To send an SMS (text message) with a prepaid sim card from Sri Lanka to Switzerland costs about Rs. 2, an amount too small to be converted into Swiss francs. Banuka had sent us an SMS every four to five weeks: no water – little water – more water and finally, MOMMY VERY HAPPY!
His English was not very good, and so, we looked forward to seeing the sweep well ourselves. (A sweep well is one where you attach a bucket to a rope on a long pivoted pole to bring the water up.)
But there was no bucket at all; all we could see was water on the bottom of the well and a grey plastic hose that disappeared on top of the well into the ground. As we looked quite puzzled, Banuka pointed to the house some 30 meters away. On top of the house there was a black water tank.
When he showed us the kitchen, there was a used water pump and a steel sink, a bit shaky but sure enough, there trickled water out of the faucet. We got a very happy smile from his mother. In an open washroom outside of the house there was a shower head and Banuka was beaming with pride. We did not look at the outhouse!
We drank some tea together and he told us about the changes since our last visit. His older sister and brother-in-law had moved back to their own house as the distance to the brother-in-law’s job was too far. Further he was worried about his sixteen year old brother. His school performance was lousy and without good exam results, it would not be possible for him to get a job.
That boy had the most amazing eyes we have ever seen in Sri Lanka: they were very bright and appeared to shimmer greenish. He seemed to be a little dreamer.
When we asked Banuka what kind of plans his brother would have, he told us that he did not have any other opportunity than making bricks and working in the paddy fields. This was how we learned that the family owns a little paddy field and it would be difficult to take care of that along with his work at the hotel. Banuka had been one of the first waiters that got their job back, about four months after the tsunami, once the hotel was refurbished and guests started to return.
The young folks do not like to do the hard work in the paddy fields; or working with the old people they had to work together with. Otherwise, they would spend their time under the trees drinking Arrak (a brandy made from palm toddy).
Banuka showed us a little room with rice bags and again he was quite proud to explain that with two harvests a year, they would have enough rice for themselves. And one day that little room would become a bathroom.
We already mentioned in the first report that Banuka and his family were much better off than many others, but first his Father, and now, Banuka himself, had to work very hard to achieve this.
It is a difficult topic, but not only in Sri Lanka, there are people that never had anything and never will have, irresponsible of the amount of help they receive. People who accept their Karma and believe, that prayers at the temple will provide them the next bag of rice.
Or people in such terrible conditions, out of our time and financial frame, for us to help them.
What were you supposed to do if, in the true meaning of the word, some lousy children beg at you, besides to buy them some food? Or if neighbors lead you to a refugee shack where a paralyzed woman is dragging herself over the naked floor? Buy a wheelchair and at the same time build sidewalks or proper streets? What can be done other than sneak back there at night to hand her an envelope with some money as there are so many more in need of help next door?
One could say that we help people that are doing already quite well. But first of all, it is because of their hard work; and second, they only do well, compared to such misery.
We learned that a complete bathroom could be done for Rs. 30`000 (360 Swiss francs). We had been so positively surprised by what he had achieved with the Rs. 8,000 (the whole costs for the tap water added up to Rs. 14`000); and after all his Mother was a widow, too.
We went to the next village with him and we were not disappointed. He did not even look at the imported fixtures and went straight for the local ones. They were available in pink, light grey, light green and baby blue and we were supposed to pick.
We strictly refused as we would have had a hard time to choose anyway and he went joyfully for pink. There was a huge selection of tiles also, but he went straight away into the corner with the pink, light grey, light green and baby blue tiles.
He only picked things he would have been able to afford himself one day. After we had thought of everything, the bill added up to Rs. 26`000. Banuka needed to go to another shop for water tubes and grout for the tiles, so we handed him Rs. 4,000.
When we next came back from Hambantota, he handed us the two receipts and Rs. 150 change.
Next spring we will visit the dream in pink and we are pretty sure to receive an SMS in the meantime: Mommy very happy!