Sellam Sivanathan hails from Kumarasamipuram and is the father of four young children. His village is in rural Mullaitivu which was among the areas worst affected by the 30-year armed conflict. This war robbed lives, homes, livelihoods and the dignity of thousands of families hailing from all parts of the country. For years, Sellam faced displacement, fleeing from one camp for the internally displaced to another in search of safety. Sellam returned home when the war ended in 2009, but like hundreds of other returnee families, Sellam too had to rebuild his home and life from scratch. This was not an easy task as Sellam belonged to a generation that lost out on a vital part of their lives; most of them did not have access to formal education or an opportunity to learn a trade due to the ongoing war that started before Sellam was born. Without a life-skill to secure gainful employment, Sellam was in a very helpless situation as he was unable to provide for the needs of his wife and young children. For years, Sellam eked a living by providing manual labour whenever an opportunity arose.
Sellam found a regular source of employment manufacturing Compressed Stabilised Engineered Blocks (CSEB) when LEADS opened its yard in Vallipunam, Mullaitivu in 2019. Along with 19 others, Sellam helps produce these eco-friendly bricks which are an alternative building material to cement blocks. All raw materials that are used in the production are responsibly sourced and the bricks are cured in the sun instead of in furnaces fired by wood, thereby preventing deforestation and air pollution. Sellam works hard at the yard; he helps load the soil, prepare the soil mix for the bricks and stack the bricks, to name a few of his responsibilities at the yard.
“My monthly income was really low before I found employment at the yard” recalls Sellam, explaining how difficult it was, especially since two of his young children are schooling. “I enjoy my work at the yard. It really is a great experience to be a part of this operation.” During the global coronavirus pandemic, Sellam and his community faced a period of great difficulty due to the months-long lockdown in the country. The pack of relief items Sellam received from LEADS during this period was greatly helpful as the provisions ensured that his family received the nourishment they needed. “That was a very difficult period and we managed to get through it because we were employees at the yard. We received a lot of support from LEADS and it is only because of this help that we were able to take care of our families” Sellam explains. “I am really happy that I work at this yard. I feel like I have achieved something in life when I look back and compare this job with the work that I used to do before.”