Visitors since January 2005: 875655
Under Phases you will find lots of photos
about the development of village.

IT ALL BEGAN WITH A PROMISE

It began with my wish to show my son, Manuel, then nine years old, a completely different world, a long way away from all that he was used to in Bavaria. This voyage of discovery together took father and son not to hotels and beaches but into remote regions of Sri Lanka. We saw a great deal in those four months, but this adventure eventually turned out to be the hour of birth of Little Smile.

We were walking in the highlands not far from the town of Haputale. A woman had discovered us on a narrow path through endless tea plantations and "carried us off" to her remote village. She wanted me to take a photograph of her daughter, because already two of her children had died without there being a single picture to remind her of them. We went into one of the nameless dwellings, three long buildings, very dilapidated, in which the tea-pickers lived with their families. There was no water and no electricity and not even a single chair in the village. The children there were amazed: most of them had never seen a white person before. In actual fact they were particularly excited by the white person in miniature with blond hair and blue eyes.. Children don't necessarily need language in order to understand one another, so Manuel was soon playing hide-and-seek with the dark-skinned children. I soon noticed a girl, about 11 years old, very thin, full of scars, wearing only a torn shirt. She was very shy. One could really sense that she very much wanted to join in. She finally gave herself a push and ran along with the other children.

I became increasingly uneasy waiting for the young woman whom I was to photograph, because it was the rainy season and we could expect heavy clouds and rain in the afternoon, which would make it impossible for us to go back. At long last a woman came back from working in the tea plantations. But she just looked at me curiously. Almost at that moment the shy girl rushed past us. A little later I was shocked to hear cries from a child, unlike anything I had ever heard before. I ran to the other end of the long building and saw the woman beating the girl, who was lying on the floor, with a cinnamon stick. I intervened straight away - horrified and angry as I was. The situation became chaotic. Men and women came running. I understood very little Tamil then and it was only the woman who had brought me along who was eventually able, with some difficulty, to explain what was happening. The girl who had been subject to abuse was not the woman's daughter but rather an orphan, whom the woman had bought for a small sum of money. The woman cried out indignantly that the child was supposed to work, not to play. But the child had been playing and was now getting the appropriate punishment. No-one seemed to see that the girl was being beaten almost to death for absolutely NOTHING. After all, she was only an orphan.

Manuel and I had to spend the whole night in a tiny room in the long building because it had begun to rain heavily. We couldn't sleep because we were kept awake by what we had experienced and the quiet whimpering of the unhappy child.

That night I promised my son that we would do something for this child. I wanted to buy her in the morning and find a good place for her. We went along in the morning absolutely determined to fetch the child. But she was dead. No-one in the village understood our horror and outrage. The girl was only an orphan.
I was no longer able to keep the promise I made to my son regarding this unhappy child without a name. But this experience was to change our lives. For months I searched throughout Sri Lanka for a project for orphans which I could support. I visited a large number of orphanages. It was a very sobering journey. Several times I paid dearly for the lessons which I learnt in my attempts to help. In the end I brought myself to decide to create a place for these children myself. I was only able to do this with the support of my friends and by committing a great deal of time and money and all my energy to the project.