A Tribute and Legacy to My Sri Lankan Mother

by Nimal van Oort, adopted from Sri Lanka to the Netherlands. Founder of NONA Foundation.

About eighteen years ago, my twin brother Djoeri and I received a message from Sri Lanka that would change our lives forever. For a long time we had been looking for our mother in Sri Lanka, but the message told us that our mother had sadly passed away many years before.

The cause of her death made us sad and actually furious. She had been raped several times and was abandoned by family and the environment because she allegedly – by being raped – would have become a disgrace to the community. Because of this and the lack of protection and medical care, she died at the age of 21 .

To be fair, at that moment I really didn’t see life. Our biggest dream of ever meeting her would never come true and knowing that our mother had suffered so much injustice, I really didn’t know what to do .

I went to Sri Lanka then to be able to be at her grave. On the way – during my first days in Sri Lanka – I saw a lot of young girls who made me think of my mom. Because they were victims of sexual abuse too, they were abandoned by everyone despite their young age. These girls had no one.

When I was at my mother’s grave and my grandmother told me about her daughter’s short, but difficult life – I realised that I may not be able to help my own mother anymore, but I would out of love for her, and as tribute to her, I would start trying to help the girls of today.

Once back in the Netherlands I started preparing for this and I created the NONA Foundation. Honestly, nobody trusted my plans. Everybody told me that doing something from the Netherlands for girls and women in Sri Lanka who have no value for the society there, would be impossible. Above all, I was too young, inexperienced, and not highly educated enough to fulfil my vision .

Yes, I definitely had a vision, or actually a dream. I wish these girls and women of today never have to experience what my mother and a lot of other women went through. I wanted them to have a chance for a humane existence.

A royal award from the deputy mayor of Amsterdam. Nimal was appointed the ‘Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau’ award for his work in NONA Foundation (2020).

Today, 18 years later, we have actually been able to help over 1900 girls with shelter, care, education and empowerment facilities. Making them self-confident and independent remains our main starting point. I am also still very honoured that I have received a Royal Award in 2020 for this work and that we are also taken seriously at a high level in Sri Lanka.

What I’m most proud of is that we’ve really been able to help a lot of girls and women regain their passion for life and they’re now back in the middle of society. Most of them now have a nice family and a nice job. We are one big family in which everyone is equal: from the girls and women we help, to the board of directors, from the cleaner to the chairperson. We are one team with the same mission — to make the lives of these girls and women less risky and more meaningful; a life with freedom, justice and being treated like a human being .

Last month, a girl who needed our help badly in 2011 was appointed as a teacher with us . Isn’t this beautiful?

On Sunday 10 April, we will celebrate the NONA-Day in Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. On this day we will share more about our work in Sri Lanka, what we have done, but also about our ongoing projects and future plans. There are also inspiring guest speakers and various singing and dance performances. There will also be another delicious Sri Lankan – Indian buffet. I personally invite you to attend this, really everyone is welcome and you can register at www.nonadag.com.

And if you cannot make it to the NONA Day celebration, but you might want to contribute to our organisation in any way, please contact us because we could really use your help.

Many special thanks to my loyal board members Djoeri, Ad, Dhilani, Shivanie, Hartini and Varishna who have been fully volunteering for our organisation for many years.

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