History of the Organization

OfERR (Ceylon) is an off spring of OfERR in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. The name ‘OfERR’ without the suffix ‘(Ceylon)’ refers to the original parent organization in India. The refugees from Sri Lanka founded OfERR for the refugees, in the year 1984. The main focus of OfERR is based on the principles of Self Help and Self Sufficiency. In practice, OfERR has directed its efforts to build the human capacities that are supported by democratic community structures. The elements of the capability approach have been laterally operating in every intervention for the past 25 years.

Apart from working for the basic needs of the refugee community, OfERR has infused the concepts of rebuilding the nation upon return. OfERR always viewed the status of refugees in India as temporary. Therefore, the time of sojourn was being used effectively to prepare the community to take on the responsibilities of nation building on return at some point of time or other.

In 2002, when the cease fire agreement was signed many refugees from India began to contemplate on returning to Sri Lanka. According to the UNHCR about 5000 refugees spontaneously returned to their homes in Sri Lanka. But on their return they were overwhelmed by several problems such as housing and other basic needs. Very few organizations took up the cause of new returnees.

Following a review and re-visioning exercise in 2004, OfERR (Ceylon) was founded to specifically work among those who returned from India. Having launched its operations, OfERR (Ceylon) found a compelling need to work with the internally displaced persons who lived in the open relief camps or welfare centers. The tsunami of 26th December 2004 created more IDPs and rendered several thousands homeless. OfERR (Ceylon) responded to this unexpected and urgent needs of the situation by extending its work to the eastern districts of Batticaloa where the devastation was severe.

As the situation of the Tsunami affected people improved, the conflict in the north and eastern parts of the country escalated. This situation called for a series of humanitarian responses. The efforts of OfERR (Ceylon) scaled up to work on the relief, rehabilitation and reconciliation of the displaced people.

Since November 2008 till now OfERR (Ceylon) has been actively involved in caring for the IDPs who are languishing in the internment camps. OfERR (Ceylon) has provided humanitarian and development assistance to the people – resettled IDPs, refugee returnees and host community in Sri Lanka. The humanitarian assistance includes with wide range of interventions such as community building, civil & legal documentation, SGBV (Sexual and Gender based violence) and child protection, advocacy, women empowerment, shelter construction, water & sanitation, return & reintegration, livelihood, etc to better the lives of the returned and resettled communities in Sri Lanka.

Seven years after the end of the war, OfERR’s main focus was to support returned Internally Displaced Persons and returned refugees in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Rebuilding the social, economic, cultural and political fabric was essential for reinstating a sense of safety, security, and well-being among the returnees. The refugee returnees program that aimed at strengthening the sustainability of refugee return addressed the current gap in pre-departure and post-return support. The program with a range of integrated activities strengthened the preparedness of encamped refugees in India to return and reintegrate, while assisting returned refugees in Sri Lanka to access services and livelihoods, and strengthen their self-reliance and capacity to identify and address key reintegration-related protection risks.

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