C.U.R.E – Insight on Project C.U.R.E

“If you are not a part of the cure, then you are a part of the problem.”
Thalassemia is one of the most common inherited conditions of any major racial group in the European and Asian regions.
In Sri Lanka, there are insufficient measures in place to provide sufficient and accurate information to the individual, so that they may take up the opportunity of asking to be screened. Experts blame ignorance of parents for growth of thalassemia. However, its spread can be controlled easily through genetic screening and counseling. If only one parent is a carrier of the thalassemia trait, the child may have a normal life, but when both are carriers, there is a 25% chance in every pregnancy of a thalassaemics being born. If every expecting mother is informed and asked to get the test done to know if she is a thalassemia carrier, it will curb the spread to a great extent.
It is a part of the cure to want to be cured.
“C.U.R.E,” the project undertaken by the Rotaract Club of General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, consists of two phases.
Phase 1- Open 3×3 Basketball Tournament.
Phase 2- Up-close and Personal Concert of Bathiya and Santhush (BnS)
The 3×3 Basketball Tournament which was the first phase of the project was successfully carried out and took place on the 5th of March 2017 at the basketball Court of General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, with a participation of 56 teams.
Having completed the 3×3 basketball, phase 2 of the project, the Musical Concert led by Bathiya and Santhush will be the first time in which a Rotaract Club of District 3220 would organize such an event as the “BnS- Up-close and Personal Concert.” The proposed concert, planned to be held on the 3rd of May 2017 at the BMICH from 6pm -11pm, would take us closer to the objectives of “C.U.R.E”
The first objective of the project is the awareness programme. Several types of Thalassemia are curable through medication. For some it is compulsory to do a bone marrow transplant. Bone marrow transplant is not only expensive, it is a tedious process finding a matching bone marrow. It is therefore important that awareness and prevention is created at mass level so as to nip the problem in the bud.
The awareness project on the matter would take place via a Facebook Campaign on the causes and consequences of Thalassemia alongside an Awareness program focused on Rotaract Clubs of the District 3220.
The second objective, which is medical expenditure coverage for a time period of three months, with an expense of SLR 136,000 per month, would be carried out with the aid of the funds collected through the project.
The third objective, the setting up of a bleeding room for those affected by thalassemia in order to bring about a sense of privacy to those gaining treatment. This would ideally entail a partitioning in an existing room of the treatment centers. The objective could be achieved in two ways. Firstly by providing necessary funding to fix a partitioning in a required area or by assisting in the fixing of a partitioning by providing help in the form of labour
The fourth and final key objective o the project is the providing of vocational training to the victims, as most victims of the sickness are young children or adolescents and the prevailing issues lead to a lack of consistent education or training in a possible field of work. It is therefore a possibility to teach or train the patients in a field of vocation or even provide basic educational requirements in any way possible.

Our dreams seem big. Our goals seem tough. We believe however, that great things are possible when a series of small things comes together. Help us help them. Be the C.U.R.E.

Article by – Co-Editor Rtr. S.D.Perera

Advertisements

To see the joy in the children’s eyes| Caroling for a Cause

What could be more fun and enjoyable for a bunch of 20-year-olds than to gather up and spend some quality time talking, singing, cracking jokes and reminiscing while munching on some yummy snacks? And imagine if all that energy is put towards a charitable cause, how contented we all would be!

“Caroling for a Cause” was an initiative of RCKDU to raise funds in order to provide essentials to the children of the inmates at the Walikada prison. Having completed the prison project successfully, Rotaractors of KDU decided on having “Caroling for a Cause” this year for the second consecutive time in order to provide essentials for orphans.

It was a piece of cake for us to gather up and run through few of the most popular carols with the talented choristers and the guitarists in the club. Dressed up in red, white and black with the “Santa hats” we were all in the Christmas spirit to go from door to door singing carols.

We simply loved it; to see the families gather in their halls to watch us sing and to witness the breathtaking interior Christmas decors in each house. They all were truly entertained, it was obvious from the way they all swayed, tapped their feet and mouthed the words along with us. Some even served yummy Christmas cake and soft drinks!

