Kugathasan (45) is a frontline social worker in the child protection sector in Batticaloa. His work, to support institutionalised children, has to continue while adhering to the safety guidelines issued by the government. “But it is not always possible”, Kugathasan asserts, “I have to go on field visits to children’s homes to assess their situation, and coordinate with government officers and NGOs to support institutionalised children from broken families. Oftentimes social distancing is not easy in my line of work. Children need comfort, reassurance and guidance when transitioning from a difficult home.” The lockdown has increased cases of abuse, sexual abuse and child pregnancies in the local population. He couldn’t just standby, “This is important work and children’s safety is a prime concern.”
Kugathasan also feels there is little understanding among the general public about the essential work that children’s social care workers do. “If we don’t intervene during this lockdown, there will be drastic consequences to face. Some of these children don’t have an outlet to express themselves and live in extreme environments.” When they are psychologically affected or emotionally scarred, they will carry it for the rest of their lives. This could also lead to delinquency and they could become a social outcast as a result of it.
At the end of each working day, he goes home to his family and kids. “Working outdoors all day means I am exposed more and I do worry that I might be taking the virus home. I’m doing everything diligently to protect myself in order to protect my family. We are doing all we can.” Kugathasan says working with children has always been his calling. “Their innocence inspires us to do good, and be better. They are pillars of our country in which the future is built upon, therefore, we must protect them in any circumstance.” He concludes by emphasising on the pandemic jeopardising children’s future and the need to protect and safeguard their wellbeing.