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Happy International Women's Day 2024!


Princess Anne Greeting CEO Lynn Stanier at Their Future Today


On International Women’s Day, we share our exciting news stories and heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to all the amazing and inspiring women who fight for justice, equality and freedom. We are very honoured to meet, partner and collaborate with those who share a goal to effect change and end the harmful institutionalisation of children in Sri Lanka.  Known as the most hardworking royal, it was a great honour to be specially invited to meet HRH The Princess Royal at a private reception held at the British High Commissioner's residence in Colombo. Princess Anne was curious to know all about TFT’s work to help women and children in Sri Lanka and was incredibly supportive of our commitment to keep families together and children out of orphanages through education and training.



Marini Founder of Sisters at Law Recieving an Award


Today we specially celebrate our partner Marini De Livera, (former Chairperson of National Childcare Protection Authority) who not only runs the TFT Heartbeat Centre to empower, protect and educate women and girl survivors of violence, but also her organisation Sister’s at Law which provides probono legal services to give justice to women without rights.


We’re absolutely thrilled to announce that Marini has been awarded the National Woman of Courage Award for her social entrepreneurship and service rendered to survivors of violence. The award was presented by His Excellency Ranil Wickremesinghe, President of Sri Lanka at a special ceremony held on Tuesday, 27th February 2024.


The Heartbeat Centre


Their Future Today's Heartbeat Centre

We celebrate the strength and courage of all women and girl survivors of sex trafficking, violence and abuse who arrive at the Heartbeat Centre without a single belonging. Their stories are beyond harrowing, and some are so traumatised that they are unable to speak or leave their beds for several weeks. Many have endured a life of unimaginable hardship. Some have never had the chance to step inside a classroom, to hold a pen, or to experience the comfort of a home with a solid floor, a bathroom, clean water or a toilet.


TFT's amazing staff at the HBC

Thanks to an incredibly dedicated team of truly wonderful women, the Heartbeat Centre stands as an incredible beacon of hope, a testament to the unwavering commitment of the selfless individuals, some who are on site 24 hours a day to help rebuild such fragile lives.


It's truly indescribable, the profound transformation that takes place here. "Outstanding" doesn't even begin to do justice to the remarkable work being done, to empower, educate and transform lives, and without the Heartbeat Centre, these girls would be torn apart from one another, trapped once more in harrowing circumstances, and subjected to the same heartbreaking institutional abuse that we heard from the shocking stories of care leavers at the BICON 23 Alternative Family Care Conference for Children in Asia. (see further down).



HBC


The girls absolutely love the opportunity to learn, and have an exciting educational Monthly Plan, which is helping to overcome past trauma, is building self esteem, and making them feel safe and loved often for the first time in their lives.



A special celebration ceremony was recently held and certificates were awarded to acknowledge the girls progress and achievements in English and literacy, and we talked about their lives and futures. They were overwhelmed to each receive a big bar of Toblerone, (they had never tasted chocolate) washable sanitary pads made by the Women’s Development Centre, and a canvas TFT bag to hold their own books and pens.

It was impossible to hold back the tears as they sang “We will Overcome” with such gusto.



Nimuu


A young woman who deserves to be celebrated on International Women’s Day is TFT speaker and advocate for Foster Care Nimmu Kumari, a care leaver who recently courageously shared her powerful and heart wrenching story in Nepal alongside other care leavers from Asian countries at the BICON Alternative Family Care Conference for Children in Asia.


Nimmu grew up in orphanages and remembers being transported to court in prison vans, sleeping In police cells, standing before judges in criminal cages, hiding in fear and being moved from one orphanage to another. She was angry, rebellious and labelled as a bad girl. Her crime? She ran away as a victim of child abuse only to be punished by the system.


BICON Nepal

These care leavers from all over Asia shared one dream - to be loved in a family. But this wasn’t about sorrow or pity, it was about strength, resilience and demanding change and care reform for future generations. They are the voice, the truth and the evidence, and their stories must be told not only to the 700 conference attendees but to the entire world.

Institutionalisation. Must. Stop. Now.


Nimuu and family

Nimmu always dreamed of having a family to love her, and until we met she didn’t know there was such a thing called foster care. Nimmu is now a passionate advocate for foster care in Sri Lanka, is recently married and has fostered a young care leaver!


In memory of her close friend, a care leaver who committed suicide, Nimmu has also set up her own organisation to support care leavers called 'Generation Never Give Up.’


Alternative Family and Foster Care

Lynn, Myrna and Vasundhra

We are honoured to partner with Professor Myrna McNitt, Global Independent Consultant on child protection and former board member of International Foster Care Organisation, and Dr Vasundhra Om Prem, Director of Centre of Excellence Alternative Care India.


Vasundhra successfully developed the first foster care programme in Bihar, India, and alongside Myrna has delivered Alternative Family Care training to the National Childcare Probation Services, National Childcare Protection Authority, the judiciary, orphanage staff and managers, universities, faith groups, local communities, NGO’s, and CSO’s in partnership with TFT since 2017.


