I Built My Own House

Story of an IDP returnee

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka. March 17 (UNHCR)- The temporary shelter in which the Yogarasa Arandavarani’s family lives stood out in Thellipalai with its bright blue floral imprinted doors and the creative touch that makes any house a home. Her new house has a bit more space in comparison to other returnees because of the extra porch. Better yet, it was made by her husband, who earns a living through his masonry skills.

Arandavarani, recalled her first visit after the government released the land in the high security zone for visits. “It was a jungle with overgrown bushes and thick trees. It was very difficult to identify which plot was ours. My husband and I walked passed it the first time. All that remained was the foundation of our previous house with one standing wall. There were few like that, but ours had our name on it. That’s how I identified our old house and land.” Yogarasa cleared the land together with his sons utilizing the grant he received from the government but built the house through the assistance he received from UNHCR. He used his savings to buy additional tin sheets to include a small porch. “That was the happiest I have seen him” said Arandavarani. “It is because he always wanted to build his own house.”

Arandavarani in front of their new home

Arandavarani in front of their new home

Arandavarani’s children are grown up.  Her eldest son is working at a gas station and second son completed his studies up to advance level. Daughter is learning how to sew because she wants to be a seamstress. “I’m happy with what we have now. After 26 years moving around, having a place to call our own is a blessing.” We want to expand this house in time to come by adding a kitchen and a living room. Because of this goal the family has set for themselves, Arandavarani is engaged in farming. The family have leased a small plot of land about one kilometer away from home. They grow chilies and onions for the time being and hopes they can bring in a good harvest.

Arandavarani is a transitional shelter beneficiary of UNHCR under the Peacebuilding Fund Project for Reintegration Assistance for IDP Returnees 2015.