Every minute spent with the fellow Rotaractors preparing to sing and walking door to door singing carols was enjoyable. We did what we loved, it was tireless because we had fun spending time together singing and hoping to provide the ones in need with essentials in the coming New Year.
Coming home that night past mid night, it got me thinking… “This is exactly why I love Rotaract, it brings all of us together to put a smile on the faces that need to feel delighted in a season like this.”

We all felt much contented in ending 2016 with a blast, putting all our youthful enthusiasm for a charitable cause. The moments we spend together are never dull, each one of us definitely knows how to stay happy and make others happy and that makes being a Rotaractor worthwhile. 🙂

Article by Co-Editor M.Pasqual

Rotaract Club of KDU supports flood relief campaign

Habitually, the month of May calls out for dansal and laterns. ‘Lights of Vesak’ – our usual ice cream dansala was supposed to be organized this time as well. But as the Vesak day got closer, the climate changed from sunny to gloomy and it started pouring. Once somebody said “Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain”, but this time, the quote clearly got twisted. Incessant rains caused tragic landslides in the central hills while bringing the low lying lands underwater. Thousands of people were left displaced while hundreds of others lost their lives during the disaster. The displaced were confined to temporary camps and the need for supplies of food, medicine and sanitary items were on the rise.

Identifying the need of the hour, just like the majority of the warm hearted Sri Lankans did, we diverted the donations we collected to put up the dansala and also gathered aid from the generous people around us to help those who were let down by floods to get up. Thus, we supported the campaign of donating essential items to the displaced, which was led by Sri Lanka Navy. Accordingly, essential drugs such as Paracetamol, Mebendazole, Omeprazole, Povidone iodine, Dielfenac sodium and Cetrezine hydrochloride and also other necessary medical items such as guaze, cotton wool, plasters and Jeewani were collected by us.

Besides the medical necessities, other requisites such as clothes, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, towels, mosquito coils, bedsheets/blankets, sanitary wear, undergarments and candles were attempted to be collected. Packs of cooked food were also distributed in the midst. A major portion of the collected items were distributed to the aggrieved person of Wellampitiya area. The Sri Lanka Navy subsequently conducted a general health camp for the victims of the floods as well 🙂

Though minute when compared to the size of the disaster and the need, we are still proud about the contribution that we made and shall always be thankful to everybody who dropped donation items at our collection centre at the university 🙂

“As and when the need for service arises, Caring to make our badge of Rotaract worthwhile, Tell us that we have not lived in vain” 

 

RIBC & PINK take over three on three in style | BURN ’16

With the participation of over 160 players, the first phase of BURN ’16 concluded at the indoor basketball stadium of General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University in the eve of 30th April 2016 with ‘RIBC‘ and ‘PINK‘ reaching the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The tournament which was of the THREE ON THREE nature carried on at normal pace at the initial knock outs but took an aggressive turn towards the semi finals and finals; where the real deal of the seven minute game made its debut for the day.

Knock – outs 

Out of 24 men’s teams J’pura Blues played against Colombo Bulls and RIBC  played against Ananda Kings Gold at the semi finals where J’pura Blues and RIBC scored winning hoops and got their path cleared for the finals.

In the women’s category,  Mavians won the semi final battle against the Old Paulians digging their way into the final dunk- encounter  while on the other side PINK emerged victorious over J’pura A , also qualifying for the finals.

 

Street dunk!  

That was where some stylish street basketball moves came into play. The final match in the men’s category took a competitive outlook where RIBC triumphed over J’pura Blues at a 16- 10 victory. The finals in women’s category was  taken over by PINK in a 11-8 nail biting victory against the Mavians. The guest of honour for the event, Director of Abans, Retd. Wing Commander, Pradeep Kannangara presented the awards for the winners of the men’s category while the awards for the female category winners were presented by the Rotaract Master-in-charge of Kotelawala Defence University, Lieutenant Commander BLC Gunawantha.

Winding up: Why BURN? 

