When I wasn’t in the operating theater this week, I was out in the community, learning more about the public health system, specifically the care of orphans and elderly. My colleagues and I have already been to a government run orphanage, and this week we wanted to see how the private non-profit orphanages compared. We visited an SOS Village, an Austrian run organization which hosts 12 children per home in 12 total homes on the property. Each “family” home consists of children aged 0-16 years brought in by the courts in cases of abuse or abandonment. The children are cared for by a “mother” in each home who cooks, cleans, and teaches the children valuable life lessons. Each“mother” has years of training and a very intensive screening and selection process. The children still attend public schools like their peers, and return to the village to live a life as close to their peers as possible. They are also set up with vocational and other job training when they age out of the program. It was wonderful to see an organization like this one, working so hard to give these children a rich and meaningful childhood.
|Walking with a group of Community Medicine students around the SOS Village.|
|Two of the family homes at the SOS Children's Village in Galle.|
|Lots of beauty (and perfect for playing cricket) on the grounds here.|
We also made our way to a catholic-run elderly home where I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing woman who was blinded by the tsunami. She told us her story and how the sisters had found her on the streets, nearly dead, and brought her to the facility because she had no money, no family and no way to survive. The sisters were able to find a surgeon, who just this past year, performed an incredible surgery to restore her vision! He was able to see for the first time since 2004.
There were so many great stories from the folks at the elderly home, but what I liked most about the facility was that every resident helped out in any way they could. Some set the dining room tables for meals, others cleared dishes, some peeled vegetables, and some knitted bedding or doilies for the sisters to sell for money for the home. Not everyone could pay, but no one was turned away.
With another fantastic week in the books, it’s hard to believe my time in Sri Lanka is coming to a close. I have learned so much in my short stay; it will be hard to leave. I am very grateful to have had this learning opportunity here in Sri Lanka and I hope that I may return here as a provider one day.