I visited the Agape Children’s Home in Tissamaharama – an orphanage run by Rev. Dayaratne (Parish Priest of the Assembly of God Church) and his wife Sister Mala. This was not run like a normal orphanage but a loving home; they were ‘one big happy family.’
With no intention of opening an orphanage, Rev. Dayaratne and his wife Mala opened their home to receive an abused child way back in year 2001. With the increase in numbers, it was registered as an orphanage under ‘Agape Children’s Home’ in 2006. Presently it houses over a 200 children at any given time.
To date it has sheltered around 200 children up to the age of 18 years which include some who are now employed and even given in marriage. These children include abused, abandoned, orphaned and destitute children sent by the Department of Child Care and Probation and the Magistrate Courts in Hambantota, Tissamaharama, Balapitiya and Angunakolapelessa of Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim backgrounds.
At Agape Home, all girls and boys only under the age of 13 are housed in 8 cottages equipped with beds, linen, toilets and other basic facilities. Each cottage accommodates 10 – 12 children along with a full-time House-Mother who works on a voluntary basis. This section has a kid’s play area, playground, auditorium, large dining hall, library, computer room, common toilets and showers. Rev. Dayaratne, Sister Mala and their 20-year old daughter live in a separate house within the premises, while their second daughter aged 14 years lives in one of the cottages with the other children.
On the opposite side of the road is a 2500 sq ft two storied building used as a dormitory to house only boys of ages 13 – 18 years. This too is equipped with toilets, kitchen and a pantry. Rev. Dayaratne’s only son aged 15 also lives in this building along with the other boys.
The home is also blessed with a mini bus and a 3-wheeler, to meet the transportation needs of the children. The bus also picks up other children in the village on its way to school and back.
Agape has its own pre-school situated within its premises and is also attended by some of the children from the surrounding villages. The rest of the children of school going age attend two Government Schools in Tissamaharama. All these children despite their own religion learn Buddhism as a subject up to GCE O/L.