More than a Grandparent

Some have said that hearts filled with love are the hands of God. If it’s true, surely the life of Shanthaledchumi Shanmugam is one such example.

Shanthaledchumi, like many Sri Lankan women, married at an age many in the world would consider too young. Though she was legally a child when she became pregnant, Shanthaledchumi managed to be a loving mother to a beautiful daughter. And though her husband was a simple man who earned little, Shanthaledchumi and her family ran a joyful home.

Shanthaledchumi brought four children into this world, two girls and two boys. Apart from their economic instability, the Shanmugam family had a good life and, when they were old enough, their children were given into marriages of their own.

Soon, Shanthaledchumi and her husband were blessed to become grandparents. Nagathevi was born to their eldest daughter and was their first grandchild. However, her birth was bitter-sweet as Nagathevi’s father left months before she was born and, shortly after birth, her mother died from a heart attack in 2009. Shanthaledchumi’s husband, a man who deeply loved others but could not come to love himself the same, died committing suicide.

Shanthaledchumi came to love her granddaughter, Nagathevi, as a parent rather than a grandmother, out of necessity but also out of love. Despite the many deaths and losses that seemed to plague her family, Shanthaledchumi sprang up to take charge of the family and the orphaned Nagathevi. What each woman had lost – a child her mother and a wife her husband – bound them tight.

Shanthaledchumi worked tirelessly to feed and care for Nagathevi. She faced more setbacks, like when she was diagnosed with heart problems, but Shanthaledchumi never lost hope in raising Nagathevi.

The hope and patience paid off in time. One of Shanthaledchumi’s sons was able to work as a laborer in the Middle East, sending money home and helping her meet the needs of the family. This occasional help, combined with consistent support from Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), has stabilized the family’s economic and emotional standing.

Despite a hard life, Shanthaledchumi has served her children and grandchildren as a courageous mother, promoting a better life for the generations of her family that will one day take her place in the world. Shanthaledchumi continues to sacrifice herself for the sake of Nagathevi and will keep working selflessly in the hopes of a better legacy for her family.

At CERI, Children’s Emergency Relief International, we work with children, families, communities and governments to provide a family environment as the first and best option for children to grow in. In developing counties, children at risk of abuse and neglect are traditionally placed in an orphanage, for their own protection. Taking children away from family and isolating them from community deepens the effects of their trauma. Growing up in a family, makes or breaks a child’s chance at a bright future.

What we do at CERI. Care for all children in families. Strengthen vulnerable families to prevent separation. Provide critical services to families in every community. Partner with governments to champion the family for every child.

We are global child advocates committed to seeing every child grow in a loving family. Learn more about how you can help our work here.

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