The event concluded with friendly smiles spreading across everyone’s face, the teams congratulating the winners and posing for group photographs. After all, the sole aim of organizing BURN’16 was to raise funds for a pilot research project named ‘The Rain Drops Project’ of providing potable drinking water to persons of ‘Chronic Kidney Disease of Uncertain Origin’ affected area of Ginnoruwa, Girandurukotte jointly with ‘CERTKiD’ , the Centre for Education, Research and Training on Kidney Diseases of University of Peradeniya. The disease has aggrieved thousands of the dry zone farming community over decades and was also recognized as a global population health issue. The exact causative agent of the disease is still mysterious and so is the cure. But there is worldwide consensus among scientists that providing clean water for drinking and cooking can mitigate or prevent the disease. Thus as responsible citizens, it is up to us to support the viable solutions that are suggested by these authorities. Thus, we are more than happy to write a conclusive note about the first phase of the fundraiser, that we are now one step closer to accomplishing our target. Whether you took part, won, lost or even bought a patty at our refreshment stall, you have already become a part of this generous endeavour 🙂

We will see you soon again at the BURN phase 2- The Zumba -Dance fitness party to BURN more calories and fill our charity till.

 

Article by the editor

Life is too short to wear matching socks

We are living in a world where everything is stereotyped from ‘women can’t drive well’ to ‘if you wear Goth clothing, you are a drug addict’ and ‘only the students who are good at science or math succeed in school’. Living in such a community as a physically or mentally challenged individual should double the burden of existence on them. The chances of such people being subjected to bullying, various harassments and discrimination are far more greater than the others because they are at a disadvantage when their capability of fighting back is assessed. Protecting equality as a fundamental right for them means the rest of the community going an extra mile to lift their lives, so that they’ll be as equally armed as the rest of us to wrestle in the ring of life.

The reason why this article kept beating about the bush for a paragraph now was to get your attention to a group of such individuals living among us who were not exactly directly physically or mentally challenged but rather ‘genetically challenged’. Our concern here is the genetic defect of ‘Down Syndrome’; the trisomy of the 21st chromosome. When an egg gets fertilized by a sperm, the 23 chromosomes carried by the sperm form pairs with the matching 23 chromosomes contained in the egg. This gives rise to a cell with a total of 46 chromosomes or 23 pairs, which is the number of chromosomes found in a normal cell in a normal human being. Sometimes an error occurs in the production of reproductive cells (sperms and eggs) itself and as a result a sperm or an egg might carry both the copies of the same chromosome in it. When such a reproductive cell fertilizes with a normal reproductive cell, the combination will result in a total of 47 chromosomes which means that there will be three copies of one of the chromosomes instead of the 2 copies that should exist. It’s called a ‘trisomy’. When the trisomy of the 21st chromosome occurs it is called ‘Down Syndrome’.

Though the biological error behind this condition is microscopic, the impact it leaves on the life of a person is certainly macroscopic; majorly judging by the way the society perceives them. These individuals do get frowned upon sometimes by some of those ‘genetically perfect’ individuals of the society, as ironical as it may sound. This genetic defect leaves a person with retarded growth rates, lesser intellectual ability in comparison to the others of his or her own age, cross eyes, heart defects, relatively lower life expectancy, infertility in most cases, short necks, poor muscle tone, short hands and feet and also certain other characteristic deviations from normal appearance. We don’t wish to go on about them because those differences shouldn’t matter. But persons subjected to Down Syndrome are not in toto incapable. One can never predict how talented such a person is just by looking at the features his or her physique reflect. Their maturity may be slow but not totally non existent. This is a fact that the rest of the world should convince themselves when accepting and treating the particular individuals as no outcasts. The Downs Syndrome Day celebrations we recently took part in, made this statement explicit.

The ‘World Down Syndrome Day’ was celebrated on the 21st of March world wide and the Rotaract club of KDU was a proud participant of the Sri Lankan celebrations of the day organized by the Rotaract District 3220 together with the Kosala Dullewa Foundation. The event was held at the Royal College Nawarangahala on the 27th of March 2016. The Rotaract Club of KDU, together with the Faculty of Law of University of Colombo organized the “Sithaka Siththam- Colour My World” all island art competition where we displayed 800 drawings, all done by Down Syndrome affected individuals from all over the country. Many other events such as talent shows were also undertaken by other different clubs. We worked over several weeks trying to collect the drawings, preparing frames and so on which was all a little tedious but the end proved the effort to be fruitful. There is no cure found to Down Syndrome yet since it is a genetical disorder, but as the probability of occurrence of the disorder in babies increases with the age of the mother, a control can be exercised by raising awareness. This is exactly the purpose of pulling off such a large scale event annually.

