Cricket as a means of unitingView(s):
Student activist Harshini Karunaratne hopes that her slap-on wristband watches will help raise both funds and public awareness for Mahela Jayawardena’s charitable foundation
Harshini Karunaratne has always done things a little differently. In 2011 she worked with Kumar Sangakkara’s Bikes For Life campaign to raise over Rs.100 000 within her school using a rather delightful tactic-Harshini stopped speaking till she reached a target amount. The usually chirpy 17-year-old’s silence probably unnerved her friends and teachers, who hastily donated money to the cause! Soon enough Harshini met the great cricketer himself, even organizing a cricket match for her schoolmates with Kumar.
So it came as no surprise when she decided to make a documentary for her International Baccalaureate (IB) Personal Project; while her classmates were designing clothes lines and writing novels, Harshini set out armed with her handy cam and oodles of determination to put together a documentary, exploring the relevance of cricket as a tool of reconciliation in the country garnered her interviews with several top cricketers-one of who happened to be Mahela Jayawardena.
“During my interview he talked about his foundation (Mahela Foundation) which I didn’t even realise he had,” she says. “The foundation aims to nurture the raw cricketing talent that Sri Lankans seems to have, but unfortunately there are kids who are disadvantaged due to the lack of facilities and proper equipment they have to have in order to take their skills to the next level. The foundation primarily assists students in the war torn regions of Sri Lanka. The Mahela Foundation and its cause is something that I am truly passionate about and something that I’ve been wanting to work with for a while.”
Harshini was awestruck by the silent potential of the foundation and realized that she needed to chip in with anything that she can offer. She plans to raise funds for the foundation’s work through the sale of slap-on wristband watches that are also water resistant. Harshini hopes to raise an ambitious Rs 1 million with the initiative and hopefully take it outside the walls of her school. “It’s not just about raising money,” she enthuses. “There’s also the public awareness side of it too because people don’t really know that Mahela has this initiative and I want to also highlight the fact that cricketers are pulling their weight off the field.”
“The money collected from the project will be channeled directly into the development of a war-torn school in Mankulam, where we will be constructing concrete cricket nets and also providing cricketing gear to supply the fuel for their talent,” she adds.
The foundation does not expect to single-handedly address the cricketing needs nation-wide, but they are holding on to the realistic aim that they will be able to realize micro-sized ambitions that will add up in the long run. The first priorities being provisioning team kit-bags for U13, U15 and U17 cricketers.
The Mahela Foundation is funded primarily by Mahela’s own commercial endorsements and contracts arranged by his management company, Austin Management Limited. However additional funds are sought via the sale of memorabilia, such as Harshini’s ingenious wrist watches.
The aim of the foundation is to seek greener pastures for the under-privileged cricketing children of this country, who will one day take the helm as true ambassadors of goodwill in this cricket-crazed nation.
The watches are currently sold at Ilgelato’s Battaramulla and Barista outlets.
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