journey of hope
Foundation reaches out to 'special' people in rural areas
By Vidushi Seneviratne
The atmosphere was electric. Oblivious to the audience
in front of them, these young artistes were preparing for their
big night. The title was aptly "A Journey into the Subconscious",
for the kaleidoscope of images and emotions the show evoked would
have surely transported the audience into a different world allowing
each a different interpretation
of the scenes that unfolded before them.
into the Subconscious", an abstract dance drama was colourfully
and creatively presented by the differently-abled artistes of the
Sunera Foundation. The performance was directed by Rohana Deva Perera
and co-directed by Chandana Vasantha, Hemamalani Udayakumar and
Mahinda Abeysena with choreography by Ramani Damayanthi.
This was the
culmination of the Foundation's latest project, where young volunteers
were trained to help others like them. Around 20 youth underwent
the two-year training before being selected as representatives for
particular zones. Working in areas such as Pottuvil, Kalpitiya,
Kurunegala and Vavuniya, each representative had to conduct workshops
in the selected area, on a weekly basis.
received their letters of appointment on August 10, this year from
the President of the Foundation, Ms. Sunethra Bandaranaike.
Almost a month
after they were sent out on their assignments, some of the trainees,
along with the members of their workshops, were invited to perform
at the 32nd Triennial Congress of the International Alliance of
Women, hosted by the Sri Lanka Women's Conference. The young artistes
presented their performance "A Journey into the Subconscious",
on September 19 at the Galle Face Hotel.
There are many
young people, the differently-abled who need not only love and caring,
but who also deserve to be treated as individuals in their own right.
in Sri Lanka, they are most often ignored or overlooked. But where
there is art, there is hope, believes the Sunera Foundation. Since
performing arts is one of the most powerful modes of communication,
they strive to combine its many facets, to make these special people
accepted in society.
of the members of the Foundation are mentally and physically disadvantaged,
straightforward drama which includes dialogue, is almost impossible
for them. Dance-drama, is the innovative variation which the Foundation
has come up with to counter this problem, combining music, dance
and drama. This form of theatre goes beyond the boundaries of ethnicity,
religion or race. It is an 'inclusive' method in the performing
arts, which engages individuals of all abilities.
Foundation's previous productions, Butterflies Will Always Fly and
Flowers Will Always Bloom, in 1998 and 1999 respectively, brought
together not only the members of the Foundation, but also reputed
artistes such as Khema and Upekha.
Raj from Ampara, the representative for the Eastern Province said
he intends going from house to house, getting young people involved
in the project. "We will be involving people who are both disabled
as well as others who are perfectly fine," he said enthusiastically.
One of the
requirements of the Foundation is that each workshop needs to be
15 km apart. This way, they believe the maximum number of individuals
can be reached. The trainees are also advised to limit the number
in their group to a maximum of 30, so that they would be able to
get to know each member personally.
Among the trainees
are a few differently-abled young people. "Integration is a
process of learning and respecting each other," said Wolfgang
Stange, Creative Director of the Foundation.
the programme was also received from the British government and
channelled to the Foundation through the British Council.
The main focus
of the Foundation is to spread the message of 'Love for humanity'.
They believe that this is all that is needed for the world to be
a success. "Where there is love, there is hope," were
the words of wisdom from Mahatma Gandhi. Here is a classic example
By Hiranthi Fernando
Ranjith Jayatilake was 15 when he awoke one July morning in
1985, to find he was surrounded by darkness. It was a horrifying
experience. Confused and frightened, it took some time before he
realised he was blind.
"My parents rushed me to the Ratnapura Hospital," Ranjith
said, recalling the events following this catastrophe which changed
his whole life. "We were informed that children would not be
seen that day. We then consulted a private ophthalmologist, who
referred me to the Eye Hospital in Colombo. As luck would have it,
the nurses were on strike that day. However, Dr. Upali Mendis, the
well-known ophthalmologist himself filled out my admission ticket
and warded me for a month for tests to be carried out."
Ranjith's ailment was diagnosed as retinal detachment. An operation
of the left eye only brought him temporary vision for one month,
after which he gradually began to lose his vision again. Further
operations on both eyes followed up with Ayurvedic treatment yielded
no results. He remained blind in both eyes. Ranjith joined the Yasodhara
School for the Deaf and Blind, where he learned Braille and completed
his G.C.E. (O.L) examination in 1990 after three years of hard work,
with a distinction in Buddhist Civilization, six credits and an
ordinary pass. He was also the School Captain and headed the Literary
Association. He also actively participated in track and field events.
Having followed Advanced Level classes at the Balangoda Dharmananda
Pirivena, he gained admission to the Kelaniya University for a Bachelor
of Arts degree. Ranjith and his batch of 13 visually handicapped
students had to overcome many obstacles such as the lack of reference
facilities in Braille. However Ranjith performed particularly well,
obtaining a Second Class Upper degree.
His troubles however, are not over. Since graduation Ranjith has
been trying to find suitable employment with little success. From
March this year, he has been attached to the Sri Lanka Federation
of the Visually Handicapped on a temporary basis as a Braille transcriber.
This assignment ends in June next year.
Ranjith's fervent hope is to be able to obtain suitable employment.
"What I would really like to do is to teach. I can teach blind
children of any age or other children over year 6. I am qualified
to teach Buddhism, Sinhala or History," he says.