The reality for many is that prevailing negative attitudes result in low expectations, discrimination and exclusion, creating communities where children and adults with Down syndrome cannot integrate successfully with their peers. But where children with Down syndrome and other disabilities are given opportunities to participate, all children benefit from this and environments of friendship, acceptance, respect for everyone and high expectations are created. Not only this, but these environments prepare all today’s children for life as tomorrow’s adults, enabling adults with Down syndrome to live, work and participate, with confidence and individual autonomy, fully included in society alongside their friends and peers. – Says the Down Syndrome International.

Nobody in this world was created by nature to be perfect. So differences exist among us for a good reason. Genetics is the business of the nature to handle. But overlooking those differences is the business of the society to handle.

Life is too short to wear matching socks. Accept the differences because you can’t colour an entire community with the same brush.

Project co-chairs:Rtr. Suchitta Witana & Rtr. Damin De Costa

Article by Rtr. Thamalee Wijekoon 🙂

 

Rewriting the Chronicles of Navam

Oriental cultures are known to play with colours. Ceylonese have inherited it in their blood line that the occasional cultural pageants that decorate the streets of the country fearlessly showcase the traditional fervour like no other. One such world known procession would definitely be the Kandy Esala Perehera and the next in line would be the Colombo Navam Perehera. These two pageants are not less attractive than the other; both alluring every blink of each local as well foreigner.

Our focus this time, as it continued for the past two years too, was the Colombo Navam Perehera or in the best known terms, the ‘Gangarama Navam Perehera’.The pageant had been annually travelling the streets of Colombo since 1979. It is with great zeal that we coordinate and assist with man power the parading of a collection of statues of Lord Buddha donated by Mr. Bandara, a main benefactor of the temple. The trucks necessary to place the parading Buddha statues were sponsored by the Dimo Company. These Buddha statues were paraded with a purpose. After showcasing them to the public, these Buddha statues will be donated to rural temples throughout the island. In all sorts and means, it is an act which gathers a great deal of merit. There are temples in far away villages of Sri Lanka which have dedicated followers of Buddhism in numbers but are still thriving under minimum facilities. Most of these villages may also not have benefactors wealthy enough to single handedly or collectively support the upliftment of the religion in their respective villages. Each Buddha statue will provide great motivation on the spiritual paths of many villagers. This year, the pageant was held on the 21st and 22nd of February, as it always targets on the Navam full moon poya day as the second day. It was on a Navam poya day that the two chief disciples of Lord Buddha; Sariyuth and Moggallana Maha Rahath Theroes were appointed by Lord Buddha. But more than anything else, the pageant is known as a grand depiction of the rich culture of Sri Lanka.

There is much to say about the pageant but first, here are some pictures of us helping out to interrupt 😛

We gathered at the Hunupitiya Gangarama Temple on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. On Saturday we got engaged in decorating the trucks and hanging club banners on them. We also dedicated the day and Sunday afternoon for cleaning the Buddha statues to prepare them to be taken in the pageant later that day. On Saturday and Sunday, we placed the Buddha statues on the trucks and offered white and pink lotus flowers to them; a ritual followed by all Buddhists to remind about the uncertainty of the mortal world.

Towards the evening on Saturday, the boys got dressed in traditional costumes consisting of a white sarong and white long sleeved shirt to walk behind the trucks we decorated. The casket containing the relics of Lord Buddha was placed by His Excellency President Maithreepala Sirisena on the back of the elephant which had got gracefully dressed in stoned caparisons. Torch bearers positioned themselves along the pathway of the pageant with enough copra to light up the night. The pageant started with the thundering sound of whip crackers; the same way the Kandy Esala Perehera commences. Whip crackers announce the inception of the Perehera to the onlookers. The streets became silent, with everybody setting their eyes on the far end of the road. It is an aim of holding these pageants to invoke blessings of the triple gems and god. The whip crackers were followed by flag bearers. The tune for the walk of the pageant was supplied by drummers playing explosive beats, smoothened by flautists and pitched by conch shell blowers. The next in line were the fire dancers and fire breathers. They undoubtedly created magic on streets with their enormous capabilities. You could see them drawing short lived pictures on the night skies with rods lit up at both ends. Sometimes they rotated them so fast that they started looking like rings of fire. Troops of dancers spinning drums on wooden pointers and fingers added variety to the pageant. These skills usually are passed from generation to generation; there are families that have excelled in drumming, different styles of dancing and so on. Thus, holding these pageants also preserves traditional styles. The procession unveiled the three main dancing traditions of Sri Lanka namely, Udarata, Pahatharata and Sabaragamu. The traditional Ves dancers, dressed in their sacred costumes dedicated to deity Kohomba, Naiyandi dancers dressed in white turbans, beaded chest attire, brass shoulder plates and anklets and Udekki dancers playing their drums designed by deities were the main items that belonged to the Udarata tradition. Story says that in the Udekkiya, the two drum skins were given by God Ishwara, the sound by God Vishnu and that the drum was designed according to the instructions of God Sakra.  Pantheru dancers also merged a different jingling music with their instruments amidst drum beats.

