When I was backpacking around Asia in 1982, I came across an orphanage in Sri Lanka high up in the tea plantation country in a town called Badulla. The girls were not necessarily orphans but had been given up by very poor Tamil families working on the plantations. The families could not afford to feed, educate or look after them. I helped them for a number of years but lost contact during the civil war. I had always wondered what had happened to St Ursula’s Girls Home and so part of my reason for going back was to find out.
I found the home again and it had not been destroyed. The convent school and grounds had been taken over by the state but the Girls Home had been left in the hands of the church. Now it is home to 38 girls between the ages of 4 and 18 who all know that education is the key to a better life and their quest for it is palpable.
I was delighted to hear that the girls had won first prize in the local schools garden competition although most of the produce had been harvested before I got there. It is an essential part of supplementing the diets of the girls but in such a poor country it cannot be taken for granted. The nun running the home told me that she had given up on replanting the garden because of the capital cost.
I am happy to say that the situation is now reversed and Sister Sebasti has the garden back in hand. She has planned for the year and has the girls out helping prepare the beds and sow the seeds.
It is humbling to see the happiness in the faces of children who have so little and great to see them back in their garden.