Somawathi Home, Holland House of Hope

Marja, please help me, send me medicines!

This was the cry for help of doctor Prasad to Marja van Leeuwen on Boxing Day, the day of the devastating tsunami. A day later she is already on her way to the disaster area in the south of Sri Lanka with 24 boxes filled with medicines that she has been able to collect at a moments notice.

What she is confronted with in the south is indescribable. Everything has been destroyed. Children, who have lost their parents, look at her helplessly. On her way back to the Netherlands she has a dream: to build an orphanage in the south of Sri Lanka as soon as possible. And thus, what starts as a small, individual relief action develops into one of the most successful private relief actions in the Netherlands. With the help of more than 500 volunteers, over € 2 million in donations, 11 containers with relief goods, lots of support from companies across the country and her connections in Sri Lanka she manages to build the orphanage ‘The Holland House of Hope’, also called the ‘Somawathi Home’.

The run-away housewifesomawathi home

At the time Marja was dubbed the ‘run-away housewife’. Now there is a Buddhist orphanage where 104 orphans and abandoned children are lovingly looked after and where every effort is made to give them a better and above all safe future.

What starts as a small-scale private relief action at the ‘kitchen table’ of Marja van Leeuwen on 1 January 2005 develops into a very successful project. An elderly couple in Sri Lanka donates a piece of land of 45.000 m2 with on it a couple of buildings. With the help of many, many volunteers the Somawathi Home is realised there. Exactly 100 days after the tsunami the Home opens its doors for the first 15 children who have been placed in the custody of the Home by the Sri Lankan Child Protection Authority.

It takes a great deal of effort, determination and fantastic (financial and in kind) support of Dutch companies to make the Somawathi Home what it is now: a small village for children where they are safe, lovingly looked after, are brought up in the Buddhist tradition and are ensured of housing, food and drink, medical care and education.

In addition the Somawathi Home is of great value to people living in the region; toddlers may attend the Montessori School located on the premises of the Home, for the older children there are in-house facilities for afterschool lessons and everybody may visit free of charge the medical clinic also located on the premises.

Good quality care requires first and foremost a good infrastructure. The 20 pavilions have become the home for 104 children and their care mothers. Local wells with a water filtering system supply the water and a generator starts up in case of a power cut. Common facilities include classrooms, a central kitchen, a laundry, a playground, a recreation room, an open-air theatre and a vegetable garden (part of the produce is sold and generates income). To run the Somawathi Home requires €225.000 annually. And this is only possible with your help.

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