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Trust Matters

Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust UK Update

In London in April 2013, the Trustees had the honour of meeting Dr Pal Dhall, the head of the International Sathya Sai Education Committee who was appointed in February 2013. Dr Dhall made several visits within the UK, including one to Sathya Sai School, Leicester, under the auspices of Mr Kishin Khubchandani, who is both our Trust Chairperson and the Zone Chair of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Africa and the islands of the Indian Ocean (excluding Sri Lanka), along with Dr Kiran Patel, the SSSSO UK Chairperson.

Trust Meetings:

The Trust met on April 24th 2013 in London and has had very regular communications via email both before and since that meeting.

Sri Lanka Flood Victim Housing Update:

As was mentioned in the February edition of ‘Love and Light’: In liaison with Dr Visvanathar Jeganathan, the Chairman of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation of Sri Lanka Central Council, the Trust in February sent £20,000 from its Tsunami Fund to assist the Sai organisation in building low-cost permanent homes for some of the displaced flood victims.
Since then, we have seen the plans and approved them, subject to a change in the roofing material from asbestos to a healthier substitute.

In Sri Lanka, the SSSSO SL has been working hard. It has had to revise the original house plan and cost estimate, which did not cover the inclusion of piped water or a toilet, it also did not allow for the cost of plastering and painting.

The cost of building the newly-designed houses will be an estimated SLR 680,000 to 700,000 per house, depending on the area of location of the house. Therefore, the £20,000 that we donated will probably support the construction of about six to seven houses. Each house will therefore average between £2,800 and £3,300 build cost.

These are homes that will provide a proper, permanent and more modern lifestyle for distressed families.

Dr Jeganathan tells us that the selection of beneficiaries is being done very carefully, based upon the following criteria:

• They must have been affected by the December 2012 - January 2013 floods
• They must be from an income Group - below the poverty line (using Sri Lankan index)
• They must currently have no permanent house in which to live
• The number of family members - particularly children - is important, and is taken into account
• The family does need to have a source of income and an average income per month

Once the beneficiaries are selected, the SSSSO SL goes into legal matters. The following documents are then drawn up, scrutinised carefully and secured:

1. A copy of the deed of ownership of the land certified by the GS (the village headman), confirming the identity and eligibility of the beneficiary as a flood-affected household.
2. A letter from the beneficiary consenting to the housing proposal by the Sai Organisation including a sign-off on the proposed plan.
3. A building plan approved by the necessary local authority.
4. A contract to be signed by the contractor for the stipulated house.

Accordingly, two beneficiaries have been selected in the District of Batticaloa, foundation stones have been laid and construction work is in progress.

Beneficiary Family 1:

This is composed of a grandmother, with five school-going grandchildren, who is now living with them in a temporary hut thatched with coconut leaves and cooking outside. The current source of water is a dug well. The grandmother goes to the nearby beach when the fishing boats reach the shore, begs for a few fish, and sells them in the village earning a few rupees, which is hardly enough for a meal a day. The father of the children left the family a few years ago and is now living with another wife far away. The mother of the children has apparently gone abroad, seeking a job, and her whereabouts are completely unknown.

Beneficiary Family 2:

A family of three comprising a father, mother and their three year-old daughter. The father is permanently in a wheel chair with paralysis of both legs and weakness of both arms. They live in a hut, with thatched roof. The source of water is a dug well. Their source of income is very small-scale, inadequate for a basic livelihood.

Further Beneficiary Families:

Two more beneficiary families have been identified in the District of Trincomalee. Matters pertaining to ownership of the building plots are under legal investigation. Very soon, these legalities will be completed and construction will commence.

Updates on the progress of the project are being sent to us by the SSSSO SL National Service Coordinator, Mr Hari Darshan, he is in charge of the implementation of this very useful, life-changing project. He tells us, “We hope, by Swami's grace, that the first two houses will be completed during the month of July and be ready for handing over”.

It is often raised that merely ‘helping a handful’ of people does not warrant the expenditure of around a few thousand pounds, and that maybe such sums could be used to benefit greater numbers. This is true of so many things. However, this project will radically change these beneficiaries’ lives forever and bring them together safely under their very own roof in a substantially built home that will hopefully last for a few generations to come.

A grandmother, suddenly thrust into the position of being totally responsible in every way, for five grandchildren will naturally pour out her motherly and protective love on them.
For any grandmother, regardless of her economic status, to suddenly be responsible for every single aspect of her five grandchildren’s upbringing, going far into the future, is a very daunting and stressful task. If, in addition, that grandmother has little or no financial means to support them, then the task is overwhelmingly difficult.

If, further, that grandmother has also just been through terrible floods with those children, then her fortitude and spirit have been severely tested. Let us pray that this dwelling will be propitious and provide a security and stability that will enable this family to grow, prosper and flourish, long into the future.

The disabled father may feel disempowered and inadequate as a husband and parent, let us pray that there is an uplifting quality that comes with receiving this house that is both enabling and dignifying for this family of flood victims.

My mother’s school motto was: “Do one thing supremely not many things indifferently.” Certainly, I believe that is the case here.

Article submitted by Rev Rosemary Perry on behalf of the Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust UK