Project of the Week: Restoring a Chapel and a Community in Sri Lanka

Help to renovate and enlarge a chapel for tea plantation workers

The parish of Maliboda Daraniyagala includes 53 Catholic families who work as day labourers on the tea plantations of the region. Like their mainly Hindu fellow plantation workers, they are originally from India. The Catholic Church is caring for the welfare of the plantation workers, regardless if they are Christian or Hindu; they support the people in need.

Working on these plantations earns them very little. Accommodations in which they live are very cramped often forcing up to twelve families to share a single toilet.

Child labour in these poor conditions in Sri Lanka is very common and getting an education is therefore out of the question for most kids. As soon as a child is old enough to reach the leaves on the bushes, he or she is also sent to work in the plantations. When it rains, there is no work for the family. No work means no money.

An Old Chapel Ruined by Rain

The Catholic families here in Sri Lanka hold their faith as very important. “They bear witness to the love of Christ and live together in harmony,” says Father Sanjeewa Peiris, who has come to us for help on behalf of the diocese of Ratnapura. Right now, this Catholic community has nowhere to gather for prayer.

Back in the 1950s the Catholic Church was given the use of a building on the plantation, originally intended for other purposes, as a chapel, but has served as their church ever since. Now with heavy rainfall has reduced it to near ruin. The oldest member of the parish can testify to the fact that it has never been repaired. The structural experts have warned that the chapel is no longer safe for use, especially on rainy days, as it may collapse at any time.

Offering Up Their Own Labour

It is very difficult for the Catholic faithful to have to do without Holy Mass, catechetical instruction, and a place to pray or meet for as a community. They would like to be able to use their chapel again, but first it will need extensive renovation and repairs. The roof needs to be replaced, concrete posts introduced and the decayed wooden elements and electrical wiring must be completely replaced. The building also needs enlarging.

The plantation management has given its permission for the work, but unfortunately, the pandemic has led to a sharp rise in prices. Although the Catholic faithful have already raised some money, it is nowhere near enough. But they have, nevertheless promised to contribute to the project with their own labour.

We are proposing to help with $15,225, that the local faithful can very soon meet together again and gather to pray and as a community, in their chapel.

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