found it hard to participate in any activities at school. He would get out of breath by simply standing for too long. He longed to play sports with his friends but couldn’t. It was a very difficult time for him.
Hari continued medical treatment at the hospitals in the area. When he was 15, the doctors at the local hospital recommended he have an operation on his heart. The cost was 300,000 rupees (around $6,000 AUD). We couldn’t afford this. We had to come to terms with the fact that my son couldn’t have the operation.
Thankfully, the OfERR staff were able to find another hospital, run by a welfare society, where most expenses are covered by government health insurance. There was an excess of $300 AUD to pay which we couldn’t afford, but thanks to your kind gifts, we were able to pay it.
Finally in 2012 Hari had an operation that successfully closed the hole in his heart. I cannot explain the joy this brought us! I worried and fretted until he was out of the operation but within a couple of days we could see his health improving. Today Hari has a job in a nearby courier mail office. He plays soccer with his friends and is so happy. I love my son no matter what – whether he is sick or well, happy or sad. Thank you for giving him a long life. One that he deserves.
*Shanti and Hari’s names have been changed to protect their identity as refugees
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Thanks to your kind, ongoing support Act for Peace’s partner, the Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR) is able to provide medical and health care programs in southern India for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. Our aim is to ensure every refugee in the camps is physically and mentally able to lead a socially and economically productive life.
OfERR health workers face significant challenges: inflation puts a strain on already limited resources and many camps are located in isolated areas some distance from hospitals and other medical facilities. OfERR assists with travel expenses and staff or volunteers to accompany the patient if needed.
In all 107 refugee camps, thanks to your on-going support, OfERR and Act for Peace focusses on prevention and pro-active heath treatments through health workers, counsellors, volunteer teams, health education and medicine. OfERR arranges medical screening camps to provide care for patients seeking a range of treatments
and referral for further tests or care as needed. Government doctors, local private sector GPs and other medical professionals participate in all of these screening camps which cover dental, optical, renal, cardiovascular, skin, neurology, diabetes, hypertension and general health checks.
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