Planting Hope in Hatton

Planting Hope in Hatton

By: Kshalini Saneja Nnonis, Sri Lanka Field Communication Specialist   |   Posted: May 03, 2010

Compassion's Child Survival Program opens in Sri Lanka to intervene on behalf of the mothers and babies desperate for help.
Thanks to the Child Survival Program, mothers such as this one will receive the proper education, nutrition, medical attention and support for her to raise a healthy and happy baby. 

On the emerald hillsides of Hatton, Sri Lanka, tourists can see women plucking tea leaves and placing them in large baskets perched on their heads. Hatton is a lush area, perfect for growing Ceylon tea. But it is not a perfect place for mothers.

The area's green hills are home to many tea estates, and a majority of the working population are "tea pluckers." Plucking tea is a physically demanding job that pays poorly about U.S. $1 a day.

Nearly 73 percent of residents in the areas surrounding these tea plantations live in poverty, according to a survey by the Census and Statistics Department of Sri Lanka. The statistics tell a sad story that is all too real to those who live and work on Hatton's tea estates.

Children in Hatton go without things that many people in the world consider basics food, a home, a family, an education.

Life is especially difficult for mothers in Hatton.

Impoverished Women Turn to Abortion

In this region, girls get married at 17 or 18 years of age. In some instances, girls conceive even before that and continue living with their partners. Some husbands have several wives or partners, and social problems abound economic hardships, alcoholism and lack of proper family planning methods are but a few.

"Many women in the area become pregnant with, for instance, their third child, despite their poor economic conditions because there are no proper methods of family planning being practiced," says a local pastor. "After learning of an unwanted pregnancy, some of them take an overdose of medication that in turn aborts the fetus."

"It must be pointed out," the pastor adds, "that this is all planned beforehand, and upon going to the medical clinic the women say that the fetus was aborted 'naturally' as they are involved in labor-related work. They even borrow money with monthly interest to perform the abortions. According to unofficial statistics, 50 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 30 years have abortions."

As abortion is illegal in Sri Lanka, the actual figures may be higher.

Domestic violence is also high in these areas, and it also often leads to miscarriages.

The Demands of Poverty

Another common problem women face is inadequate time to recover from childbirth. They often return to work at the tea estates less than a month after giving birth. One pastor knew a mother who returned to work just two days after the delivery. For these impoverished women, returning to their physically demanding jobs so soon after giving birth is necessary in order to provide for their families.

Hatton's young mothers and their babies are in need of compassion.

With the recent establishment of two Child Survival Programs (CSPs) in Hatton, Castlereagh and Pathyapura, Compassion can help alleviate the many problems encountered by Hatton locals.

A Rescue Plan

At the CSP center, mothers will have the opportunity to receive parenting and health education, nutritional supplements for their children, and medical checkups. CSP instruction will help these mothers establish a healthy start for their babies, ensuring that they develop properly.

The Child Survival Program will tend to more than physical needs. Women who have likely faced many hardships will be embraced in a network of support as they build relationships with CSP staff and other mothers. And as Compassion cares for babies in need, the staff will demonstrate to all of Hatton the innate value of each precious child.

In an area known for its lush tea estates, Compassion has planted hope hope that, over time, will grow deep roots in the lives of vulnerable mothers and children.

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