The 21st of April 2019 marked the tragic Easter Attacks that claimed the lives of 250 individuals, injuring over 500. These events left the entire nation devastated and in shock.
The NCEASL mourned the loss and stood in solidarity with the victims of these senseless acts. Whilst condemning this act of violence, the NCEASL urged all Christians to unite in prayer and respond in a spirit of love, peace and forgiveness.
During this time of need, the NCEASL supported the recovery and reconciliation of the affected communities and encouraged a spirit of resilience within the church.
The NCEASL also intervened by meeting the needs of the victims at every level. Our strategy included an immediate response, meeting intermediary needs of victims and long-term interventions in efforts to restore normalcy to those affected.
*All names and images have been edited to protect the identities of the victims.
PHASE 1: IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY AID
The NCEASL initiated its intervention by assisting the families of the bereaved and supporting the medical expenses of those injured. We also contributed towards the restoration of damaged vehicles and bicycles.
PHASE 2: RECOVERY STAGE
The NCEASL supported victims by covering advanced medical needs, life-saving surgeries, prosthetics, and continued financial assistance for those grieving and experiencing trauma. Families who had lost their sole breadwinner were assisted through the means of dry rations and nutrition packs for children.
PHASE 3: REBUILDING STAGE
The NCEASL committed to providing long term assistance to families through livelihood and sustainable development programmes. The NCEASL assisted with livelihood grants and helped initiate small businesses, by providing the necessary equipment and working capital to support these initiatives. The children affected were assisted with scholarships to continue their education. In an attempt to address the needs for security measures in churches, the NCEASL conducted practical security training for participants of different churches. Additionally, the NCEASL proposed the introduction of a manual aimed to equip churches in implementing security measures for the future.
Supporting Families of the Bereaved
Attended to the immediate needs of those who lost their loved ones as a result of the attacks.
We contributed towards the funeral expenses of 48 families of the bereaved.
Supported 78 people to cover medical expenses, constructed 8 sanitation facilities, and provided 9 other individuals with accessibility equipment. As a result of the attacks, Mallika was permanently injured and in need of accessibility that would ease her day to day activities. We were able to reconstruct a sanitation facility customized towards her condition.
PROVISION OF ESSENTIALS
Many families lost their breadwinners and found it difficult to make ends meet. Through the provision of dry rations and nutrition packs, we were able to support 93 families for a period of 6 months to a year.
After losing sight in her right eye, Mary was unable to find work that would help feed her family. In the 6 months that followed the attacks, Mary became the recipient of a monthly essential (dry ration) pack.
PROVISION OF NUTRITIONAL PACKS
Nutrition packs were distributed to our neighbours in need, inclusive of 800 children in the Sainthamaruthu area as our immediate response. To this day, we have also supported 50 children with nutritional packs
The NCEASL provided 68 families with Livelihood Grants. Some had lost their breadwinners, whilst others were left permanently injured by the attacks. Alongside working capital, we were able to purchase sewing machines and other equipment to help rebuild their lives.
Madushani, her husband Nissanka, and their two little daughters were seated in the garden of the Katuwapitiya Church when shrapnel from the blast injured his hip. Nissanka, an automobile painter by profession, could not continue his work as he recuperated from his injuries. As a result, Madushani became the breadwinner of the family. We gifted Madushani a sewing machine that would help create a sustainable livelihood and support the family.
Shivani lost her son in the attacks whilst her two daughters were left injured. We supported her with the financial means to establish and run a grocery store so that she can provide for her family.
Vanitha lost her husband, the breadwinner of the family, and struggled to get back on her feet in the weeks that followed. As a means of providing relief, Vanitha was given a Juki sewing machine, and she is now an employed seamstress working from home.
The attacks severely injured Jayanthi, leaving her immobile. Her husband, Steven, was employed in Italy, but due to Jayanthi's condition, he had to return to care for his wife. He was unable to support the family as he could not leave to head out for work. We supported him with a grant to construct a space and commence a poultry business.
Anthony resides in Batticaloa with his older brother and mother, Lakshmi whilst his father is employed in Saudi Arabia. On that tragic Easter Sunday, Anthony's mother and brother entered the Zion Church around 8.45 am falling victim to the blast. Lakshmi was left with a severe knee injury as a fragment of the bomb was lodged in her knee which left her hospitalized for two weeks.
We supported the family by financing Lakshmi's medical expenses, gifted a photocopier machine to initiate a livelihood initiative as well as an educational scholarship for Anthony. This scholarship has enabled Anthony to purchase his necessary items for school and finance his extra classes each month.
Anthony is one of the 97 children who received educational grants to continue their school education.
Destroyed by the explosion and the subsequent fire that burnt down most of its infrastructure, the Zion Church was forced to rebuild itself in the aftermath of the Easter attacks. We were able to contribute towards the church’s renovations which are currently underway.
REPAIRS TO DAMAGED VEHICLES
The explosions damaged and burnt down many of the vehicles parked inside the premises during the Zion Church service. We financed the repairs and restoration of 23 vehicles.
