On My Own Two Feet
Story of a Refugee Returnee
Velu Paramsothy, 37, is a father of three sons and a daughter. At the height of the Sri Lankas’ civil conflict in 2008, he risked the safety of his entire family in search of protection in India. Recalling his memories, the smile disappears and gloom takes over his bright face “Entire village was on the run and I had to protect my family. I took my wife and children to Mannar; from there we took a boat to India.”
Paramsothy’s family lived in the Mandapam Camp in India for three years before they decided to come back to Sri Lanka through the UNHCR Facilitated Voluntary Repatriation Programme. “UNHCR provided us with tickets and transport. They also gave us a reintegration grant, though it was small, was a great help to restart my life again” he said recalling their return to damaged house with barren land. He recalls his efforts to re- build his house slowly. He managed to restore house with the assistance he received through the Indian Housing Project.
Reflecting back on the early days of return, Paramsothy recall the hardships of his life. “Initially I worked as a day labourer, earning minimum wage. I pulled together all my savings and started a small food stall. As you can see, now I’ve managed to expand it to a grocery shop.” Paramsothy intends to build a new restaurant and is hopeful that he would be able to obtain a loan through the state bank for this purpose. “I don’t earn a lot of money but I’m happy to be back in my own country.”
Hope radiating through his face, Paramsothy is happy with his decision to return to Sri Lanka. “I think it takes courage to come back. Though it was hard to re-adjust initially, I’ve set returning home as my goal. That way it was easier to face the challenges life threw at me.” Continuing the light conversation, he glances over his children and his wife and repeats “I’m happy that there is no war, I’m happy to be with my family in my own home.”