Saturday, February 23, 2008

Jennifer Harter, CCF Public Relations Specialist, is in Sri Lanka with CCF President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard conducting program reviews of CCF’s work.

When Anne Lynam Goddard, CCF’s President and CEO, decided she wanted to travel to Sri Lanka for a field visit, security was one of the early concerns.

On Jan. 16, a ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended. Norwegian monitors deployed to six different regions to oversee the implementation of the truce left. More than 150 civilians have been killed since then and more than 1,000 Tamil Tigers have been killed as well. Almost 50 government soldiers have lost their lives fighting in the northern region.

Originally, the agenda was to travel east to see CCF’s work in the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps. But the security situation quickly changed that decision and sent us all to the southern region instead.

But we were reminded of the security instability on our first day in Colombo. Our flights all arrived in the early hours of the morning. Police and military stops were dotted along the one-hour drive from the airport to the hotel in Colombo. When we woke up around lunchtime, we learned of a bomb blast that occurred about five miles south of the hotel – on the same road. The bomb exploded on a public bus, but the bus conductor spotted it and cleared the people off the bus. This saved lives and no one was killed.

It did, however, alter our lunch plans. We were to eat in the same area as the bomb blast, but decided against it as there was some chaos in that area. Despite this, there seemed to be a calm in the city – just the normal business of a nation’s capital.

This situation is representative of the types of environments in which CCF engages. Not only are we fighting the battle against poverty, but we must monitor the fighting that is often taking place in these countries. Security is always the utmost concern and always taken into consideration before sending staff to engage with the population.

But the heat isn’t just in the conflict – this country is hot! The highs are expected to be around 90 and lows in the upper 70s! As I was told by one staff member, it’s perpetually summer here!

When I arrived at the airport at 4:45 a.m., it was very busy. But that wasn’t all that shocking as most international flights arrive and depart in the early hours of the morning. But as we traveled down the road to Colombo, the activity didn’t subside. People and vehicles filled the streets and there were even children playing on a playground (and yes, it was still dark).

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