In 2012, while on holiday in Sri Lanka to watch the 20/20 Cricket World Cup, Australian carpenter Justin Peacock’s life was changed by a few chance-encounters with friendly locals. Through a caring and knowledgeable Tuk Tuk taxi driver he was introduced to an orphanage and children’s home called Yasodara. Returning in 2013, he spent 4 self-funded months using his building skills to improve and restore the buildings and grounds at Yasodara. As he came to know the staff and children’s needs better, items such as school uniforms, clothing, kitchen utensils, computer equipment and toys were sourced to make life easier for these children.
After posting some pictures of his work and life experiences in Sri Lanka on Facebook, his friends, family, and even total strangers were taken with his efforts and began offering donations to further help with his charity work. Justin has since returned to Galle in southern Sri Lanka every year delivering donated clothes, toys and sporting equipment, and spending his holidays assisting repair jobs to Yasodara and the Gintota Maya school.
With the passing of Yasodara’s previous major sponsor in 2016, Justin and the Karuna Sri Lanka team began a commitment to provide ongoing funds to cover the monthly running costs of the orphanage, including utilities, food, clothing, wages for the matrons and schooling for the girls.
Unfortunately, in 2018 the orphanage was closed following a dispute among members of the local Sri Lankan committee that was trusted with running the orphanage by the Sri Lankan Government’s Probation Board. It was a sad turn of events for the children and Justin and his team had to act quickly in order to maintain contact with the girls, who were all separated and sent either back to family or each to to separate orphanages.
Since 2018, some children have found a new home at a different orphanage, some of the older girls are attending vocational training institutions, and some returned to their families, who were not able to provide them with food, shelter and education in the first place.
Currently, Karuna Sri Lanka concentrates on staying in touch with each of these children and finding ways we can help improve their living situations including food, housing, basic supplies, education and extracurricular opportunities. Needs are different for each child, so we have employed a former trusted staff member of the orphanage to coordinate these efforts locally, who has been outstanding in keeping track of all the children; organising food, accommodation, medication, school uniforms and transport to school, as well as finding teachers, setting up and supervising classes attended by the children.
Helping schools with sports
While attending a yoga class on that first trip in 2013, Justin mentioned to his yoga teacher a desire to help with some local cricket coaching. As it turned out his yoga teacher’s old school Gintota Maya had been flattened in the tsunami and, while since rebuilt, was lacking in any kind of sporting facilities.
Justin met with the principal, staff and students and after conducting a 2-day coaching clinic, they found the space to build a cricket training pitch and net on the school grounds. A local cricket coach was hired permanently and new cricket whites and equipment were provided to the cricket-loving students. All this was financed through Justin and some of his cricket colleagues in Australia and England.
On his next visit to Sri Lanka he established a netball court and sourced equipment, while also funding a netball coach. Both the cricket and netball teams have been very successful since then, making finals against much higher-rated and -funded schools.
Every year through Karuna Sri Lanka, many amazing donors continue to contribute much needed sporting equipment and uniforms that are greatly appreciated by the local schools.