Low country dancers marked a clear attraction in the procession. This dancing tradition, in a gist is called the ‘daha ata sanniya’, meaning that it consists of 18 main dances. The word ‘Sanniya’ is associated with the word disease. So these dances are done to chase away the evil spirits that are believed to be causing eighteen types of illnesses. By reason of that, these dancers wear beautifully designed masks with bulging eyes and tongues that are sticking out, depicting the traditional pictures of demons and reptiles. Sabaragamu tradition that originates from the Ratnapura district also entails a unique style and the dancers performed along the pageant to pay respect to God Saman. Outside these traditions, folk dances also received a prominent place in the pageant. Folk dances mainly include leekeli, kala gedi and raban dances.

Hindu tradition of dancing also got added to the list and made the pageant more and more interesting. The Kawadi dancers added fun and excitement to everyone who were watching. Some found it to be thrilling too. The trumpets and the Hindu drums provided such an enjoyable environment all of a sudden. It was indeed amazing to see how they would pin things to their bodies and jump and twist with them, still artistically! They also, like the rest of the traditions, perform these dances as a way of showing devotion to the God. Some Kawadi were decorated elegantly with peacock feathers. It is said by some that since this an act of devotion, the dancers enter a state of trance where they feel no pain and eventually heal their piercings with no scars left behind.

The lavish costumes of the performers were enticing but this article wouldn’t come to a close without praising the grandeur of the hundred elephants which marched all the way. They did not only look glamorous but some of them were killer dancers as well. They especially seemed to be enjoying the background beat of Kawadi dancing. The tuskers walked with attitude, probably because they are a limited lot. The others with no tusks popping out had their own fun having their leisure walk, shaking their tails to match the beat and occasionally taking time to wave a viewer or two with their trunks. The little confused ones who didn’t realize what the hype was about did their own thing like poking with their trunks at the next elephant.

Anyhow, at the end of about four hours of walking and also collecting panduru; coins thrown as funds towards the parade by the onlookers, we came to a stop. The rotaractors found it interesting to walk behind the trucks and collect coins. The collection was ultimately donated to the temple.

Article by Rtr.  Thamalee Wijekoon 🙂

Also look at our last year’s chronicles of Navam project at https://kdurotaract.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/chronicles-of-navam/

 

 

 

The difference of a second

If seeing was believing, having to believe that the world is a small square surrounded by a huge wall ever since you open your eyes is certainly pathetic.

The best interest of a child is considered as paramount by courts when dealing with any matter involving a child, mainly according to the Convention on Rights of Child. Thus, if best interest of a child could be catered for, children below five years are sent to live with their trial-awaiting or already convicted mothers at the prison by a court order. But according to some authorities, this is decided in Sri Lanka depending on whether the children are still breastfed or whether alternative accommodation can be found for them or not.

The Welikada Prison is the maximum security prison in Sri Lanka and also the largest. This divides into two as male and female sections and the part carrying children is established in the female section. Unlike the rest of the prison, a clear attempt to create a child friendly environment is seen in this section. The care extended by the female prison officials and the mothers themselves was seen as a guiding light on the little faces. There is a pre school that runs on every weekday and also a small play ground for the children to have fun. It is much segregated from the rest of the prison but it does not necessarily imply that these children do not witness or feel the everyday rage, depression, regret or bad habits experienced by the numerous delinquents around them at all. For them, growing up is like crossing a rough river on a raft trying not to get wet.

