Thank you for your support!

We set up Friends of Navajeevana in 2010 to help Navajeevana in its work with people with disabilities in Sri Lanka and bring people together in the UK to raise funds. In 2016 we have come to the decision to close the charity after six successful years of fundraising.

Our intrepid supporters have scaled cliff faces, run countless miles, climbed mountains, pounded the pavements and rowed the entire length of the river Danube. And that’s not to mention the pub quiz, Halloween ball and numerous local fundraising events.

In total we raised over £30,000 for Navajeevana, which the charity has put to excellent use through projects like the Hakmana School, supporting parents of children with cerebral palsy and providing speech therapy. You can see a full list of the projects we funded here.

When we started Friends of Navajeevana. Sri Lanka was emerging from decades of civil war, and Navajeevana was working hard to help communities rebuilding in the aftermath of the tsunami. Now, with a fantastic new Director at its helm, Navajeevana is going from strength to strength, helping thousands of people with disabilities across the whole island.

In our own way, our small charity has made a big difference to the lives of people with disabilities in Sri Lanka. We could not have done this without the amazing energy and generosity of our supporters – so thank you all for your incredible contributions and for being part of such a great project.

Navajeevana of course continues its important work – so do keep in touch with Kumi, Chintha and all of the staff in Tangalle through following them on Facebook, visiting their website, or – best of all – dropping in to visit them in the beautiful south coast of Sri Lanka!

Leonora Merry, Chair of Friends of Navajeevana, 2010-2016

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Nadeeshani’s story

In an earlier post we told you about the £1800 grant we awarded to Sri Lankan disability charity Navajeevana to run workshops and offer support for families with children affected by cerebral palsy.

One of these children is Nadeeshani. We wanted to share her story with you.

NadeeshaNadeeshani is 13 years old and lives in the rural town of Weeraketiya, about 15km from Sri Lanka’s south coast. Her father is a farm labourer and earns a small amount each day to support his wife and three children.

Nadeeshani’s parents were overjoyed when she was born. As they lived below the poverty line, her father took on additional work to help make ends meet.

But their joy turned to worry when they realised that little Nadeeshani was unable to breastfeed.

Her parents took Nadeeshani to the nearest hospital and, after several tests, learned that she had cerebral palsy. The doctors explained the consequences of the condition but there was no further community-based support on offer to the family once Nadeeshani was discharged from hospital.

Isolated and afraid, Nadeeshani’s parents took her home and tried to cope. But without support to understand the condition, they didn’t know how to look after her. Nadeeshani spent most of her time lying on a makeshift bed on the floor of a room with no electric lighting. Her parents fed her as best they could but didn’t know how to ensure she was eating enough.

As a result Nadeeshani ended up with pneumonia, pressure sores and stunted growth. Her parents were devastated.

A few years later, Navajeevana’s local field officer Ms. Yamuna found out about Nadeesha through the network of volunteers who provide local intelligence to help identify families in need of support. Ms. Yamuna gave encouragement and hope to Nadeesha’s family through counselling.

“Apita podi balaporoththuwak ethi una” (we have a little hope now), said her mother.

WorkshopAnd that’s how little Nadeesha’s parents were selected for the workshop on how to look after children with cerebral palsy, funded by Friends of Navajeevana in the UK.

It was a one-day workshop and Navajeevana’s dedicated staff were able to educate her parents about proper feeding techniques, using the toilet, dressing, recreational activities and, most importantly of all, how to position Nadeeshani correctly.

On the same day Navajeevana’s rehabilitation team assessed Nadeeshani for a custom-made supportive seat. The chair was built and delivered within two weeks. When it arrived her mother cried with relief.

Now Nadeeshani’s parents feed her on her chair and are able to involve her in day-to-day activities like cooking and playing with children in the neighbourhood.

Nadeeshani has a long journey ahead. But thanks to Navajeevana, she will be making that journey with her parents right behind her, more confident in how to help her and equipped with the right tools to do so.

Thank you for continuing to support Friends of Navajeevana so that we can help make a difference to hundreds of children like Nadeeshani.

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Workshops for families affected by cerebral palsy

The vast majority (around 80%) of disabled children helped by Navajeevana have cerebral palsy. The high prevalence of this condition in Sri Lanka is not fully understood, but is likely to be caused by under or over-age pregnancies and poor health services for women during pregnancy.

Navajeevana has found that, as well as practical tools like custom-made seating for children with disability, there is a real need to educate and inform their parents about how to care for children with cerebral palsy. After the initial diagnosis, parents are often left to cope on their own, without advice or support.

This means that children with cerebral palsy in rural Sri Lanka often have a poor quality of life, spending most of their time lying in bed or in their mother’s arms. Many parents simply can’t cope and find their child’s disability alienating and upsetting.