Child protection training

Vasundhra and Myrna recently delivered our fourth training to 35 probation officers in the Southern Province, and showed the full version of TFT’s award winning animated training film about Alternative Family and Foster Care. The film is based on the true story of our patron Richard Farleigh. Although the sound system wasn’t working you could have heard a pin drop. The participants took notes and said it helped them to clearly understand the difference between foster care, kinship care and adoption. The response was overwhelming. We are grateful to the generosity of Richard Farleigh, Helen Blizard (artist) Isuru (animator) and Jason Kouchak (composer) for all their commitment and hard work which went into making this film.


Child protection training

District teams were put into groups and asked to think of ways in which they could develop and implement foster care with the knowledge they had received. Even the most sceptical leaders came forward to enthusiastically describe their plans, which impressively confirmed their depth of understanding and determination to move this new concept forward.



Marini is also a powerful guest speaker at our alternative family care training sessions. She shares her knowledge as a family lawyer who has overturned a judges decision to place a child in an orphanage in favour of an unrelated (foster) family under ‘Fit Persons’ in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. Marini’s success proves that it is legally possible to proceed with foster care, while we strongly advocate for a Foster Care Act, which is waiting government approval, and we are directly speaking to H.E Geetha Kumarasinghe, Minister of Women and Child Affairs, who has promised to highlight this in Parliament.


Orphanage Manager and staff training


Housemother training in family care Sri Lanka

All 17 TFT childcare trained housemothers deserve to be honoured. Many have worked with us for more than 15 years. They are true heroes caring for 64 vulnerable babies and children under 5 years old to support healthier brain development which will ease the transition into families. Their work means so much to them, both for their income to support their own families and also for the love of the children they serve. After many years of resistance to change, a successful alternative family care training focused on foster care was recently delivered at Ruhunu orphanage. All orphanage managers and staff participants agreed that although they did their best for the children, they couldn’t give every child the life and love they deserve in a family.


Housemother training in family care Sri Lanka

Participants all agreed that foster care should be introduced where it isn’t possible to reunite children with families. They are now committed to change and were excited for the the opportunity to become pioneers of this new concept despite earlier reluctance due to concerns over losing their jobs. Now they understand that they will play another important role, and it was a real breakthrough as they are selflessly putting babies and children first.


Housemother training in family care Sri Lanka

With positive feedback from the childcare probation service departments and orphanage staff and managers, a meeting was held with Ms Rasika Dissanayake, Southern Province Commissioner.

Rasika gave her authority in January 2023 for us to organise alternative family care training sessions to see if there was any interest and what the outcome might be.


Meeting the Southern Commissioner of Sri Lanka

At the end of the training sessions 100% of attendees wholeheartedly agreed there was a need to embrace and develop foster care in the Southern Province, they felt privileged to have been selected by TFT to deliver a pilot programme and asked for our ongoing assistance and help to gain approval and full support from the probation commissioner.

We couldn’t possibly have hoped for a better outcome as it is crucial to have the willingness for change from the national childcare service probation officers who will be responsible to run and deliver the foster care service at the grassroots level to enable the project to succeed.

It was a momentous occasion when an agreement was reached to develop the first national foster care pilot programme in Sri Lanka, with the intention of closing a state institution.

Work has already begun to collect research data on children in orphanages.


UNICEF Meeting


TFT Meeting UNICEF

A meeting was held with Miranda Armstrong UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection. Miranda agreed to for TFT to put a proposal forward for the development of a pilot programme, which has now been submitted, and other funding is being sought.


Alterantive Family and Foster care training with NGOS

Alternative family care training focused on foster care was held at the invitation of LEADS who are one of Sri Lanka’s largest and respected NGO’s. They hosted the event for 55 senior manager participants registered from leading Non Government Organisations and Civil Society Organisations nationwide, including World Vision, Save the Children, Women’s Development Centre, Foundation of Goodness, and Emerge to name a few. Some travelled 10 hours by bus from as far as Jaffna in the northern province such is the interest to gain this new knowledge.


It was agreed by all that the futures of children in orphanages is of paramount importance—delay is no longer an option, for they have already waited far too long to experience their most basic human need of affection and protection in the arms of a loving family, and the ripples of change were profoundly felt, and the time for change is now.


Landmark meeting



With this great support from grassroots level, a landmark meeting was held with highly esteemed Ms Yamuna Perera, Secretary at Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and Social Empowerment who is a decision maker committed to change, and Ms Nirmalee Pereira, National Senior Probation Officer who verbally agreed that UNICEF funding received in the Southern Province allocated for family care could include foster care under ‘Fit Persons’ of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.

In conclusion, all organisations were united, and this has paved the way for collaboration as we forge a national foster care network committee. Through these unwavering efforts, together we will create the path to greater awareness about foster care, having revealed the possibilities within existing laws.

Thank you for your continued support, which enables us to help initiate change at the grassroots level—providing nourishment and education to underprivileged children to keep families together, empowering women and girls overcoming trauma, strengthening families, improving the lives of children in orphanages, and creating a foster care system to ensure no child is left behind.


In loving kindness


Lynn, Joel & Team TFT

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