The Dust Project: Building Hope, Changing Lives.
Founded by three friends, The Dust Project operates out of a desire to see lives changes, and a passion to make a difference across the nation of Sri Lanka after years of civil unrest. The tough existence of all generations across the country made it an easy choice to begin the work in this beautiful nation. Behind the tea, the beaches and the elephants, lies poverty, destruction and chains that bind citizens; all of which The Dust Project work towards eradicating.
When it rains it pours in Sri Lanka; lives are put on hold as soon as the heavens open. I have experienced it first-hand – stranded in a tuk-tuk (or Trishaw), alone with a driver who spoke only Tamil. The engines are switched off, no-one leaves their house and every single person vanishes from view. It rains non-stop for a lengthy period of time, and if you are lucky enough to be caught in it, is a marvellous experience. The land, which five minutes ago was pure dust finally has a glimmer of life. Soon though, the rain stops, the sun appears and the only hope for life vanishes.
Unfortunately, this only reflects the lives and dreams for the communities The Dust Project works with. They have previously been hopeful of stability and strength in their country, hopeful of peace, and hopeful of a future, but they have been let down by a corrupt government, and a failing system of assisting those who were displaced by the War. The passions and hopes of the communities we work with are almost non-existent, but The Dust Project aims to bring a bright light and a promise of a future into a hugely dark place.
For 26 years, the Sri Lankan Civil War was a battle between two groups in the country; the Tamils and the Sinhalese. The cultural divide between these two groups included language, religion and wealth. Tamils largely occupied the North and East of Sri Lanka, and Sinhalese occupied the rest of the country, with the most wealth and power. Rights of the citizens were disregarded and throughout the war this only worsened, and not improved.
Beginning in 1983 and finishing in 2009, the LTTE were defeated by the Sri Lankan Government. The war caused significant hardships for the population, environment and economy, including a huge death toll of civilians. The initial estimated death toll was 80-100,000 throughout the war, however in 2013, when the UN re-calculated the figure they added 40,000 deaths onto of this figure.
Primarily The Dust Project works in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka; just outside Jaffna. The people helped by the charity remember first-hand the war, and the losses that were suffered by their communities. From visiting, it is clear many are still living with the curses of this destruction and depression hanging over them. Male breadwinners suffering from PTSD, older women left as widows, and unable to support themselves and largely many left unemployed as businesses and wealth moved to the cities. As a result, doctors report growing cases of alcoholism, violence and suicide, all which can be linked back to PTSD. In Jaffna in particular, this is the case with many of the people and families we support.
The Dust Project prides itself on working with the “forgotten children of the world”, and Sri Lanka is often overlooked as a country that needs revival, love and light. With so many other issues, wars and causes having taken a priority in the media, it is without a doubt a forgotten nation.
In a nutshell, the building projects The Dust Project carry out, and take teams to Sri Lanka to carry out include: wells, toilets, houses and community centres. Pictured is the Irupalai Community Centre in Jaffna, which will once complete offer vocational training for young people, provide community healthcare training, schooling at an international level for local children and free English lessons for the community. Alongside this, it is the new home for the church, which currently has a congregation of around 500 people.
Since The Dust Project began building and developing properties in the Northern Region of Sri Lanka, with the first trip taking place in January 2015, the number of houses completed has reached seven. The family pictured here, were the first to receive a completed house funded solely by The Dust Project. This family was chosen primarily due to the fact they were living in a tiny tin shack, with their second daughter (front right), Raaji, who has special needs – Small Brain Syndrome. Their living conditions were life threatening and impairing her chances of developing. All families we support have a need in their lives, and a funded home takes a heavy burden and pressure off of them.
I have personally been on two trips to Sri Lanka, to help with the builds, and am taking to the skies in September to work on another two houses. I am currently working on my visa application for me to be in Sri Lanka on a more permanent basis, to oversee and plan the next builds for The Dust Project, and dealing with Child Sponsorship.
A clear passion of The Dust Project, which all ambassadors and trustees hold is that without the commitment and backing of members of our local community, none of the achievements would be possible. One way many of our supporters directly plug into this community is through Child Sponsorship and giving a child encased in poverty hopes, dreams and prayers.
To the right is Esther who I am pictured with, and the girl I have been sponsoring for the last 18 months. She dreams of becoming a lawyer, and serving the local community.
Her heart is enormous, she has a whacky fashion sense, and speaks great English; all learned, encouraged and developed from attending a great school, run by The Dust Project’s partner charity The Paalam Project.
I write to Esther, and she writes back, but this connection is so much more than a donation a month, and letter writing. Having had the opportunity to meet this beautiful little girl is an unbelievable gift, which I will cherish forever. The Dust Project twins children, just like Esther with buildings to ensure sustainability, and the knowledge for the community that generations to come will have the same opportunities. The Dust Project’s work is not simply a short spout of rain, but something that has longevity and will be
Being part of a team is an amazing experience, it places you in the lives of the people you meet, you build relationships, a connection and a need to contribute to the revival of a country torn apart by greed and dissatisfaction. It breaks down the protective screen of watching a documentary, or TV show raising money for a cause, and suddenly you are part of the community. It’s a tie that is stronger than anything I have ever felt, and something that should be experienced by all.
The Dust Project and the work it does is a vessel for the redemptive nature and light of God to shine in a country full of darkness, and it is a privilege to experience this first hand.
To find out more about The Dust Project, to sponsor a child or donate to a project, visit our website: www.thedustproject.com
Ambassador for The Dust Project.