Last week three of our Friends of Navajeevana trustees and I escaped the chilly climes of the UK and spent five days in southern Sri Lanka catching up with the staff and beneficiaries of the amazing disability organisation Navajeevana.
It was a fantastic visit and incredibly rewarding to meet some of the disabled people who – with your continued support – we have been able to help over the last three years. I wanted to share a few of the highlights with you, and hope that I can inspire you in the same way that Navajeevana inspired me last week about their incredible work.
On the Thursday we paid a visit to the Hakmana school for disabled children, located about an hour north of the Navajeevana centre in Tangalle. This is the school that parents themselves started around a year ago and which, with our funds, Navajeevana has been able to foster by providing teachers, training and equipment. It’s also the subject of our Christmas and New Year appeal, which you can support by following the link.
The two teachers, Deepika and Anusha, with the help of Navajeevana Programme Director Mr Nandaratne, showed us around and spoke proudly of the ways they can help the 20 students socialise and learn together.
The children showed off their art and dance skills to us by working together on a big painting and performing a dance routine. This kind of activity is great for children with disabilities like downs syndrome and autism, who are often stigmatised in Sri Lanka and can be denied the social and educational benefits of being at school.
The children’s mothers, who volunteer at the school, talked movingly about how the school had given their children a new and positive start after falling behind in mainstream education or being prevented from enrolling.
After visiting the Hakmana school we ventured into the remote villages in the surrounding areas to meet some of the people who have benefited from previous grants made by Friends of Navajeevana.
We met Sujith who was badly injured and lost the ability to walk unassisted after several heavy boxes fell on him from a great height whilst working in a factory in Colombo. After Krishanthi (Navajeevana’s field worker in the area) visited him, he was sent to Navajeevana to be fitted with two ankle-foot orthoses.
As Sujith’s home is so hard to reach from Tangalle, he had to stay over in the residential ward at the centre to be fitted with the devices, receive counselling and therapy, and get training on how to walk with crutches. The cost of his stay at Navajeevana was funded wholly by Friends of Navajeevana in the UK.
Earlier in the week our trustees were treated to a full tour of the Navajeevana centre, where we were able to see firsthand how some of the equipment we have funded is being used. The new database, funded by Friends of Navajeevana, is really helping the organisation improve their record-keeping and ensure clients receive the best, and quickest possible service.
I could go on and tell you about the man whose ankle was crushed in a bus accident, and thanks to your support now walks beautifully with a prosthetic leg. Or the great things Navajeevana is doing to empower disabled peoples organisations to campaign for better rights for disabled people. But those will have to wait for another day.
I do hope, though, that I have been able to recapture for you a little bit of the important and impressive way in which Navajeevana has been able to give new life to people with disabilities, who remain socially excluded and stigmatised in Sri Lanka despite its fast growing economy and development.
And if I have inspired you, why not contribute to the Hakmana school appeal to help run this fantastic resource for another year, contact me direct to set up a monthly standing order to Friends of Navajeevana, or donate from anywhere in the world through our PayPal service? Through our grants, Navajeevana is doing some great things in Sri Lanka. Let’s help them keep at it.
Thank you from me, Leonora, on behalf of all of our trustees. And here’s a special Sri Lankan thank you from the kids at the Hakmana school: