Food distributions in Jaffna in 1992. Photo: humedica
HISTORY OF HUMEDICA IN SRI LANKA
In 1983 the humedica story with Sri Lanka had its beginning.
Wolfgang Gross, Co-founder and Executive Director of humedica Germany, was introduced by a former schoolmate to Jayantha Gomes, a batik artist from Sri Lanka. Wolfgang helped Jayantha to organize exhibitions of his beautiful wall hangings in Southern Bavaria and Jayantha provided 25 percent of his sales revenue as a donation for humedica’s then relief activities for the famine victims in Ethiopia and Sudan.
Becoming personal friends during this time, Jayantha invited Wolfgang to visit his home country, called the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” for spending his holidays on this beautiful island, which he accepted and landed on July 25, 1983 at Colombo’s Katunayake airport.
But rather than spending a leisurely vacation, he was ending up right in the midst of turmoil and riots against the Tamil minority, which finally lead into 25 years of civil war. The next day all tourists were evacuated, curfew imposed and the airport closed, but as the head of a relief organization, founded in 1979, Wolfgang decided to remain in the country on his own risk.
Jayantha, though being a Sinhalese, was hiding a Tamil neighbor family in his home to protect them from the rioters and probably saving their lives. Together with Wolfgang, he visited displaced people in temples, churches and schools and they offered humedica’s assistance, which lead to a first shipment of containers with humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka.
After a meeting in 1985 with the then Minister of Women’s Affairs and Teaching Hospitals, Hon. (Mrs.) Sunethra Ranasinghe, humedica was in the following years assisting the Lady Richway Hospital for Children and the De Soysa Hospital for women with needed pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
Supported by LTU Airlines with free tickets and overweight, Wolfgang Gross was able to fly on a regular basis to Sri Lanka and humedica was providing, among other activities, the Colombo Hindu College with the equipment to open a Dental surgery. Wolfgang’s first trip to Jaffna happened to be in 1988 during the so-called IPKF-time (Indian Peace Keeping Force, which should disarm the various fighting separatist movements), when an epidemic of cholera was on the verge to break out and he delivered necessary medicines to the cholera ward of the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.
In 1990 Wolfgang eventually met with Pastor Sam Rajasuriar, who remained throughout the civil war in Jaffna, running Assembly of God churches in Manipay and Jaffna town and providing aid to victims of the war by distributing food and non-food-items with the assistance of Wolfgang and generous German donors, who gave faithfully the finances for these activities.
Food distributions in Jaffna in 1992. Photo: humedica
Being a foreigner, it was virtually impossible for Wolfgang to enter the military restricted areas in the war zone, but – by God’s grace – he got in touch with the then DIG T.E. Anandaraja (Deputy Inspector General of Police, later the 27th Inspector General of Police), who recommended him to Brigadier Perera and Aircommander Buddhi Siriwardena at the Ministry of Defence, who from this time onwards always issued him a document to pass the military checkpoints at Vavunya without any hassle, before entering into the war zone.
The foundation of humedica Lanka
During the following years, Pastor Sam and Wolfgang traveled regularily on a motorbike from Vavunya to the Jaffna lagoon, which they had to cross within a fishing boat, since the entrance to the Jaffna peninsula was blocked by the SL army.
After the opening of a home for orphaned children, named “House of Children” in Manipay, a charity by the name Mercy Services was founded in 1993 and lateron renamed as humedica International Lanka.
Girls and boys from the "House of Children" in Manipay in 1997. Photo: humedica
In March 1993, Wolfgang met during one of his visits Selvi, who he fell in love with and got married to her during his following trip in September 1993 at the AOG church in Manipay – while this area was totally disconnected from the rest of the world with no telecommunication, no fuel, no electricity. God blessed Wolfgang and Selvi in the following years with three children: Rebecca, Priscilla and Benjamin. They are all living permanently in Kaufbeuren, Germany.
On October 31, 1995 the Jaffna peninsula was recaptured by the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE separatists (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), who were fighting for an independent Tamil State, were forcing about 500,000 people during the night with heavy rainfalls towards the Vanni region, which was still under their control. Pastor Sam, members of his congregation as well as a few kids from the “House of Children” ended finally up in the jungles of Koller Puliyankulam, from where Pastor Sam sent an emergency message though the International Red Cross to the humedica head office in Germany, pleading for assistance to help the group to survive.
Wolfgang immediately flew to Sri Lanka and traveled under extremely difficult circumstances to the site in Koller Puliyankulam, where in the meantime Pastor Sam and members of the congregation had set up several makeshift huts, where they had to stay for about one and a half years, before getting the chance, to return to Jaffna.
During the following years, humedica purchased a property at Sangarapillai Road in Manipay and moved the orphaned children to their new home, which was financed by the Sternstunden charity of the Bavarian broadcasting service “Bayerischer Rundfunk”. Little by little the services of humedica expanded and we opened several Montessori Pre Schools, residential and mobile clinics as well as dental surgeries.
The humedica medical clinic in Jaffna in 1999. Photo: humedica
The headquarters of humedica International Lanka were finally opened at Prathibimbarama Road in Colombo, where it is still located with attached medical and dental practice plus pharmacy for poor and needy people in the predominantly Sinhalese neighbourhood. The building accommodates also some guestrooms as well as offices for administration and accounting. Also mobile medical outreaches are conducted.
Whenever a major natural disaster struck the island, humedica International Lanka with the help of humedica Germany and funding from the German Foreign Office was providing assistance for the victims of the calamity.
On December 26, 2004 a huge Tsunami especially hit the east coasts of Sri Lanka, killing more than 30,000 people and injuring thousands. With the provision of an empty Airbus of LTU Airlines, humedica got the chance to fly on the very day relief goods and a medical team free-of-charge from Germany to Sri Lanka and was able to assist tens of thousands of people, who suffered from this major disaster.
We treated the injured, provided pastoral care for those who lost their loved ones, reconstructed schools and kindergartens, renovated a hospital, distributed 1,300 fishing boats, provided drinking water to camps of displaced people and finally constructed Schools of Excellence, called International Schools Manipay (later renamed to Angel International Schools) in Manipay and Jaffna town, where children, who suffered from the Tsunami and the civil war, are getting a world class education and can even take internationally recognized Cambridge Exams, accepted at literally any university worldwide.
humedica Lanka today
Nowadays humedica International Lanka is additionally running so-called Learning Centres for children from underprivileged families, which cannot afford to pay for tuition, so that their daughters and sons would get the chance to pass their exams with good marks.
The humedica Learning Center on the island Delft supports pupils for a brighter future. Photo: humedica
We are also providing since 10 years an ambulance boat service from Jaffna to the Island of Delft, predominantly to transport sick or injured persons to the peninsula in order to be treated at one of the Jaffna hospitals.
And we are cooperating with the Ministry of Disaster Management, to prepare people for possibly upcoming calamities as well as train medical professionals for such kind of catastrophes and crises.