Creating a Clean Environment for the Andiriyes

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Today, Mr and Mrs Andiriyes reunite with their daughters and grandsons who they haven’t seen for ages; and Ajith finally meets his sisters and nephews. The daughters thank the Tzu Chi volunteers bashfully, feeling grateful for Tzu Chi for taking care of their parents and for cleaning up their parent's house. But what they most appreciate is how Tzu Chi volunteers had "led them home" with their warm hearts.


(Photo: Khor Chooi Kim)


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Volunteers bringing in living necessities for the family. They visit the Andiriyes couple and their son every month.
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Volunteers cleaning up every corner of the roof.
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Cleaning up the surroundings.
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Volunteers bathing Ajith in the river near their house.
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Ajith's sister putting on new clothes for him after his bath.
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Volunteers fixing the house window using plastic cover.
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Everyone posing for group photo in front of the cleaned house.

“Boom boom……” the sound of car engine.

Ajith’s eyes brightens up with joy, he turns his head toward the door, wiggles his body excitingly, trying to sit up from the floor mat. The two elders greet the Tzu Chi volunteers in, but Ajith could not.

The 34-year-old was born handicapped, his limbs defected, so he could not walk nor talk. His mother, Sopihamy, puts a floor mat on the living room floor for him to lie down.

Ajith's three elder sisters and one elder brother are married and have their own families, so Ajith only has his parents to depend on.

“Ajith, we're here!” The Tzu Chi volunteers put down the bags of rice and the flour, and ask about his recent beings. The volunteers are Ajith’s only friends for the past three years, and his reactions shows that he is very happy!

Caring for the soul

The two elders’ faces are sad most of the time due to their long-term poverty and illnesses. Sopihamy is very thin with asthma and is often bothered by breathing difficulties while H.A.Don Andiriyes (Don) has chest and feet pains constantly, so he needs hospital medication periodically.

One day back in 2007, on their regular hospital visit, someone told them to seek help from a charity organization called Tzu Chi. It so happened that Tzu Chi's office was right next to the hospital, so they went directly, and that was how Tzu Chi entered their life to help. The Tzu Chi volunteers found that they were short of food – their elder son brought some food over once in a while, but the three daughters have never shown up. Tzu Chi thus offered to provide necessities to the Andiriyes couple and their son.

The family's brick house was roughly built and the windows were only sheltered with cloth. There were only three chairs inside the house, which were just enough because the family never had any visitors. Relatives and friends simply kept away from them.

The two elders would sit for the whole day without words, only brimming and talking when the Tzu Chi volunteers came visiting them to deliver their necessities each month. The Tzu Chi volunteers know well that the food can only warm their stomachs, but to warm their hearts, they need to be cared for. So the volunteers showed real concerns to the family and the Andiriyes couple began to have smiles again on their faces. The two elders always say “thank you” again and again to the Tzu Chi volunteers each time they visit them.

Three things to do

Getting weaker by the day, however, cooking and household chores seems to get more difficult for the two elders. Early this year, Don thought of sending Ajith to the disabled institution, but Sopihamy was strongly against the idea. The mother feels sorrow whenever she thinks of who could take care of her son if she is no longer around one day.

On one of the recent visits, Tzu Chi volunteers found Ajith curled up quietly in the corner and has not taken a bath for weeks. The house also appeared rather untidy.

After several discussions, the volunteers decided to help the Andiriyes family clean up their house, and also to try to locate their relatives as well as help the elders reunite with their daughters, who became estranged from them after some misunderstandings over land and house issues.

The volunteers even planned to have a small tea gathering after the house cleaning. They approached the students of Tzu Chi Vocational Training Centre (one of the facilities built by Tzu Chi to help the Dec 2004 Tsunami survivors stand on their feet) to help make some cakes for the event. Besides that, they also explained the plight of the Andiriyes to the students and invited them to join in the cleaning.

For the past few years, the Tzu Chi volunteers had been asking the Andiriyes daughters to visit their parents, but did not succeed. They tried again before they did the clean up, telling them how their parents were doing and how Tzu Chi is supporting them.

“We have never seen you visiting your parents," the volunteers said to the daughters, "this time we are going to clean up their house, and we hope you can join us. As children, we should do our best to fulfil our duties to our parents, don't we?”

The daughters seemed to be moved by the volunteers’ encouragement.

A little help goes a long way

At 9am on 15 Dec 2010, when 15 Tzu Chi volunteers and students of the vocational training centre arrived at the small brick house of the Andiriyes, their eyes met with a delightful sight – the three daughters were already there doing the laundry and sweeping the floor.

The volunteers quickly unloaded the tools and began the clean up. They did their best to make the interior as clean as possible, even removing the cobwebs on the ceiling. On the outside, the surroundings of the house were very messy and the tiny path was all covered by fallen leaves. Volunteers got busy cleaning and weeding; the two Andiriyes elders also joined in the weeding. Not only that, the volunteers’ efforts moved the family's neighbours to the extent that they decided to chip in by helping to wash the family's clothes.

Meanwhile, several volunteers carried Ajith to the nearby river for his long missed bath. The weather was very nice so Ajith felt so excited! After his bath, one of his sisters helped him get dressed with the new clothes that Tzu Chi prepared for him. Ajith looked so refreshed.

Back in the house, the volunteers was covering the paneless windows with the plastic cover they brought. The house looked almost new after a day of everyone’s hard work. The house was filled with friendliness and warmth.

“I am so happy today! So many people came to help us!”

Don has changed into his new clothes, and looked so different. The volunteers then learnt that actually when the daughters arrived with their grandchildren, he and Sopihamy almost cried.

A few of the grandchildren had never met the grandparents and their uncle before. Don and Sopihamy were happy enough to be able to talk to their beloved daughters and stroking their grandchildren.

The daughters felt rather embarrassed when they learnt from their parents that Tzu Chi volunteers had been caring for their parents and brother constantly.

“I was surprised to see so many people showed up to help!” One of the daughters, MA Ashoka, said, “We had our own difficulties……but you've been helping our parents and our sick brother all this while. Without you, we might not be able to accomplish all these today.”

The Tzu Chi volunteers arranged for all the Andiriyes to have a group family photo right in front of their cleaned house. The daughters promised the volunteers to be nice to the elders and pleaded, “Please do continue to help on our parents’ living necessities, and we will come back to visit them often as well.”

At the end of the visit, volunteer Sugath Premasingha wiped off her sweat and answered pleasantly, “Even though we cannot come very often, whenever we see the smiles on their faces, we feel so happy!” The young lady is a medical student and had been volunteering with Tzu Chi for five years since the Tsunami.

“I am so grateful that I can help others when they need me! I love Tzu Chi and I will continue to help out,” added Sugath.

Everyone was happy that the Andiriyes sisters have now "found their way home" with Tzu Chi’s help. With more volunteers like Sugath, we believe more needy people could be cared for in Sri Lanka.

Tzu Chi's work in Sri Lanka



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