I had just arrived in Colombo after having driven overnight to the northern city of Annuradhapura. The next morning I received a phone call from Col. Bandara who is in charge of security in Zones 4 & 5 of Manik Farm IDP Camps. He informed me of a rather desperate situation. Apparently they had just experienced the first rains in the camps and many of the tents had flooded. At that moment six hundred people were huddled in the Child Care Center, hungry after not eating for the entire day.
Colonel Bandara had ordered packets of food but nothing had yet arrived. “Can you help us, Bhante”? the Colonel asked. “We need to feed these hungry people quickly.”With only a few hours notice we were able to arrange transport with a military escort to allow me to travel freely and safely in the restricted areas of the IDP Camps.
When I arrived toward evening Col. Bandara took me on a tour of some of the flooded areas. Together we traveled to a nearby bakery and ordered bread for 600 people. Fortunately this was a modern, state-of-the-art bakery and they promised to deliver the bread in only three hours. As it was a weekend all the official agencies were closed. I had no access to the bank and no money for the bread. Luckily I was able to make arrangements with the kind bakery manager to pay for the bread at a later time. To complete the meal the military personnel cooked a wonderful lentil curry from their own rations. By 6pm that evening all the hungry refugees were fed.
I am especially thankful to the kind bakery manger, Mr. Ananda, and to Colonel Bandara for his efforts in coordinating this project.