Children's Park Fosters Community Reintegration in Sri Lanka

Tamil and Muslim children play at the new Kilinochchi Children's Park.
Tamil and Muslim girls play together at the newly opened Kilinochchi Children’s Park in northern Sri Lanka.
USAID/Sri Lanka
Safe space promotes ethnic reconciliation following civil war
“When I went to the town yesterday, I was surprised by the crowd of children in the park.”

Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war destroyed much of the infrastructure in Kilinochchi, including a children’s park where local children once played. In the park’s former space, a war monument was erected that now reminds residents daily of the suffering they endured.

But now, with USAID assistance and through cooperation with local government officials, Kilinochchi, an ethnically diverse community in Sri Lanka’s Northern province, is rebuilding. The new Kilinochchi Children’s Park, rebuilt from scratch in a formerly empty lot, opened on May 4, 2013. While the war monument still remains in the old park space, the new park has offset the community’s frustration over the monument and provides hope for a peaceful future.

“Our children had in their mind only war and its effects,” said Nadanashanmugam Gowrithasan, assistant director of planning for Kilinochchi. “Due to lack of space, all of our children were further and further frustrated and mentally unable to come out from the war and their [internally displaced persons] life. But now you can see how children are excited.”

During the war, Muslim families were forcibly displaced outside of Sri Lanka’s northern region by rebel forces. Now, they have begun returning to Kilinochchi to rejoin Tamil families that remained in the area throughout the conflict. USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives supported the local government to re-establish the children’s park by installing new playground equipment and landscaping the grounds. The new park provides a safe space for reintegration and reconciliation for the more than 20,000 families comprising this resettled population.

By carrying out the activity through the local government, USAID also helped to restore confidence in the public sector’s ability to deliver services to citizens.

“It is a landmark,” said resident Sri Sutharsan Thiruyaru. “I never expected it to happen, as none of the officials or politicians are thinking about our children. But now I feel some of them are thinking about us. When I went to the town yesterday, I was surprised by the crowd of children in the park."