Graduating the Poor
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I met Sasi at the psych ward. I was there visiting when a doctor asked me to join Sasi’s counselling session. She sat in silence. To her left was her youngest son, one of her five children, his disability so profound she could barely take her eyes off him. Sasi’s daughter, her second eldest at just 12, sat to her left. She had tried to commit suicide four days earlier.
Their father is in the ward, as is Sasi’s eldest brother. She has no one she can depend on to support her and her five children. So, she is bringing them up on her own.
Sasi doesn’t have any qualifications. To put food on the table, she has to work as a labourer far away from home. But because of her poor health and her need to take care of her children, she rarely gets work. The family has no savings and no safety net. So Sasi feeds her children plain tea and, when she can afford it, will give them rice once a day.
Often, they will just have tea and go to bed hungry.
She didn’t say much to me that day, but as I left, she whispered “they are just kids, what do I do?” For Sasi, there are few places she can go for support. When she looks into her future, she sees no way out. But there has to be, because she is bringing up five children who deserve more from life.
In Sri Lanka’s North, there are women and men who live in absolute poverty. They are the poorest of the poor. They aren’t ready yet to be linked with the markets. Their priority, understandably, is surviving. But they still need to earn an income and do so with dignity. No one is supporting them to do this. This is partly because providing this support is hard: it takes a lot of money, local knowledge, and mentoring.
This isn’t the life Sasi wants for her children or for herself. It’s not the life we want for Sasi or her children either.
That’s why, in the Kandavalli district of Killinochi, we are going to identify 100 of the poorest, like Sasi, and work with them over 2 years to graduate them out of absolute poverty. To do this, we’re working with a civil society umbrella organisation which has 460 members who work in each of the villages in the Kandavalli district. They have a real understanding of the people living there, and their deep local knowledge will help us to identify the families who need our support the most.
We’ll be adapting an existing programme to give these families a hand up. It’s a holistic approach that, over two years, gives ultra-poor households the tools they need to move from struggle to sufficiency.
It’s designed to address their immediate needs while also investing in their longer-term training, development and planning. It helps families secure the basic things like food and access to healthcare, but it also aims to build their financial resilience through savings. We also want to make sure that these families are integrated in their community. At the moment, they are often very isolated, which just makes their situation even more dire.
LET’S DO IT TOGETHER
With your support, we can identify the poorest families and start them on their journey. We can make sure that children, like Sasi’s, don’t go to bed hungry while also helping families find a better way to make a reliable income. For $2,212 a year, $92 a month or $23 a week, you can help us do this.