A Reflection On Sacrifices

What a start to the year it has been for Palmera! Last month, I spent a week in Sri Lanka assessing new villages, doing home visits and sitting in on focus groups. These visits back always give me so much to reflect on, and I want to use this month’s blog to share some of the things that I’ve been thinking about.

One of the things we come across a lot in the villages that we assess for suitability is sacrifice. The poor have to make impossible decisions every day about how to use their few coins. This means making truly unenviable sacrifices. While we usually share stories of hope and progress (and I’m pleased that we have so many of them!), there are still villagers who are forced to sacrifice some of their most basic needs.

For example, one woman, Saratha, told me that two weeks before our visit, she didn’t eat for four days just so she could provide for her kids. She is raising them alone since the death of her husband. She said to me “I either die for myself or live for them”. Another young woman, pictured below, has four young children. She has no support system and no financial independence. Her husband, who has issues with alcohol abuse, beats her almost every night. With all the best will in the world, connecting these two women to the market through our Village2Markets program just isn’t feasible right now given their circumstances.

Stories like theirs make up only a small number of the villages that we work with – maybe 5% or so. And they are some of the most vulnerable in our programme, who have to make the biggest sacrifices. This is why we’re designing a new programme, to run parallel to Village2Markets. It will reach out to Saratha and the many women just like her in surrounding villages. I’ll have more news for you on that in the next few months, but it really goes to the heart of Palmera’s mission that no one is left out.

The other thing that came through from my visit back was how important stories are. Even though our trips to Sri Lanka are fairly frenetic, we always make time to sit down and listen to the stories. By doing this, we learn so much about the challenges Sri Lankan villagers face. We learn about their disappointments and heartbreaks. We also get to share in their hopes and dreams for themselves and their children; for their businesses and their villages. And we get to hear the success stories: the lives that have been transformed thanks to the Village2Markets programme – and thanks to our incredible donors!