By Selvarajasingham Umakanthan, IFRC
For over a hundred years, Subramaniyam Mariyayi’s family has been living in a line house – a row of five to eight houses built in a linear manner, each with a line room consisting an entrance attached to a small kitchen and a cramped space used as both living room and sleeping area. The houses were built in the 19th century by the British for plantation workers, who would then bring their families to live with them.
For most of her life, the 38-year-old single mother has shared this living space with her two children and elderly father. Along with the small living area, the family has limited access to electricity and drinking water. To make matters even more challenging, the house’s clay flooring would often get wet and slippery.
Mariyayi earns a living working at a tea plantation, plucking leaves on the mountain slopes for hours each day. After a hard day at work, Mariyayi would have to rely on the rainwater she collects for the family’s day to day use or go to her neighbour’s house for water.
“The line house has no toilet facilities, so despite the rain and the cold, I have to wake up early each morning and walk to the riverside with my children,” explained Mariyayi. The lack of a proper latrine places the family at risk to waterborne disease and brings about concerns for their safety.
A dream home at last
Despite these challenge, one of Mariyayi’s dreams is about to come true.
In 2017, she was selected to receive a new home as part of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society’s Indian Housing Project, a programme developed together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society’s (IFRC), with support from the Indian government. Under the housing project, Mariyayi was allocated 175 square meters of land in the Bridwell division in Sri Lanka, where her new home is being built.
The Sri Lanka Red Cross, along with the IFRC, provided technical guidance on building the house. Each building is designed to have two bedrooms, a living hall, kitchen, a toilet and comes fully equipped with electricity and running water.
The housing project aims to build over 1,600 houses in five districts in the Uva and Central provinces of Sri Lanka by June 2019. The first phase of the construction focuses on the construction of 355 housing units, to be completed by August 2018. Mariyaryi’s new home is among those that is nearly finished.
“I have already bought a new bed and a set of chairs for my new home, and I am planning to start a poultry farm on the rest of my land,” says Mariyayi. “I will have enough space in my compound, which I don’t have at the line house. Ever since I learned that I would receive a new home, I have been eagerly expecting the day when I can sleep in my own house.”
She will not have to wait for much longer. Mariyayi’s house is expected to be completed within the month.