The group, comprising missionaries from the Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore (CHARIS) and three art therapists, visited three estates in Deniyaya from Jan 26-Feb 1.
There they helped in the building of 50 toilets funded by CHARIS, and demonstrated the benefits of a bio-sand water filtration system.
The team also forged memorable friendships with the villagers who also helped to construct the toilets.
The art therapists from The Red Pencil International Ltd, a non-profit organisation based in Singapore, conducted therapy sessions for the villagers using art materials such as colour pencils.
According to the organisation, the tea plantation workers’ impoverished situation and low education result in them experiencing low social status and a lack of self-identity. The therapy sessions were to help them express themselves and connect with their emotions.
During a ceremony to hand over the constructed toilets at Anninkanda Estate, Mr K Danush, a villager, told the group: “We are happy to have you with us. We are grateful to you for your support, concern, care and generosity towards us.”
Fr Michael Ranjendram, director of Caritas SED Galle, and Fr Joseph Ladislaus from St Michael’s Church, Tamil Nadu, India, provided faith formation sessions for the group.
The team also met with various partners involved in supporting marginalised communities in Sri Lanka. They included Bishop Raymond Kingsley Wickramasinghe of Galle and the Community Development Service for Plantations team, which implements projects to uplift the underprivileged people in the plantation sector.
Commenting on his experience, Mr Jonathan Ho, a newcomer to this kind of mission work, said: “We learnt from the villagers that being happy simply means being content with what you have.”
Team leader Ms Sharon Joy Low also noted that the “daily sharing and reflection sessions” that the group experienced was useful. “The social teachings and relevant biblical quotes served as food for thought to deepen our moral and spiritual values,” she said.
The CHARIS website is http://www.charis-singapore.org
By Adelyn Tan and Regina Chan