Mirror Magazine

Seeing things more clearly
Wonderful Life Energiser, a body of creative youth came up with a novel idea to commemorate ‘International White Cane Day’. Marisa de Silva reports
Amidst the customary practises organised to commemorate ‘International White Cane Day’ (October 15), such as walks and holding up placards demanding equal rights and better opportunities for the visually impaired, there was something different that took place this year…

It was a walk, which was also a first hand experience of what it’s like to be visually impaired and how perfect strangers can lend a helping hand. A relatively new, yet very active NGO named ‘Wonderful Life Energiser’ (WLE), comprises an energetic and enthusiastic young team specialising in community development via the use of creative approaches.

Their logo, a ‘Kurumbatti Machine’, captures the very essence of the organisation, as it’s a mix of creativity, fun, nature and technology, said Prasad Jayasingha, Executive Director, WLE.

The weather wasn’t very encouraging, as it was relatively gloomy and overcast, but that by no means dampened the spirit of these young ‘movers and shakers’, aged from 18-30.

Finally, once the weather eased up and a crowd of about 40 supporters, of all ages and walks of life had assembled outside the BMICH main gate, the organisers set to work. Firstly, the group was lined up in pairs and one of the two, in each pair was blindfolded, while white canes were also distributed.

The one not blindfolded was supposed to guide his/her partner all the way up to the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, where the walk was ending up. This not only helped build a bond between two strangers but it also helped to break the inhibitions or reservations one might have when debating whether or not to lend a helping hand.

One particularly enthusiastic young lad vehemently insisted that his partner not hold on to his arm unless it was absolutely necessary, as it would take away from the reality of the whole experience.

Prasad further explained how WLE mainly focused on cost effective, creative model programmes with solutions to everyday social issues as he felt that “lectures don’t work.”

For instance, organising a walk of this nature has a two-pronged approach, he said. One, to experience first hand the obstacles and issues visually impaired persons deal with on a day-to-day basis and being sensitive to their needs, and two, taking that extra step to help someone in need, breaking down inhibitions and barriers. If any other institution or organisation invites the WLE to come up with a programme for a specific theme, they can do it, said Prasad, enthusiastically.

Their first initiative a book titled A Beautiful Mind, based on personal development, deals with the WLE motto, “Developing oneself whilst at the same time developing the society,” explained Prasad. Yet another unique aspect of this organisation is that their actions are in tally with their inner workings.

Having obtained his Masters in Sinhala, Mahesh Ratnasiri, the vice president of the WLE, is presently a trainee teacher in Sinhala and Buddhist Civilisation and is also visually impaired.

Recognising his energetic ‘go-getter’ attitude and insight with regard to many social issues, WLE made him an office bearer and valued his input into the activities of the organisation, said Mahesh with pride. “It’s not often that we get opportunities like this in our country,” he said adding, “so it was with great happiness and enthusiasm that I took on this post, to help make a difference in our society.”

He further stated that the fifteen-member organisation cuts across all racial, caste and religious boundaries, making it one big multi-racial, religious, close unit. Yet another aspect they take very seriously is ensuring that there’s no hierarchical preference when it comes to the decision making process.

“Most of our ideas come from some of the youngest and newest members of our group,” quipped Mahesh and Prasad, simultaneously. Most organisations rarely get ideas from those in the lower rungs, resulting in a waste of creative ideas and productive thoughts, said Prasad. “This is one thing we can surely say never happens, because we make a conscious effort to have group discussions, ‘brain storm’ together and make unanimous decisions as far as possible,” he said. “Our members are the heart of the organisation,” said Mahesh, summing it all up.


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