Enterprising electrician aims at Abilympics against all odds

Please give him a helping hand | Anyone who wishes to give a helping hand in the form of a bigger workshop or even a job, may contact Rohana at 19/2, Pepiliyana Road, Nedimala. Phone: 0713005811.
By Kumudini Hettiarachchi

The goal is clear. Rohana Godewithana is set to head for Seoul, South Korea and win the top place for electronics on September 25. Contestants from over 40 countries will vie for the prize in electronics at the 8th International Abilympics 2011 and Rohana who is the national winner from Sri Lanka will be among them.

Baya ne, asai, says Rohana, explaining that he is not scared but looking forward to the Abilympics. The Abilympics held every four years tests the skills in various fields among the best disabled contestants from all over the world.


For Rohana from Matara now living at Nedimala, Dehiwela, the road to the Abilympics has been long and arduous. It was only a couple of years ago that he was in the depths of despair, stretched out flat on his back, even unable to sit up to go to the toilet.

This 31-year-old’s ailments had begun when he was still a child, with twinges here and there in his bones when he was attending the Mara Paraduwa Kanishta Vidyalaya at Matara. He had trouble running and also going down slopes. The problems seemed to be with his ankles.

Although he studied up to the Ordinary Level he was unable to get through the examination and came to earn a living to Dehiwela, where an uncle was running a vegetable shop. That was the time he also sought lodgings with his Loku Amma, Ariyawathie Godewithana, and Loku Thaththa, Ranjith Fernando, who have been the bedrock from where he was able to rise again.

Moving from the vegetable shop to a garment factory, he had worked at the washing plant until he found his calling – joining another Bappa who was doing electrical work at the Postal Department, as an apprentice. Learning the nitty-gritty of the job such as wiring, Rohana was in his element.

Health troubles, however, were not far away. The childhood ailments struck again in earnest and he found that climbing on tables and ledges to attend to electrical work was becoming an impossible task.
Kakule amaru (leg problems) surfaced again, increasing to such an extent that he was left crippled. That was eight years ago.

“I just couldn’t bend and then I couldn’t walk,” recalls Rohana with the memory still making him wince. The hospital visits began then. Physiotherapy at the National Hospital, in between which he valiantly attempted to continue working.

Treatment by Consultant Neurosurgeon Dr. Sunil Perera included a 10-hour operation which resulted in the amaruwa adu wuna (the ailment eased). The spinal cord had been getting pressed between the 10-11 vertebrates, says Rohana, who was able to go back to work after the operation, wearing a chest guard.

However, he was not able to leave ill-health behind. Returning home after work one day, kakula petalila wetuna (his legs got entangled and he fell), he says, fracturing his right thigh bone. Not only was his condition very bad but he was also out of a job because he had become an invalid and that’s how he remained for two long years.

Many were the ministering angels who came to his aid. Some of his neighbours have been with him throughout, extending a helping hand while the Lions Club close to his home at Nedimala had been very supportive.

Rohana is overcome by emotion when he mentions Cyril Wickramaratne mahaththaya who had made it possible for him to go to Seeduwa for the vocational training programme for the disabled conducted by the Department of Social Services. That’s where from being flat on his back, he “graduated” to a wheelchair, on to a pair of crutches and now only one crutch when there is a need.

The medicines were also very expensive, he says, adding that he has been diagnosed with a bone condition where he has too little calcium and prescriptions indicate he has Vitamin D-resistant rickets.
“Usually one in a thousand is prone to this condition,” he says. Back home with crutches, he was set on starting his own business, but he didn’t have the tools and once again neighbours and well-wishers helped set him up. Another operation awaited him though to fix a plate on his leg as it was crooked.

Operations over, but under the care of Consultant Endocrinologists Dr. Noel Somasunderam and Dr. Manodhi Saranapala, Rohana is back in business, repairing TVs and radios from a tiny workshop at Nedimala, with a board being put up by a friend.

Rohana is a fighter who is standing on his own two feet after many a vicissitude. After beating many others through the provincial round and the national round to represent Sri Lanka at the Special Olympics in electronics, his only plea is for a bigger workshop from a generous donor.

From his performance, it is more or less certain that if given his wish, he will do the rest and achieve the best.

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