The Akkas and the Nangis

Akkas and Nangis

The care givers or 'Akkas' (elder sisters) are generally local village women who work as part of the team of care assistants of Prithipura.

They live residentially in our centres and are very devoted to the care of our children.

Some of them stay with us only a few months, some others have a long time commitment.

They work very long hours, usually starting at 6 o' clock in the morning and finishing at 7 o' clock at night.

They wash, dress and feed the children, do all the laundry and clean the facilities several times a day.

Some of them are also teachers and some others do some basic physiotherapy exercises with the children.

Most importantly, they provide our children with the love and care they need, with joy, affection and care, always with a smile on their face! 

A new development is the arrival of the 'Nangis' (younger sisters) are older residents who have now matured and are able to care for their younger and more disabled siblings.


Olivia is an Akka with a lot of know-how due to many years of experience with the Prithipura-children. Here is an extract of a short interview some Belgium volunteers had with her.

- How long have you been working in Prithipura?
I've been working here for 39 years.

- When did you first hear about Prithipura?
There was a Catholic brother in my brother's school at my place. He asked me to come and work here. First I wanted to see and try. After, I decided to stay and work here. In the beginning I was a little bit afraid. But now I never want to leave. I've been working here since 1967. It was the 6th of September, I remember very well.
I have also been working in Anandapura for 1 year.

- What made you choose for this work?
I didn't choose for this work. After school I stayed at home until the Catholic brother asked me to work in Prithipura.
I've also been in Switzerland for 2 years. I met a Swiss volunteer in Prithipura. She proposed me to come to her country. Her parents gave a scholarship every year to a Sri Lankan girl. Of course I said yes but I wasn't sure if she was going to keep her promise. Maybe she would forget. One day Bryan received a letter from her. He thought it was an excellent chance for me. So I went there. First I had a 3 month holiday. After, I worked in a children's home there. The children loved me very much because I was very patient with them. There are a lot of differences between Switzerland and Sri Lanka because they have more means. But the children are the same as here.
In 1985 I went back to Sri Lanka and now I'm still here in Prithipura. Some years ago I had an accident by which my leg was very much injured. I was afraid that I couldn't do the work anymore. Due to the accident, I've been working here in a wheelchair, but now I'm working as much as before.

- Can you tell us something more about Maithree, the group you work in?
Different children pass by in Maithree. Sometimes I'm sad because they move to another group or another place. I see them as my children.
I've also been working with different Akkas. Sometimes there are a lot, sometimes not. But I've never had problems with them.

- Have there been many changes throughout the years?
There were many changes. In 1967 we didn't have water and electricity. We had to go to wells and we had to wash all the clothes by hand every day and boil them 2 times a week. It was hard work but we were very happy. Later we had a new building, fans above the beds, tap water...
Also after the tsunami a lot of things changed. We got a new industrial washing machine, fridges in every house, a play-house...
- Has your image about people with a disability changed since you work here?
I had never seen such children before I worked in Prithipura. I was shocked and afraid. During the years I learned a lot from courses, the physiotherapist... Now I know what happened to these children, why they are like this. I know more about them.

- Would you like to add something or share something more with us?
Sometimes I feel like I want to live alone. But I don't think I could leave Prithipura. When I go home for a week on holiday I already miss the children after 3 days. People tell me to stop but I can not do anything. They are my family!