WorkshopFor this reason we were very pleased to award a grant to Navajeevana of £1800 to run workshops for the parents of children with cerebral palsy. These workshops, which took place at Navajeevana’s holistic rehabilitation centre in Tangalla, focused on giving parents advice about proper feeding techniques, using the toilet, dressing, recreational activities and, most importantly of all, finding the correct position for sitting or sleeping.

Parents were selected on the basis of their socioeconomic background, ensuring that those most in need were offered the chance to attend. When parents and their children came to the workshops, Navajeevana used the opportunity to offer physiotherapy to the children and measure them up for custom-made seating.

PhysiotherapyThe project is a great example of what Navajeevana does best – helping the most vulnerable and isolated members of society access practical and emotional support to take control of their lives. As Nadeeshani’s story shows, this kind of intervention can make an enormous difference and set people on the path to rehabilitation.

Thank you to all our UK funders – whether you’ve donated to one of our fundraising events, are a regular donor, or have made a one-off contribution. Your help enables us to support these worthwhile and essential projects.

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Avon Gorge abseil raises almost £3000 for Friends of Navajeevana!

In June six brave souls ventured over the edge of the Avon Gorge, with nothing but some (admittedly pretty sturdy) ropes and a harness to stop them falling. The adventurers – Hilary, Carol, Stuart, Tessa, Joss and Leonora – raised a fantastic £2800 for Friends of Navajeevana, which we will use to help Navajeevana provide much-needed support to disabled people in rural Sri Lanka.

Many of the intrepid team confronted their own fears to undertake the challenge, with one member, trustee Hilary Green, carrying out the abseil as a 60th birthday challenge.

Leonora Merry, who is also a founding trustee of Friends of Navajeevana said:

“I have always been scared of heights, so the idea of lowering myself down a cliff backwards was pretty terrifying. But I knew that many of the disabled people who Navajeevana helps in Sri Lanka would love to have the opportunity to do something like this – and that kept me motivated! In the end I am pleased to report that I made it down in one piece – and I even managed to enjoy it in parts!”

The team’s fundraising page can be found on MyDonate here – it will accept donations until 14 September.

Hilary showing what a dedicated fundraiser she is at the top of the Avon Gorge 

Leonora begins her descent

Phew! All done. 

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What our amazing supporters helped us do in 2013!

Dear Friend

We hope you’ve had a great Christmas and are feeling inspired about the year ahead! Here at Friends of Navajeevana we’ve been inspired by two big things this year: the huge journey that people with disabilities in Sri Lanka have taken to allow them to participate equally in society; and the massive support that you’ve given to help make that possible. So put down those chocolates, turn off the TV and enjoy this quick digest of our 2013 highlights…

We supported the Hakmana school for a second year

For the last two years, we have supported Navajeevana to run the Hakmana School for disabled children. This fantastic resource gives 23 children with special needs access to high quality education in their community. In 2013 our grant (£2,070) provided training for teachers and parents as well as basic learning equipment. We also were able to support the salaries of two teachers.

We helped develop the skills of Navajeevana’s expert staff

In February we supported Navajeevana’s lead prosthetist, Mr Prasanga, to fly to Hyderabad, India, to attend the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics Congress. Our £900 grant gave Mr. Prasanga the opportunity to network with fellow professionals and learn about new technologies. This has helped him introduce new approaches and improve services for people with disabilities in Sri Lanka.

We helped disabled children achieve sporting success

In April we were very pleased to support the participation of a team of 25 children from Navajeevana’s special schools in the National Sports Meet for Children with Special Needs. Our grant of £350 paid for Navajeevana to train the children for the event and transport them the 250 miles from Tangalla to Vavuniya for the occasion.

The children gained hugely from the experience – growing in confidence, and winning 43 medals, their best ever sports achievement. Next step, the Paralympics?

We funded a project to improve play facilities and help the environment

Sri Lanka does not yet have a well developed recycling culture and as a result, the beautiful countryside is often littered with plastic bottles and other rubbish.

Volunteers from seven countries helped disabled children at Navajeevana special schools build a playhouse using 3,500 waste bottles filled with sand. Our grant of £350 funded this innovative project which gave a new place for the children to play and improved their environmental awareness.

…and in 2014 we’re going to be supporting families affected by cerebral palsy

The vast majority of disabled children helped by Navajeevana have cerebral palsy. The high prevalence of this condition in Sri Lanka is not fully understood, but is likely to be caused by under or over-age pregnancies.

In partnership with Navajeevana and CBM, Friends of Navajeevana have just granted £1,950 to a project aimed at supporting and training the parents of children with cerebral palsy, and providing the children with state of the art supportive seating. The project will run through 2014 so look out for our updates!

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

Why not make it your New Year’s Resolution to continue supporting Navajaveevana through a monthly donation?

You can do this by registering with BT MyDonate via our donations page here. To make it even easier we have written a step-by-step guide to setting up your regular gift. What are you waiting for?!

