Twenty years ago, a small informal school started on a beach in Sri Lanka, reaching out to children with no access to education and no hope for the future. It grew from the vision of local Christians who longed to change the story for the children of this beach slum community, and the courage of one man who told them to go ahead and do it. That man was Ron Newby, and the school was Morning Star. Twenty years later the Morning Star Care Centre is still going strong. Our partners describe it as ‘a beacon of light.’ Sriyani Tidball, co-founder of our long-term partners in Sri Lanka, Community Concern, tells how twenty years of ministry started with a chance meeting and an unexpected visit.
“I remember meeting Ron Newby in the late nineties,” writes Sriyani. “I had heard about him from the staff at Community Concern. They were always talking about this wonderful donor who would visit the kids, and how the kids just loved him. One of the staff actually said, “Ron is one of the sweetest guys we have met. He is so warm and kind, like a teddy bear, and all the kids want to just hug him.”
Ron was not a typical donor. Ron was all about how the kids were doing, and what their needs were, and how he could help. He truly cared about each child and would take the time to meet them.
Ron first came to Community Concern through one of our Board members Tony Senewiratne. Tony met Ron in London at a children’s network event, inviting him to Sri Lanka and to Community Concern. One day Ron showed up at the Outreach Centre located on the beach slums just outside Colombo, and talked to the director about the immediate needs of the project. We shared with him that there were so many unschooled and dropout kids just hanging out on the beach with no opportunities. We were looking to find a way to educate the youth who had no future and were at risk of child prostitution or the heroin trade.
We had a dream of starting a school for these kids offering them non-formal and catch-up education, providing care and opportunities for a bright future. Ron was so excited about the idea, and said, “let’s do it!” We put together a proposal and immediately Global Care became the new donor of a wonderful project that started with a few students and soon grew to change the lives of hundreds of children through the Morning Star School.Most of our students were too poor to have access to the free education that the government schools offered. They had no birth certificates, no clothes, no food and no books. Morning Star School offered all this and a great non-formal education. Every once in a while, we would have a student who would excel and get caught up and we would mainstream the student into the public school and keep in touch through our field workers, who would stay in close touch with the families of the students, so we could empower the entire family.
Global Care sponsored all the kids in the Morning Star School as well as the 22 kids in our children’s home, Lotus Buds, and visited Community Concern many times each year, getting know us very well. All the children at Lotus Buds loved Uncle Ron. I remember in 2001 we had a special concert for Ron, and he just loved every minute of it.
The story of Ron and Global Care is a love story. One of a caring man who did everything he could to make life better for children who were marginalized and excluded from society. Even though Ron is in Heaven now, the love story continues as John White and the Global Care team still support Morning Star Care Centre and all the dropout children, as well as a number of other projects.”
Twenty years later the need for Morning Star Care Centre is as urgent as ever. Sadly, the challenges faced by children in this slum community have not changed in a generation.
As the current staff team explain: “Morning Star Care Centre looks for the lost, the ones who have slipped through the cracks. Morning Star treats the children with love and care… The lonely begin to smile, the lost begin to find friendships, the hurting have a shoulder to comfort them, the rejected find a place of acceptance.
“There is nothing mundane about the Morning Star Care Centre. It reaches out to a hurting community, being God’s hand extended, bringing hope to the hopeless. We can only thank you for supporting us, for being an invaluable partner in forming and shaping the lives of these children entrusted to us. We thank God for your commitment.”
Morning Star Care Centre currently has around 50 students, learning literacy and numeracy, and vocational skills including cooking and sewing.
You can give more children the gift of hope at Morning Star through sponsorship or partnership by clicking the link below.