‘Bliss Beyond Bars’ was a joint project the rotaract club of Kotelwala Defence University conducted with the rotaract club of American National College to provide for these innocent children. Whatever their mothers had committed, whether they are convicted guilty or not, the kids should never be a part of the matter. They are yet to live their bright futures ahead of them. Bearing this in mind, we loaded them with toys, dry rations, chocolates, biscuits and other sanitary items to make sure their lives are lived more comfortably. These kids only get portions of the three solid meals provided for their mothers. So, it is only through a donation and so on that they get to taste something delicious like a chocolate. To top that, stocks of other items like milk powder provided by the government each month are also very limited. This, on the part of the government is also logical as they have to provide for all the prisoners in the whole island Hence they can only cover up for the minimum level of requisites. Thus, the prison officials always look up to donors to fulfill any deficiencies. If you are reading this and have an intention to make a donation, you will always be welcome.

The activities with the children happily proceeded and a small boy sang a few songs he learnt at the pre school for us as well. But most of these stories are yet to face their endings. Once the child reaches five years, he or she is sent to the care of a relative or in the absence of a relative, to a home. Then the mother who no longer keeps a child is sent to the usual cells with the other prisoners. This results in much emotional trauma for both the parties. Some babies are born within the prison itself; that is if the mother was pregnant with the child at the time of receiving her sentence. Separating from the child at such a young age must not be easy for any mother. But the legal realities of the world are as such and everybody should abide by them. The child cannot be kept in the prison forever.

Meanwhile we also seized the opportunity to get a glimpse of the rest of the prison. When we passed them on our way in and way out, some were seeing sweeping the compound and watering the plants. Most of them were reciting sermons around the bo-tree hovering over the premises. Some others were roaming around lost in their own worlds. The official who guided us also showed us an incredible wall  painting done by an inmate. She also stated that a mosque, a kovil and a church are also established within the premises. When we walked past sweeping the crowd I don’t know what exactly was going through their minds. Were they jealous? Were they envying the freedom we enjoyed? Were they honestly feeling guilty for the reason why they were there? Or were they still praying for justice? Some of them were serving lifetime imprisonments. There were also those who were to serve sentences for multiple lifetimes. Some of them were convicted for murders, others for drugs and theft and so forth and so on.

On the outer wall of the prison, it is written in huge letters that “Prisoners are also humans”. Of course they are. There is an accepted system of treatment even for the person who has committed the severest of the crimes in the civilized world. But then why are the people in the prison and those who are outside leading two contradictory life styles? Because there is a difference. The difference is a second; the second they felt compelled to commit what they shouldn’t have done.

Article by Rtr. Thamalee Wijekoon

“Sisu Saviya” and the time we went to the islands

Project Co Chairs: Rtr. Lekangi Perera Rtr. Ravishan Amerasinghe and Rtr. Saroj Dissanayake

Hello Galle
The day began for us loading the already packed gift boxes into our vehicle. These boxes were full of writing books and other necessary stationary items much needed by a set of eager students from Athkandura Seevali Madya Maha Vidyalaya who had been waiting for us for a few weeks time now.
Trying with all their effort to override the fashionably late principle at least for once, the crew gathered at the university waiting room by 8.30 in the morning. Four cadet officers, ten day scholar rotaractors and an accompanying staff officer composed our crew and we finally hit the Galle road by 9 o’clock in the morning; of course to literally head towards Galle! We turned to the Galle highway at Panadura.
Well we made an effort to start singing on our way to Galle following the mainstream habit but realized it was too early in the morning for our voices to have warmed up, so spent the entire way admiring the by passing scenaries on either side of the highway. Some areas were entirely plantations, some were swamps with their unique vegetation while some others were entirely rows of boulders, carved in to give space to lead us to our destination. But whatever it was, they were eye catching.


