We met Mrs. Naseer Modenona only because we arrived at Sifaya’s hut in the refugee camp to discover no one home, and the doors closed. She told us that they had gone to their new house, as it was supposed to get connected to the electricity that day. Needless to say, their trip was to no avail.
Mrs. Modenona pulled four plastic chairs into the shade and we had a chat.
Her family was very lucky as they all survived. Her husband, a retired teacher was working for an NGO. For a daily payment of 400 rupees, he and others were cleaning the salt lagoons from debris with their bare hands and if they were lucky, they got to work two or three days a week.
She herself was drying chili peppers, grinding them and selling it to shops. Her oldest son was in Colombo trying to get a visa for a job in UAE (United Arab Emirates). They had paid a big amount of money to a job agency before the tsunami but still did not have any results.
In a corner of the little hut, the younger son had installed a very basic repair station for television sets. Their 16 year old daughter was living in a boarding school in Kandy, more than 200 kilometers away from Hambantota.
As we wondered why, Mrs. Modenona explained that her daughter was an excellent student and that her dream was to become an Engineer.
Very proudly she showed us a letter from the local Schoolmaster, testifying that there was no schooling opportunity meeting the girl’s abilities in Hambantota; the results from the O-Level test (two years before graduation); and a letter from the Girls’ High School in Kandy. Not familiar with the Sri Lankan grades, Faye explained after a deep sigh that she would have been more than happy if her youngest would have been coming home from the O-Level exams with only half as good results.
We were quite impressed that a father, who had lost everything and had a pension of 6,000 rupees, did not remove his daughter from a boarding school that cost 7,000 rupees a month. Further, that the whole family was doing their utmost to earn some extra money.
We decided that it would be a perfect use of the money we originally had planned for the tuition classes and promised to cover the costs for a year. We handed to Mrs. Modenona the first 7,000 rupees and committed to send monthly payments to her personal account.
I would meet Sithy either in Hambantota or Kandy, when I returned (Michel will be at home working). Her mother was to keep in contact with Faye and Humaid, as we don’t have a common language.