Words by Lucy Kirkland- Volunteer Social Worker at the Rosie May Foundation:
Seven years of complex child protection investigations, intense home visits and court cases had taken their toll. I’d burnt out, and a three month escape in three countries seemed like a good idea. Lying about my ability on my yoga teacher application form in India backfired at times, but a month later I was certified. Java was next on the list, and the long bumpy journey to find this uncrowded right hand point break was on, it paid off. Finally I was in a dusty traffic jam in a tuk-tuk (with my log blocking the drivers view of anything to the left) heading to the poorest province in Cambodia to volunteer for an NGO who support victims of sexual exploitation. It was hectic.
I left Cambodia with a bitter taste in my mouth as my intention to offer support and guidance to this NGO was tainted by the realisation that they weren’t protecting children at all. Whistleblowing is a strange experience, where you’ll have sleepless nights constantly doubting yourself and battling with accusations of imposing your western ideals on developing countries. It still plays on my mind to this day. I filed a report to the Ministry of Social Affairs and took advice from colleagues and got the next flight home. I came back pretty frustrated about the injustice these children were suffering, and the adults around them knew what they were doing was wrong. This is another story.
Since leaving Cambodia I’ve wanted to work with a charity I could trust and one that could offer honesty and transparency. I was looking for one that could be truly effective in creating change that’s sustainable and enables the community they’re working with to develop the skills to be self sufficient. Through a brief conversation in a cafe, I found the Rosie May Foundation, and have since had the privilege of working alongside Rosie May’s parents as a volunteer Social Worker on one of their many projects in Sri Lanka.
Rosie May Storrie was ten years old when she was brutally murdered at a Christmas party by someone she knew on the 28th December 2003. The following Christmas at home was unbearable without Rosie May so Mary and Graham decided to escape with their two sons from the horrific recollections of the year before. The family were near Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit on the 26th December 2004. They saw the devastation and felt they had to do something for the children whose lives had been thrown upside down, just like theirs had been in the six minutes Rosie went missing at that Christmas party.
They decided to set up the Rosie May Children’s Home for children affected by the tsunami, creating a unique model of care for the Rosie May girls (as they call themselves). The foundation works to re-unite separated sisters, enable girls to be educated in their local school, receive after school tuition, counselling and IT skills. The aim is to give the girls the tools and confidence to shape their lives, providing them with the same levels of hope and ambition as girls in the developed world. The goal is to break the cycle of poverty that ultimately leads to so many children being separated from their parents and brought up in state run orphanages. One of the most common types of employment for Sri Lankan women is domestic servant work in the middle east, which requires them to migrate and leave their children behind. Consequently the number of children being placed in institutions is sadly increasing each day.
After a visit to an inspiring project in Romania it’s now time to start setting up the mother and baby home in Sri Lanka. Offering a two year holistic care programme based around community outreach, or for particularly vulnerable babies, within the home we plan to set up. With this approach we hope to be able to intervene at the crucial moment a mother may feel she has simply no alternative but to abandon her baby. The programme will be coordinated by a local Social Worker along with various trained Community Mentors. The care will be tailored to the needs of the mother and child and also provide follow up visits for a further two years and support will also be offered to fathers where it’s in the child’s best interests.
Another strand to Rosie May’s legacy will be to create a surf club for local girls and women. Local charity Manacare has a swimming pool which will be used to provide swimming lessons, so we can work towards swimming and surfing and feeling at ease in the sea, which is obviously going to be a huge step for some girls due to the trauma of the tsunami. The surf club will be a fun and empowering experience for local girls and women to have a go at something new, and hopefully provide a reminder of the sense of freedom I feel when I’m paddling out.
To donate please visit: www.justgiving.com/lucykirks
Charity Mini Golf Tournament & Margaritas at Gilmores Sunday 20th at 4pm for the Rosie May Foundation Reg: 1113049