“Sisu Saviya” how worthy was it?
After a journey of nearly an hour, we headed out of the highway at the Ambalangoda exit. By obtaining directions from the school officials we entered into an unpaved, gravel road from the Yakgahapitiya junction, which consisted of rows of overgrown spear grass as mostly identifiable on either side, that had contributed to narrowing the road. We reached the vicinity of the school withing a very short time but once we informed that to the co-ordinaing officer from the school, she asked us to pause for a bit. Wondering what is the reason for the delay, we slowly reached the school entrance only to see that they have arranged an extremely warm welcome for us. Little girls and boys of probably of grades 1 and 2 greeted us by offering us betel leaves. We were then accompanied by the school western band to the hall where they had organized a ceremony to carry out the distribution of books. We were clearly impressed by their overwhelming hospitality. We were accompanied by the college Principal and straight away commenced the proceedings after paying due respect to the national flag and the school flags. We were ushered to the seats placed on top of the stage from where we got a good view of the gathering. We couldn’t help noticing the anticipation and the excitement on the faces of the students who were seated in ascending order of their grades before us. The Madam Principal went on to brief about the school in general..
“This school provides education to so many students who go through extreme financial hardships. Only less than 10% of the total has their parents engaged in governmental occupations. The rest is engaged in ad hoc unskilled labour work to earn a living. Their parents find it difficult to pay a daily bus fare etc on behalf of their sons and daughters to send them to schools in the city and thus are sent to rural schools like ours..”
But whatever the said difficulties were, this had been the Alma Mater of the island fourth at the scholarship examination in the year 2013 and also of several Advanced Level students who had scored 3 A’s and obtained university entrance in the Arts and Commerce streams, which reiterated the fact that our attempt was going to be worth it.

Santa in October
Without any further delay, we started distributing the gift parcels wrapped by our very own club members; the red polka dotted ones for the primary students and the blue ones for the older students up to grade 13. As they received their parcel and went back to their seats, some of the very young students were shaking their parcels to their ears trying to guess whats inside and some others who had surpassed their limits of patience were already tearing into the wrapping to get a glimpse of what was inside. Oh and they didn’t forget to peep into their friend’s parcel in the adjoining seat to see whether they had got the same colour of water bottle as them. Noticing the impatience in the little faces, our club president Rtr. Kalana Jayantha made a quick speech at the podium, especially thanking Ven. Gavaragiriye Premarathana Thero of Royal College Colombo through whom our rotaract club was informed of the chance to do this project. He also expressed his sadness for not being able to fund the entire school but a selected number of 120 students who were the most underprivileged only. But he also expressed our willingness to try to continue this project and also to inform more donours about their needs. We wound up the proceedings after posing for several group photographs with them.

The right level of spices
To add to the already overflowing pot of hospitality, they invited us for a treat at the home science room. Before us was a neatly laid table full of original Sri Lankan delicacies. If I may list them here; they had milk rice cut in perfect squares, the best steamed manioc I have ever tasted my entire life, of course the neatly spicy lunu miris, kurakkan halapa which is obviously very popular in down south wrapped in kanda leaves which I could say had the best original treacle mixed in them. Plantains, Sesame balls ubiquitous in Lanka as thala guli, ribbon cake and to top it a nice, warm cup of gingered plain tea with a share of jaggery. Such a perfect combination it was. Even when I’m writing this, I can still go back and fill my heart with the memory. They made us feel at home that we weren’t shy to go ahead with the craving for second and well, third servings.
We bid farewell to them with our hearts filled with satisfaction and our stomachs with a 5 star rated native Sri Lankan breakfast. It wasn’t even 12 noon yet, so we seemed to have plenty of time to roam around. So, the party began.

Madu Ganga – the richest of them all
We had two of our club mates from down south so through their help we straight away headed off to Madu Ganga River. There is place where boat rides for visitors are offered here so we took one enough to accompany the 17 of us.So we set off – out to the sun -out to the great waters. Let me tell the story about this river. First of all, it is a complex wetland eco system rich with bio diversity owing to its well developed mangrove eco system which is suspected to be the last remaining pristine mangrove eco system in Sri Lanka. It is the home to 300 odd species of plants and 240 odd species of vertebrate animals. Next is its religious significance. The first ever Higher Ordination Ceremony of the Buddhist Amarapura Nikaya is said to have been held on a fleet of boats on this river. In an island somewhere far away to the right side of the estuary is the Kothduwa Raja Maha Viharaya. This temple, I would rate as having one of the best environments to induce the conscience of your mind and to take it to the depths of infinity. The massive and elegantly coloured Buddha statue with standing statues of Sariyuth Mugalan, the Chief Disciples of Lord Buddha on either side and the huge Bo Tree hovering over entire premises silently invite you to kneel down to listen to the soft ripples of the surrounding waters making music with the rustle of them Bo leaves.