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2014!

Leonora, Olof, Hilary, Hugh, Jonathan and Sabrina

The Friends of Navajeevana Trustees

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Newsletter: Jonathan has rowed the Danube River!

From the Friends of Navajeevana newsletter – click to sign up.

Dear Friends

We’re really excited to tell you about Jonathan and Mark’s amazing physical achievement in completing the Row the Danube Challenge, rowing Europe’s second-longest river for Friends of Navajeevana and Cardiac Risk in the Young.

Mark and Jonathan on board Fight and Spirit

Over the last four weeks they have:

  • Travelled over 3,000 kilometres by pure muscle power
  • Navigated the worst flooding to hit the upper Danube in 500 years, encountering closed locks, river police and thousands of sandbags
  • Been featured in international media, including Reuters and Serbian TV
  • Raised over £10,000 for the two charities

The two lads rowed, slept and cooked aboard the 7 metre ocean-rowing Fight and Spirit, which they sold at the end of the adventure in Constanta, Romania, splitting the proceeds between the charities.

Throughout, Jonathan and Mark somehow found the time to keep a fascinating blog about the trip, so get yourself a cup of tea and read all about the adventure on their website.

There’s still time to donate!

Jonathan is still fundraising, so visit his donations page to sponsor him and show your support for his fantastic achievement.

Thanks for your continued support!

Olof, Leonora and the Friends of Navajeevana trustees

A message from Jonathan

Jonathan rowing the Danube

“Thanks to everyone who supported us on an amazing adventure. Our journey down the Danube was a fantastic experience. We faced a few big hurdles and met lots kind people along the way. The messages of support and generous donations to our fundraising helped us massively and motivated us to keep going through the hours of rowing.

“Both Mark and I would like to say thank you to Friends of Navajeevana and to everyone who has helped us and followed us on our journey. Knowing that we can help Navajeevana in a small way makes our journey through 10 countries a special achievement.”

Rohan’s story

Rohan in Sri Lanka

When someone’s life is devastated by an accident, it is good to know that there are caring people who can support them through recovery and rehabilitation.

Two years ago Rohan Priyantha was involved in a terrible road accident, leaving him severely injured. At first he did not know where to go for help.

But with the support and care from the dedicated team at Navajeevana, he is now making great steps towards regaining his independence.

Read how your donations are making a difference for Rohan

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Rohan’s story: recovery against the odds

Mr A.G Rohan Priyantha, Navajeevana BeneficiaryWhen someone’s life is devastated by a terrible accident, it is good to know that there are caring people who can support them through recovery and rehabilitation. Rohan’s story shows how people in the UK are helping this happen in Sri Lanka right now.

How Rohan came to need help

Rohan Priyantha is 35 years old and comes from the village of Kanathagoda, around one hour from Navajeevana’s base in Tangalla. He lives with his parents and is not married.

Unfortunately around two years ago, Rohan was involved in a devastating road accident. He injured both his arms and legs. He had several fractured bones in his leg and an open wound. He also sustained injuries to the nerves in his right arm leading to difficulty using it.
Rohan had to have an operation on the right arm and shoulder because of this. All these different injuries meant that he had difficulty walking, weakness in the lower limbs, and he couldn’t perform a lot of day-to-day activities, particularly as he is right-handed.

Not alone

Luckily, despite his very severe injuries and difficult recovery, Rohan was not facing these problems alone. He was approached by Navajeevana’s field officers who arranged for him to access the residential therapy centre. For several months, Rohan was able to work with the Navajeevana expert physiotherapists to improve his strength and movement, without having to make the long journey to and from his village.

Rohan receiving physiotherapyThe goal was to strengthen the core muscles around his body through special stretches, exercises and therapies. Specifically, treatments included walking with a crutch, extensions for arms and legs, and core strength work. Navajeevana worked with about 1,000 people in this way last year, both in their holistic therapy centre and out in communities.

Feeling stronger

After two months, Rohan was seeing considerable improvements in his movement, and is able to grip again with his right hand. This means he can get by much better day-to-day and write letters again. Rohan can now balance much better, and feels a lot stronger.

A big part of the support has also been psychological, building self-belief. By working with Rohan every day for two months the Navajeevana team were able to help restore his confidence to get on with life. Rohan feels much more positive to take on life’s challenges,

The next stage is to help Rohan get back to work, and Navajeevana’s training and livelihoods programmes can help here. Last year Navajeevana helped over 400 people with disabilities strengthen their economic independence.

How you helped

Our wonderful UK supporters helped to pay for 25 people like Rohan to receive tailored residential care over the last year. Thanks to your support (via Friends of Navajeevana) he and many others have been able to become more independent and deal with their disabilities.

You can make a regular contribution to Friends of Navajeevana by registering with MyDonate, and we will pass on the full amount to Navajeevana’s projects. Visit our donation page to find out how.

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