ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 45

Plucked out from the estates

Sunera Foundation’s foray into the plantations through performing arts, brings out the hidden talents of differently- abled children in the line-rooms

By Esther Williams

It was more than a celebration of the achievements of the differently-abled. It was a new beginning.

This was what the Viduvu theatre performance on April 3 at the BMICH signalled – it was a new phase filled with opportunities for children and youth in the plantations to make their hopes and dreams a reality…and this was made possible through the far-reaching efforts of the Sunera Foundation.

Scenes from the Viduvu theatre performance at the BMICH

The limits of an individual lie only in the minds of those around him. That was made clear by children and youth, with their vibrant dance drama, revealing not only their skill in performing arts but also providing glimpses of their culture, livelihood and day to day challenges. Above all, the children demonstrated that rather than being hidden from the eyes of society, they needed to take their rightful place, be it in the school or in the community.

It was the first chance for them to visit Colombo and perform on stage and participating in Viduvu (Awakening) afforded them a sense of accomplishment, their powerful message portraying that they can contribute to society and the country and be productive despite their disability.

Many children with disabilities are written off by their parents and never given a chance to develop any skill, let alone leave their line-rooms. Sunera Foundation’s foray into the estates to facilitate their integration to civil society for the first time, through several performing arts workshops in the Hatton-Maskeliya area was funded by the British High Commission.

Working through the Citizens’ Welfare Development Foundation, Sunera had held six workshops in the hill country since November last year not only to empower children and youth with disabilities but also to create awareness within the estate community on the rights of people with disability and promote social acceptance.

A few weeks into the programme dramatic changes had been seen. While the children were eager to attend the workshops, their parents for the first time realized their potential, understanding through discussions among parent associations formed by Sunera that the disabled had rights like everyone else.

The Vidivu Drama Festival on March 23 and 24, staged by participants of the workshops in Hatton-Maskeliya enabled them to showcase their latent talents in their own areas.

The performances at the BMICH were followed by a lively panel discussion on various issues connected to disability.

Sunera Foundation Chairperson Sunethra Bandaranaike said that they hoped to double the number of workshops, thereby enabling many more participants to enroll in their free weekly sessions.

The next two years will see two major performances of which the best will join the two new street theatre companies the Foundation hopes to start with the help of the local community. The cultural exchange will lead to a broader Sri Lankan community, integrating people with disabilities and ensuring equal access to rights for all citizens of Sri Lanka.

A government approved charity, Sunera Foundation has been working since April 2000 to restore hope and dignity to young people with disabilities. Through the use of performing arts, Sunera strives to provide psychological support and social integration to people all over the island.

Top to the page

Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.