Good Samaritans help resurrect Easter Sunday blast victims’ lives | Sunday Observer

Good Samaritans help resurrect Easter Sunday blast victims’ lives

Nimroth, Ruth, Regen and Akshika(inset) Pic: Shan Rambukwella
Nimroth, Ruth, Regen and Akshika(inset) Pic: Shan Rambukwella

Regen’s tiny living room had nothing except a sofa which took more than half the space. Ten-year-old Nimroth sat on the sofa busy with his father’s mobile phone. He raised his burnt face away from the phone screen questioningly as we entered their little two-room-rented house. Nimroth looked at the camera in our colleague’s hand for a moment and again got back to whatever he was doing with the mobile phone. His mother Ruth (34) was on a wheelchair and had put both her bandaged legs on the sofa the children were sitting on. Another lady carried little Akshika who was just four-months-old. The little girl also had burn marks on her hands, which would greatly shock anyone who sees her. Regen, the father of the family, was behind Ruth’s wheelchair fondling her head.

It is almost two months since the brutal Easter Sunday attack and the country is sluggishly getting back to normal. While the post-tragedy period is filled with political debates and passing the buck, victims of the deadly attacks are still struggling to resume their usual life. In this scenario, there are families like Regen’s, who need continuous support and welfare measures. Regen (37) is a welder by profession and works in a welding shop in Wellawatta. Their rented small house is in Kadiranawatta, Mattakkuliya Colombo 15. When we visited his house he was a little busy. As his wife, Ruth and elder son Nimroth were suffering from a very bad attack of flu he had just called an ambulance to take them to hospital. He was also suffering from fever but seemed to have no time to bother about himself. Till the ambulance arrived, he recalled his memories of April 21.

Kochchikade blast

“We went to the Kochchikade church around 7.50 a.m. Normally, we don’t go there but we decided to do so as Easter was special” he said.

They stayed in the left corner of the church where the suicide bomber too was. After a few minutes, around 8.40 a. m. Regen came out of the main hall of the church as his second and third sons were not happy staying inside the jam-packed hall. “They started to misbehave so I came out of the church from the side door. My wife, eldest son and the baby were inside the church” said Regen.

As the clock said 8.45 am the suicide bomber blasted himself surrounded by devotees. Regen was at a loss as to what had just happened. He rushed into the area where Ruth and his two children were.

He saw Ruth and the two children laid on the floor. Then he tried to carry Ruth but saw,that both her legs were broken. Akshika was still in her arms. “I immediately took her (Akshika) out of Ruth’s hands and gave her to somebody who was beside me. I didn’t even know who it was. Then I took my son and sent him to the hospital by bus. Neither of them had any injuries, only Ruth appeared to be affected,” Regen said.

Next, he gave his second and third sons Javish (5) and Kavish (3) to a three-wheeler driver on the road to take them to his brother’s place in Mattakkuliya. After sending away all the children, he took Ruth to the National Hospital, Colombo, in a three-wheeler.

The National Hospital was in total chaos. The staff of the Accident ward were experiencing a nightmare as most of the patients were fatally injured. Regen after admitting Ruth to the hospital started searching for his children.

Until that afternoon, Regen had no clue as to what happened to little Akshika. He only remembered giving the baby to someone at the church. Finally, they contacted a private TV channel and telecasted a photograph of Akshika. Soon after, he received a phone call saying that Akshika had been admitted to the hospital. They later found out that she had been the first victim of the bombing to be rushed to the National hospital.

Regan had to spend more time to find Nimroth. His brothers and relatives went to Negombo, Kalubowila and many other hospitals to find the boy. Finally, they got information about Nimroth around 9.30 in the night. He had also been admitted to the National Hospital and then moved to the ICU as he was suffering from a breathing problem.

“Papa, what has happened to my face?” Regen still remembers the first words Nimroth said when he saw his face in a mirror. “He was really worried and cried a lot. But then a doctor came and said that it will be alright within a few months. After that, he stopped crying” Regen said in a broken voice..

Nimroth now has a more serious issue than just a burnt face. According to the doctors, the ten-year-old boy will have to wear a colostomy bag all his life. Other than that, the boy is critically affected by the blast as there are at least 30 bomb pieces in his body which are difficult to remove. Also, one of his legs is kept stable by the insertion of a pallet.

The poor child is due to sit for his Grade 5 scholarship exam this August. Ruth’s condition is far worse. Her legs are critically damaged. One of her legs is supported by an external fixator. She also has more than 50 bomb pieces in her body. Her liver is damaged and she has already undergone more than five operations. There are a few more also to be done soon.

“Why did this happen to me? This is what I felt immediately after the bomb. And still, I have the same question, the same feeling” said Regen.

Good Samaritans

Regen’s family is identified as one of the most affected families of the Kochchikade blast by Seth Sarana, the social service arm of the Archdiocese of Colombo. The complete responsibility of Regen’s family is now taken by Seth Sarana. Volunteers attached to Seth Sarana visit this family often and take good care of them. But this is not the only family. There are 91 individuals from Kochchikade and 241 individuals from Katuwapitiya who are directly affected by the two bombs now being taken care of by Seth Sarana under the patronage of Arch Bishop, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Seth Sarana is now fully engaged in uplifting the victims of the deadly attacks-families and individuals. Their program has 3 main categories, i.e. Pastoral, Psychological and Counselling, and Social dimensions.

Under Pastoral dimension, the enhancement of spiritual wellbeing of the affected is targeted through religious activities. Under the next dimension, Seth Sarana has taken steps to address the psychological issues of the victims such as people who stagnate in life because of the unbearable pain they go through and the trauma. Qualified counsellors are helping out sufferers along with the Seth Sarana team. Under Social Dimension, Seth Sarana assists people with immediate relief such as medical assistance and transport facilities.

A mid-term social plan is aimed to restore the education of children (scholarships) and livelihood support, besides the frequent medical assistance. Also, in the long run, Seth Sarana expects to help these people with house repairs or new houses, the sustainability of children’s education, vocational training for youth and similar activities.

“We are doing our best with the existing resources. We cannot seek international aid as this was not a natural disaster. It was a man-made disaster which could have been prevented. So, we have no ethical right to seek aid from the international community” said the priest in charge of Seth Sarana, Rev. Fr. Lawrence Ramanayake.

He said, “We have gathered information on all affected families in the Katuwapitiya and Kochchikade blasts. Along with the provision of facilities, we have our volunteers reach out to them and support them accordingly”.

Currently, Seth Sarana Caritas is trying to get all possible facilities for the bomb victims as they are fully aware of the ground situation. A dedicated clinical entrance to the patients from bomb blast injuries is one such request they have made from the National Hospital.

The Ministry of Housing and Construction, World Vision, Sarvodaya, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF and Dialog are already on board this program. Also, some leading private hospitals such as Nawaloka and Asiri have come forward to support individuals with critical medical conditions.

(Anybody who wishes to contribute to the program, can contact Fr. Ramanayake at Seth Sarana Caritas office Kynsey Road, Colombo 8. Telephone 011 2688 999)