Jaffna Internally Displaced People Camp Report from Paalam Project
From March we received funding from numerous donors to assist the Paalam Project with aid into the Welfare Camps in the Jaffna District. Our aim was to assist the Kopay Camp in particular as the Paalam Project and New Living Flame Church has its main base in Kopay. In the Kopay camp we have been assisting the 200 families consisting of 483 individuals on a weekly basis.
Thanks to the funding from our donors we were able to provide bed sheets and towels to every person in the Kopay camp. We were also able to purchase clothing for each of the babies in the camp and clothes for the children and teenagers.
We are also working into the Kodikamam Camp where there are 389 families and 1,176 individuals whom we have provided sheets and towels to, along with clothing for the babies in the camp.
On our initial visits to the camps it had been very difficult to get permission to take teams into the camps. We had to write letters to the Government Agent (GA) at the main City Council office (Katcheri) in Jaffna and once we received their approval then take this to the Ministry of Defence for a clearance signature from the Brigadier. This was very time consuming and difficult with our requests often being turned down.
After we received the funding from our donors we went to the Kopay camp with all our permission letters and still we were told we could not distribute the goods needed in the camp. So we asked to speak to the person in charge of the camp. At first they were not willing but after much persuasion the officers put us through and our senior Pastor Jenny Sinnadurai spoke to the Colonel in charge of the camp, explaining that his staffs were not permitting us to enter the camp despite having received permission letters. The Colonel arranged with us to come back to the camp in two days time. That Tuesday we returned to the Camp where we were met by the Colonel who escorted our vehicle and team into the camp. The goods were checked by the army and then we were able to prepare to distribute them. Prior to this we had requested to have a small service.
We had with us a team of 13 people consisting of two youths from our church in Switzerland, two youths from our church in Colombo, myself from New Zealand and others from our church in Kopay. We sang two songs in Tamil & Sinhala and then Jenny our Pastor spoke to the crowd that had gathered. We had an opportunity to pray and speak to those who wanted prayer which turned out
to be most of the camp people. It was such an amazing opportunity for us to share the love of God and the gospel with those in need. We were able to give 30 bibles to families upon their request.
Following the service we distributed sheets and towels to each person in the camp. The Colonel also assisted us in doing this. Some of our youth gave out sweets to the children, which was a real treat for them.
Normally we are not allowed to take photos in the camps, but this day the Colonel requested that we take photos as he needed some for his records and as he didn’t own a camera would we take photos with our camera and give them to him. We requested to use the photos to send to those funding the work and he agreed for this. By God’s grace we were able to take as many photos as we wanted.
Since this first encounter with the Colonel he has been in constant contact with us. We no longer need permission letters to enter his camps. He will call us on a weekly basis to inform us what is needed in the camps and then he will meet us at the camps and escort us into the camps. We are no longer checked and the goods are no longer checked. We are able to freely run services on each visit to the camps and we are also permitted now to speak to individuals, pray for them and counsel them as requested. God has given us an open door into these camps. Really we have been amazed at God’s grace in granting us the privilege of entering these camps so freely.
Since we began working in Kopay camp we have been praying for the release of the people back to their relatives or their own land. In the last two weeks 72 people have been released from the Kopay camp back to their relative’s homes in the Jaffna area.
From the Nelliyady Camp one elderly couple and their daughter have been cleared to leave the camp but as they had no where to go to they refused to leave. The Colonel contacted us regarding this family and we offered to provide the daughter with employment at Paalam Children’s Home if the Colonel would provide accommodation for them out of
Neliyady Camp family in the camp still.
the camp. This family has now been resettled in a house outside of the camp and their daughter is working full time for us. This family is now attending the New Living Flame Church each Sunday. The opportunity to work with the Ministry Of Defence to assist such families could only have come through doors that God has opened to us.
Our ministry teams are visiting the Kopay Camp, each week and the Kodikamam and Nelliyady Camps monthly. At each visit we are running a 20 – 30 minute service where we give song sheets to those attending and encourage them to take part in the singing of songs in Tamil and Sinhala. The children really enjoy this time taking the opportunity to sing at the top of their voices. Ninety percent of the people in the camps attend these services. We have had the opportunity to pray for almost all people in the camps. Most are Hindus or Catholics.
In the Kodikamam camp there is a Pastor who is running a church in the camp. Initially he had 20 people attending services. After we started to visit the camp and pray with people and distribute Bibles his congregation has grown to around 40 people. We have been able to support his work by providing him with tracts and Bibles in Tamil & Sinhala, along with a tambourine and bongos for the services.
Many seeds are being sown in the lives of those living in the camps that we are visiting. Our ministry team is able to talk with, counsel and pray for people on a weekly basis and we believe that as people are released from the camps that they will seek churches to continue to receive this input into their lives. We have taken the opportunity to expressly share with people about the need to forgive and forget the past and move ahead into a new future of hope. We believe that by planting these seeds of peace, people will not desire to go back to their old ways of war.
Neliyady Camp Family outside the house provided by the army.