by S. Umakanthan in Mannar, Northern Sri Lanka
13/05/2014 – Mannar, Sri Lanka: 35 year’s old, a widow with children, an ailing mother to look after, no one to support and no proper house to live in, all this by being the only breadwinner of the family. If this was you; you would certainly understand what type of challenges you have to go through each day.
This is exactly what Lucia Susai had to undergo for many, many years. We met Lucia her last year in Mannar. At that moment we did not realize the strength this woman had in her in order ensure a better life for her family.
Currently Lucia lives in a brand new house, with her 13-year-old daughter and 76 years old Mother, in Paalaiadi-Puthukulam village which falls under the Vaddakkandan GN Division in Mannar – North of Sri Lanka. This house was made possible for her through the Indian Housing Programme, which is been implemented by Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies. This is her story…
During the conflict
Lucia was married in 2000 and unfortunately lost her husband in 2001 due to the on going conflict. At that time her daughter was 9 months old. In the latter part of 2009 during the final stage of the conflict Lucia herself became a victim and was wounded by a shell bomb and was taken to the Pullmodai hospital in Trincomalee for treatment. Once she was cured she had to take shelter in a refugee camp in northern Sri Lanka, until the conflict came to an end.
Once the conflict ended and the resettling process began Lucia was able to return home. The home she had before was no longer there to greet her, instead she and her family had to settled for a temporary hut. She began to work as a labourer in paddy fields earning a very little in order to feed her family.
“After return from the displacement to my own land, my mind was thinking that I need to build a house to make nice environment to my daughter who is still doing her studies” says Lucia.
In December 2013, the Government Agent informed her that the Indian Government and Red Cross has selected her for a housing project ensuring a permanent house for her family. She was also informed that people from the Red Cross would soon be meeting her to assess her situation. While she was very grateful for receiving this support, the first thing that crossed her mind was “ How can I build the house alone without any support?”
Despite being a widow, she had no other option but to forge ahead with the construction of her house. She very well understood the importance of taking control of her and her family’s future and began the construction of her house by herself. With the funds received from the Red Cross Post Conflict Recovery Programme (RC-PCRP), she began excavating for the foundation of her home by herself. Later on she brought in masons and other labourers and forged ahead with the construction.
“I wanted to do everything in a manner where I can save money. I didn’t wanted to spend everything that I got from the Red Cross, that’s why I casted my own concrete blocks for the house” Lucia managed to cast around 800 blocks by herself, which translated into some saving that could be used for some other purpose. The Women Rural Development Society in Mannar, which is a community based organization, played a vital role in Lucia’s house construction. The members of this organization supported her in ensuring that the house was constructed with members thus resulting in free labour enabling her to save more money. Her dedication and the support she received from various quarters helped her to complete her house within 65 days.
“This is an achievement of major proportions,” says Mukesh Singh, the Senior Delegate of the Red Cross Post Conflict Recovery Programme. “We were amazed by her determination and what she could do with the amount of funds which is 550,000 rupees provided through this project and becoming the first person to finish the house in her village.”
“There is this question whether the amount we give is enough? But Lucia proves that by contributing with labour and planning ahead you can achieve building a house that eventually translates towards having a better future”
Recently the Head of Delegation of IFRC in Sri Lanka, Igor Dmitryuk visited Mannar and to Lucia’s home and ceremoniously vested the house in Lucia’s care.
“Now I have fulfilled my long-time dream of having a house which I can peacefully sleep. I build quite nice room to my daughter to place her study table” says a very happy Lucia.
For more information on the Red Cross Post Conflict Recovery Programme visit our website www.redcross.lk/idp