Meanwhile we also met a Giant Squirrel on a branch of the Bo Tree busy digging into his brunch. It was not yet lunch time so I don’t think I made a mistake calling it brunch.The entire crew despite their religious beliefs, each got a Pirith String on their hands. Letting the clock tick for selfies, we got back back into our boat, all excited for our next stop. The Fish Therapy.

Fish on the way to a dish
But i need to mention that we witnessed areas of Kraal Fishing on the way at many places. Kraal Fishing is a technique of trapping fish and mostly prawns as they set up a line of sticks (mostly bamboo) and stop their small half moon shaped boats and fish. You could see the fishermen with their fishing rods actively engaged in this activity when you are passing by in your boat. It is pretty amazing to see that people have built huts on bamboos protruding into the waters so that those who are passing by in boats like us could stop by and have something.. like king coconut! It was a wonderful experience.

Pedicure time
So the fish. This was the favourite part of our day. For the split second I dipped my very own feet in the small squares of fish, after so much of hesitation of course, knowing that the next minute they are going to make a meal out of my feet, I could say that it was a funny feeling. It feels like small blunt ends are tapping your feet from all directions. Slimy yes. These fish spas are floating on the river on wooden planks placed upon barrels attached to the land end on one side. A school of toothless fresh water gold fish come with their tiny mouths open and nibble against your dipped feet and peel off the dead skin. There is a reason why you call it therapy and that’s that. It’s Rs. 100 per head mostly and a great treat for that price!!


Before I wind up the story about our journey, we also stopped at a cinnamon peeler by the side of the river. This art is pretty popular in this area and once you go to a place, you may find a thatched house with cadjan roofing and the inhabitants will show you how they extract cinnamon. They also make products and sell them at great prices. We picked some cinnamon sticks she happily gifted us and cinnamon oil which she said to be a medication for tooth aches and headaches and left the place.

Got back into our boat again. We swooped past against the breeze, steered the boat, passed the low lying metal bridges (probably because the water level of the river had risen) with our heads bent like ostriches, looked over the estuary, which is also a rich eco system and came to a halt at the boat service. We had a good lunch at a sea side restaurant, had selfies for dessert and after all the hesitation to leave got into the vehicle and set off. Oh before we went home we stopped at the Ambalangoda town to have ice cream.
The day was satisfactory, we went for a good cause and had a better share of joy. Our voices were warmed up enough to sing now. Yup, we will do this again.

Find more pictures on our facebook page at Rotaract Club of General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University or follow us on twitter @Rotaract_KDU

Article by: Rtr. T. Wijekoon

“Sisu Saviya” – For a community with a better tomorrow!

The big picture

Sri Lanka being a developing country is still striving towards its progress in all aspects of community life. Primary and secondary education is provided free for all students by the government also as a key aspect among them because the student today will be a part of the nation’s driving force in the future. Foreseeing the future in this line of thought, we, as a rotaract club are ready to make our contribution to increase the quality of education of young girls and boys who are having certain financial difficulties.

Our plan

Under this project, which shall be launched under the avenue of community service, we are in the process of collecting books and other essential stationary items to be donated to students of a selected area located down south. Donations were encouraged from within the university as well as from outside for this purpose using social media mainly as a tool.

We will soon be organizing a trip to the said area to deliver whatever we collected and spend some time with the children. We shall keep you updated so you can keep track of your donations 🙂

For more details, visit out face book Page at “Sisu Saviya”

Or follow us on twitter at @Rotaract_KDU

Read about the completed project at “Sisu Saviya” and the time we went to the river village

 

Senehasa – A tour around the zoo

The members of the club were joined by 30 girls belonging to the age group of 6-18 years of St. Anthony’s Children’s Home, Mount Lavinia to go on a visit to the Dehiwala Zoological gardens. The day consisted of the visit to the zoo, a lunch- out for the children and an evening session of fun activities accompanied by a tea party at the end of which we donated several essential items to the home and delightful gifts to the children. The project was aimed at educating the children about animals and providing them with an enjoyable leisure time.Project chair: Rtr. Amila Wijeratne