What has happened to Mayroosan?
When my youngest son was two years old
his siblings were too old
to play with him
‘Let’s find you another brother,”
I said one day and sat him on my lap.
Together we researched the internet.
I typed in ‘World Vision – sponsor a child today’
Beautiful faces of every colour and race
appeared on the screen
and my son clapped his hands in delight
- so many brothers to have.
“Him like me,’ he suddenly pointed out.
I looked at my son’s blonde curly hair
and big blue eyes and smiled: “ Yes, he is like you.”
A tiny eager boy’s face with a mob of unruly dark hair
and big brown eyes appeared on the screen in front of us.
I filled in the sponsorship’s details
while son was drawing a picture of the two of them
playing together in our yard.
“Let’s write him a letter,” I suggested one day.
Our monthly routine of sending money
to Mat’s new brother
never stopped until twenty years later.
In his teenager’s years Mat kept writing to Mayroosan
who had become a pen pal.
Someone had to translate Mat's words for him.
“He told me he is truly good now in cricket
and that he wants to become
a doctor when he grows up,”
Mat commented while addressing the envelope,
‘World Vision Lanka Sponsorship Operation’
Colombo, Sri Lanka.
“He is so much smarter and better at sport than me,
just so bloody unfortunate, hey mum?”
I nodded, thinking back about all the news we had from Mayroosan over the years,
Two boys the same age, yet living such different lives.
When my son was enjoying his first big birthday parties
at Hungry Jacks with his new school friends,
his only worries what colour of school bag to choose
and having the same chips for recess as his buddy Jack.
Meanwhile Mayroosan was walking five km
from his fishing village
to school and back every day.
He also had chores to do - carrying water
from the village pump
(built from sponsors' money)
as well as chopping the wood
so his mother could cook the fish
that his father caught for him
and his twelve brothers
to share with their parents.
And yet every month Mat and Mayroosan
found something in common to draw and write
to each other.
Mat liked soccer and Mayroosan
asked for photos
of famous Australian cricket players.
We always said to Mat that one day
we would make the trip to Colombo and bring
an Aussie beach cricket set for them
to play on Sri Lanka’s beach somewhere.
The World Vision agency said
It is possible for us to meet Mayroosan
and his family.
Then the tidal wave came.
We watched the devastation of floods
and wreckage that swept south west Asia
on our TV screen.
It felt so personal
- we knew Mayroosan and his family
are Tamil Christians who celebrate
Suddenly our family felt too spoilt
to enjoy everything that we had.
No one bothered to open
the pile of neatly wrapped presents
under the big decorated plastic Christmas tree.
The World Vision agency informed us
that they do not know where
Mayroosan and his family is.
The news of Mayroosan trickled through
little by little
over the following years.
The war between the Tamils and Sinhalese
raged on and Mayroosan and his family
moved back to their Tamil’s homeland.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,
who were fighting for independence
in response to claimed discrimination
by the Sinhalese intensified.
We kept sponsoring our Mayroosan
not knowing where he was
and not knowing if he was even still alive.
I have tried to make sense
of the civil war that made
that they needed to find
for their child.
Sinhalese Buddhists who are responsible for the Tamil’s suffering, account for 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s population and they hold power.
In 2009 the Sri Lankan army ended 26 years
of war by rounding up of all theTamil’s rebels,
confiscating their land and homes
Mayroosan and his family were sent to a provisional lock up camps, so an eye could be kept on those who rebelled against the Sinhalese.
There was no school provided for children there and no more cricked for Mayroosan.
From the few notes that we got from him from there
we learned that his mother and father
had left to find work in India
to protect them from starvation.
Mayroosan was left behind
to look after his young siblings,
a lost child of war alone in camp
looking after younger children
We just kept sending him money for education
that he would never get.
I called World Vision Lanka asking about
Mayroosan. I supplied his LKA ID number
only to be told he is an adult now
and doesn't qualify for sponsorship anymore.
They could offer another child for sponsorship
and another number to send money to, however.
I hung up. How could I explain
to any agency
(whatever their vision is)
because at the end of the day
they are just one of the many
thinking about how best
to invest their non profit money.
Mayroosan was just a number to them,
but never to us.
Only my son and I understand.
Mayroosan’s photo still hangs on the wall of our family room, alongside all of his Australian siblings that he never met
“I hope he becomes the doctor that he dreamed of,”
Mat uttered once while eating his evening meal:
“It was translated to me hat he has seen many
of his family members die and that he wanted to help save them.
There was no doctor present when they died.”
I nodded and patted his hand:
“You know mum, I am going to study humanitarian law
so I can help kids like Mayroosan, there must be a better way.”
We kept eating our dinner while on the TV
the violence between Muslims and Sinhalese
raged on streets of Colombo.
Muslims make up close to 10 percent of the population
and they speak Tamil as their mother tongue.
The Sinhalese TV presenter declared that slightly higher
birth among Muslims poses a threat to the continued
demographic supremacy of the Sinhalese. Just like
the Tamils had been a threat to the Sinhalese supremacy
during the Civil war, he added.
My son puts his spoon down angrily, “It is 70 percent of them,
Sinhalese oppressors are like nothing else.
The mostly Hindu Tamils,
constitute around 13 percent.
They destroyed them
and now they are destroying
Suddenly a new presenter
appeared on our TV screen.
It seems like he almost heard my son’s outbursts.
He warns viewers:
“If we, the Sinhalese, fail Muslims as we failed theTamils,
then history will not forgive us,
and will punish us with a new and a worse war!”
I looked at Mat who pushed his half eaten dinner aside,
“Not everything is lost my son. Maybe they will learn.
The Sinhalese of this world!
Then we do not need to rely anymore
on non profit charities who like to make profit
from helping, hey?”
“I will find him one day, mum. My brother Mayroosan.”
I smiled at my determined grown up youngest one:
“I know you will, Mat. I know you will.
But first finish your studies
and become the humanitarian lawyer you want to be,
so that you can help him too and his children if he has any.”