Additionally, we gifted 13 bicycles to those whose vehicles could not be restored.
Kamala and her husband attended the church service held at St. Anthony's in Kochchikade on that fateful Easter Sunday. Kamala was eight months pregnant at the time, and she lost her husband, who was the sole provider of the family. Life after was tough for Kamala as she had to tend to her infant as well as her own injuries. She was unable to make employment as she broke her left arm as a result of the attacks, and her veins and nerves were severely damaged. She had to undergo multiple recovery treatments to regain her strength and restore the functionality of her arm.
Initially, we supported her with a provision of essentials and relief; however, we were able to offer her a more sustainable solution. Kamala's father is a professional tailor and has long since been working in a tailoring shop.
Due to the situation, Kamala's father had to give up his work to tend to his daughter and grandchild as they took much of his time not allowing him to report to his workplace regularly. He had decided to start up his own tailoring shop as that would give him the freedom to carry out his responsibilities at home and help manage his time better. They had invested in renting out the shop premises and purchased the necessary equipment and machinery. Yet, they lacked a few essentials to kick-start the business to its fullest potential.
We were able to support them by providing the necessary tailoring utensils, equipment and working capital they needed to ensure a smooth-running tailoring shop they could call their own.
Fifty-one-year-old Upul was the sole proprietor of a farm he managed on rented land. It was a profitable venture which enabled him to provide for his wife Thilaka and two teenage sons.
As was customary, the family attended the morning Easter service at the Katuwapitiya Church. The bomb blast left Upul a victim as a piece of shrapnel pierced his skull, leaving him paralysed waist down and also impaired his speech. Due to brain damage, Upul experiences multiple epileptic seizures and paralysis. The Easter attack had a devastating blow on Upul's life. His world turned upside down; he could no longer be the breadwinner to his family nor go back to his livelihood and attend to his farm. As his family income came to a sudden stop, he could no longer pay the rent for the farmland. Upul spent nearly three months in hospital recuperating after surgery and following a course of neurological rehabilitation. It was during this time that he and his wife had to give up the farm unable to manage and pay the rent.
Upul's family was one of many supported by the NCEASL soon after the attacks. At first, the family received monthly support for dry rations and essential needs, after which we also provided financial support for six months to cover Upul's medical expenses related to his rehabilitation therapy. His two sons reading for the Ordinary and Advanced Level grades received educational scholarships as well—this ensured uninterrupted schooling which encouraged them to follow classes and face their exams confidently. As the burden and responsibility of looking after the family fell unexpectedly on Thilaka, we gave her a five-thread high-speed industrial sewing machine as well as financed her to launch a career in sewing. Thilaka juggles between looking after her husband, who is still partially immobile and accepting sewing orders as a sub-contractor to a garment factory.
Upul, now with a slurred speech, expressed his gratefulness to the NCEASL for extending a hand to help his family recover and slowly rebuild their lives.
Roshini, her husband Sunil and her three-year-old daughter Chamari attended the Easter Sunday service in Kochchikade. Roshini was separated from her family that morning as she was on her way to light some candles when the blast occurred. This left her legs severely damaged and had to face continuous medical treatment for four and a half months. Even after the treatments she found difficulty in walking and was in need of physiotherapy to restore the movement of her legs. Her lower abdomen was severed and needed constant care and attention as well. Her recovery was a strenuous journey that weighed a heavy financial burden on Sunil, and her mother, to care for her as well as sustain the family. We were able to assist Roshini by financing her medical expenses as well as her scans, treatments and consultations with doctors. They were given a monthly provision of essentials and relief as well. To ensure a livelihood and means of income for the family, we gifted a sewing machine to Roshini's mother as she has a talent for hand embroidery and was looking for ways to support her daughter financially.
A few months on, in early March 2020, Roshini attended our psycho-social programme held for the victims and families affected by the attacks. There was a gradual yet drastic improvement in her recovery by this time. She did, however, face some slight discomfort as there was still some shrapnel lodged in her legs. However, this did not stop her from participating in the many activities and discussions held. Today she is back on her feet, able to carry her child and walk. She has undertaken some basic household chores as well, with hopes of resorting back to her life before the blast.
Shanthi, a Sunday School teacher at the Zion Church, Batticaloa was one of many who sustained severe injuries as a result of the attacks. She had several pieces of metal shrapnel lodged in her skull and brain and sustained severe injuries to her vertebrae.
Shanthi was in a state of comatose for two weeks and had to undergo multiple surgeries to remove the metal shrapnel, yet the doctors were unable to remove all leaving one piece behind. Her injuries left her paralysed, and once she regained consciousness, she had to face yet another surgery to repair her skull bone that was severely damaged. Throughout these trying times, we were able to support Shanthi and her family by covering her medical expenses for her last surgery as well as support her family with monthly provisions of essential items and financial support. Given her condition, we helped build a customed sanitation facility to best suit her and provided her with other medical facilities she would need in her home.
As of today, Shanthi has not given up hope as she has begun her physiotherapy and rehabilitation process to build her strength and improve her mobility.