About

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OfERR (Organization for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation) was born in 1984 as a voice for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who were forced to flee their homeland and take refuge in India during the armed conflict that went on for over 25 years, displacing tens of thousands of families. OfERR is a non profit, non political humanitarian organization comprised of Sri Lankan refugees whose mission is to speak up for the rights of other such refugees and to provide them peace, dignity and empowerment.

There are currently over one lakh Sri Lankan refugees in India, and sixty thousand of these refugees live in over one hundred camps across Tamil Nadu that benefit from OfERR’s programs. These programs include education (both primary and higher learning), income generation training, child protection, health care, counseling, protection from gender-based violence, support for refugee return and peace building. From just seven initial members to a current strength of 400 staff in four regional offices in Chennai, Trichy, Erode and Thirunelveli (Tamil Nadu), OfERR has come a long way in the past three decades and is now recognized worldwide by governments and charitable institutions alike as a champion for the most vulnerable people and communities.

OfERR has grown from being an organization run by refugees and for refugees, to one that takes pride in also giving back to the Indian government and citizens who benevolently provided asylum to Sri Lankan Tamils over the years. When the 2004 tsunami battered coastal areas of Tamil Nadu killing thousands, destroying millions of livelihoods and rendering entire communities homeless, refugee volunteers from OfERR rushed to the rescue of Indian citizens by collecting and distributing emergency relief supplies, conducting medical camps and providing first aid, launching education centers for underprivileged students and imparting skills training to breadwinners who lost their source of income. Volunteers also leveraged their own experience with trauma and displacement to provide counseling to victims of the disaster and liaised with government bodies to retrieve crucial documents that were lost in the tragedy. In the years that followed, OfERR helped countless tsunami affected Indians in their quest to return to normalcy.

During the 2015 floods in Tamil Nadu that saw widespread destruction to human life and property, OfERR volunteers once again joined forces to ensure that flood victims in remote areas received life-saving supplies in time, and continues to work with these families through the long-term rehabilitation initiative titled ‘Makkalukaga Naam’ (Here to Serve the People of India) as a mark of gratitude and respect for the Indian government and people. Through a partnership with Toms Shoes, California, OfERR has also distributed nearly half a million formal school shoes free of cost to Indian children from slums, orphanages, tribal areas, public schools and flood-affected areas.

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OfERR undertakes these initiatives with the generous support of Act for Peace (AfP), Primates World Relief Development Fund (PWRDF), Church of Sweden (CoS), Chelvanayakam Charitable Foundation (CCF), Ecumenical Scholarship Program (ESP), Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), Brahmal Shanthi Kandiah (BSK) Program, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS), and Toms Shoes apart from the ten Indian universities who provide educational scholarships to refugee students.

OfERR’s vision is to empower every refugee through education and opportunities, and provide them the support needed to make an informed decision about voluntary return to Sri Lanka, so that they can return as ambassadors of peace, justice, equity and sustainable development. In the words of OfERR’s Founder and Chief Functionary S.C. Chandrahasan, a lawyer, human rights activist and son of the highly regarded political leader Late S.J.V Chelvanayakam (also known as the Mahatma Gandhi of Sri Lanka), “what motivates our refugee volunteers is the underlying hope that they will return to their homeland as resource people and help in rebuilding their motherland”.

Chennai & Cuddalore Disaster Relief & Rehabilitation Dec-2015 Ongoing

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Testimonial

act-for-peace-logo-1Act for Peace and OfERR have shared a long and fruitful partnership founded on shared values and goals since 1984. Together, we have worked to provide assistance, protection and support for durable solutions to refugees, IDPs and returnees. Currently Act for Peace is supporting OfERR (India) to deliver health and livelihoods Programs in Tamil Nadu camps with funding from DFAT’s Australian NGO Co-operation Program (ANCP). We have found OfERR to be an excellent partner focused on empowering refugee and returnee communities in India and Sri Lanka.