A place away from hospital
By Dhananjani Silva

R. M. Ariyawathie from Moneragala has been receiving treatment for cancer since 2004. One day, having attended her regular clinic at the Cancer Institute, Maharagama she boarded the bus as usual to go back to her village. Yet, she could not proceed beyond the Nugegoda junction as she began to vomit and feel dizzy, she recalls.

This is the agony of a patient stricken with cancer. With no kith and kin to accompany her (her father too had died of cancer a few years ago and her mother is bedridden) travelling to and from Moneragala, is traumatic, she laments.

Today, Ariyawathie resides in a temple adjacent to the hospital where she is provided food and shelter. Like Ariyawathie, there are many such helpless patients and their relatives who have accompanied them to the Cancer Hospital for treatment, who have found a home away from home here.

For Mahinda and his family of four children who had come from Deiyandara, Matara to take treatment for his three-year-old daughter, this temple has become their second home. They have been living there for almost one and a half years.

Ariyawathie: Finding refuge at a temple close to the Cancer Hospital

“Everything came to a standstill with her illness; my wife can’t leave my daughter and go home as she keeps asking for her mother but at the same time we are unable to leave the other children alone in the village as there is nobody to take care of them. So all of us decided to come here and stay until she gets cured,” he said adding that he is grateful for the assistance they receive from this temple.

Ariyawathie and Mahinda are representative of thousands of other cancer patients and their families.
Many of the patients who come to the Cancer Hospital from all parts of the country to receive treatment are in this plight as they do not have relatives or friends living in Colombo with whom they can stay while undergoing treatment.

In an effort to provide a refuge for such patients and their families, the Maharagama Tharuna Bauddha Sangamaya, a non-profitable voluntary organization has offered to set up a unit with accommodation facilities.

“Some treatment is such that patients are not admitted to hospital. But they have to come for treatment regularly, which means they have to find accommodation on their own. It is this group that we are trying to assist,” said Asoka Devendra, President of the Association.

Following an appeal made to Minister Dinesh Gunawardene, the Association had been given a 40-perch plot of land for this purpose. The entire first floor of this proposed four-storeyed building will have 40 bunk beds installed to hopefully house 80 people. Having completed the foundation at a cost of Rs. 3.5 million, the Association is looking to accelerate the work and complete at least the first floor of the building. For this, Mr. Devendra says they need about another four million rupees.

Although lodging is the primary concern of the Association at the moment, efforts are also being made to establish an independent Trust Fund to provide other facilities such as meals and medicine and manage and maintain the unit.

Asoka Devendra

“In some instances patients are asked to buy drugs from outside and we want to try and help them with this too. A person from England has agreed to give a meal to the residents, so this might be possible too. Depending on the funds available, we will be able to provide these facilities,” he said adding that this unit will also have a kitchen for those who wish to prepare meals.

Mr. Devendra is optimistic that upon receiving the funds, construction work on the first phase would be completed within a month and is appealing for help from the public to assist these needy patients in their time of distress. All direct donations can be made to the account of the YMBA Maharagama at Sampath Bank Maharagama - Account no 101360000436. For more details phone 2850500, email, or check their website

The association requests all donors to enclose a covering letter to facilitate the acknowledgement of their contributions.

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