The COVID-19 pandemic forced Sri Lanka into a sudden lockdown as the healthcare workers and country’s leadership grappled with an unprecedented phenomenon that they were not prepared to face. Entire communities were affected by the fast-spreading virus that soon reached all parts of the country. Among the communities greatly affected by the period of extended lockdown were the inhabitants of the Nayanaloka village in Negombo. This village is widely known for the visually impaired community that calls it home. The villagers are skilled craftsman who weave household linen and earn a living from the sale of their wares. The unexpected spread of a deadly virus and travel restrictions placed this community in a very desperate situation.
As part of its response to the emergency situation that had arisen in the country, LEADS reached out to persons across Sri Lanka that were affected and to groups in need of assistance. Vital equipment was donated to hospitals, frontline health officers were equipped with facemasks, PPE kits were distributed among hospital staff and local government authorities, assistance were provided for quarantine centres, packs of hygiene items were distributed among patients infected with the virus and dry ration packs were distributed among Child Development Centres and families affected by the virus. When LEADS came to know of the distress faced by the visually impaired community of Nayanaloka through social workers, it distributed packs of essential items among 45 families in this community.
Hemachandra is 73 years old and as a person with a visual impairment, his situation in life became even more complicated when the pandemic raged through Sri Lanka. It has been several years since his wife and son passed away while two surviving children are married and living away from home. Hemachandra depends on his siblings who look after him and tend to his needs. Nevertheless, the pandemic meant that it was unsafe for his sister to leave home for work. “We had to isolate ourselves and stay at home because of the situation in the country” says Hemachandra, explaining the difficulties his family faced during the first wave of COVID-19 and expressing his gratitude to LEADS for the assistance received. “As someone who depends on others to provide for me, I am truly happy to be able to take this pack of rations home today” says Hemachandra.