Plus - People and events

Where elderly folks have fun and keep those 'grey cells' ticking

By Hansini Munasinghe

Cheerful laughter and chitchat spills over scrabble tiles, cards and carrom disks. Once a week they gather here to talk, play and enjoy life. "I have never seen so many old people in one room!" is what one visitor had exclaimed on walking into this exclusive club.

Adding not just "years to life but life to years" is the motto behind the Sri Lanka Association of Senior Citizens (SLASC). Established by Ms. Flower Munasinghe more than 20 years ago to uplift the image of elders and encourage them to lead an active life, the SLASC is described by its members as "a place where we can be ourselves, let go and relax".

Together they enjoy games of scrabble, carrom, bingo and various card games like bridge, 304 and rummy, which are not only fun but also good for the brain. Twice a year, the members of the SLASC organise a picnic, a day's outing and also hold discussions with professionals regarding health and well-being and other relevant issues.

Labelled as 'naki', a Sinhalese word derived from the word 'nohaki' meaning 'unable', many old people withdraw into loneliness and despair. It is this stereotype that the SLASC aims to shatter. If you don't have anyone to share your thoughts with and nothing to look forward to each day, you become miserable, said Delryn Wijesinha, President of SLASC. The other members echo her view, emphasising the need to "maintain friendships" as you get older.

The SLASC brings together senior citizens of all backgrounds regardless of disabilities or their nationality and religion, making accessibility a priority. "We keep fundraising to a minimum and our aim is to bring everyone together," said former President Indrani Athukorala. Yet one need felt by the association is "a place of their own", she added, emphasising that members could be allowed more opportunities if the basic facilities and resources were more readily available.

It's time for Senior Citizens Scrabble Tournament

The SLASC, together with the Sri Lanka Scrabble League, is organising the 11th Annual All Island Senior Citizens Scrabble Tournament to be held on Sunday, October 23, at the Hilton, Colombo. All scrabble-enthusiasts who are Sri Lankan nationals and over the age of 50 are invited to compete for the Deshabandu Clara Motwani Challenge Cup.

The competitions will be held in two main categories. Category A will be for the championship and words from the Collins Scrabble Words 2007, the internationally accepted dictionary will be used. Category B will take on the old style of play, using traditional words from the Oxford Dictionary. Prizes will be awarded for the highest game score and the highest word score.

The closing date for entries will be October 16.The entry fee is Rs. 750 while late entries will be charged an extra fee of Rs. 50.

Entry forms are now available with Indrani Atukorale (tel: 0112696993) at 102/1, Dharmapala Mw, Colombo 7, and Delryn Wijesinha (tel: 0112587094) at 27 Ridgeway Place, Colombo 4.

Rohana, first Lankan to win a medal at Abilympics

There are big smiles all around - both nephew and aunt cannot stop smiling, because success and success at global level has triumphed over disability, pain, sorrow and numerous hospital visits.
Rohana Godevithana has not only brought glory to himself but also to Sri Lanka, for he is the first in the country to bring back a medal from the International Abilympics 2011.

Although the Abilympics, dubbed the world's greatest festival for persons with disabilities - unlimited challenge to the world, has been held since 1981, Sri Lanka has participated only in 2007 in Japan earlier and the latest in Seoul, South Korea.

Rohana: Triumphed over disablity. Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

Held every four years, 56 countries participated at the 8th International Abilympics 2011 held in Seoul and from among the six contestants put forward by Sri Lanka to take part in different actitivites, Rohana has been able to secure third place in electronics.

"I finished the complicated circuit in two hours," says Rohana who has overcome many a disability, explaining that even though he was competing with 16 others from different countries he was certain that he could do it. The fingers didn't tremble, he says, adding, dekkahama hadanna puluwan kiyala denagaththa (when I saw the circuit I knew I could make it).

Proudly yet humbly, he shows the Sunday Times the large shining medal with the bright blue ribbon strung through it. For it was the Sunday Times in an article headlined, 'Enterprising electrician aims at Abilympics against all odds', on August 21, highlighted the grit and determination with which 31-year-old Rohana took up the challenge of winning the national contest in electronics which entitled him a place on the Sri Lankan team to the Abilympics. Many were the people who on seeing his story contacted him and helped him.

Incidentally, Rohana is still looking for a helping hand to get himself a bigger workshop or even a job which will bring him a regular income. (He may be contacted on 0713005811 or at 19/2, Pepiliyana Road, Nedimala.)

The six contestants who have extraordinary vocational skills were selected after the National Abilympics Sri Lanka 2011 co-organized by the Development with Disabled Network (DwDN) in collaboration with the Social Services Ministry, the Vocational Training Authority and the Department of Vocational Training & Technical Education with financing by Handicap International and Sightsavers.

They included Chintha Rathnayake (advanced dress-making); T.S. Rukshan Korera (computer-aided poster design session); Manula Fernando (dress-making); Gihan Thushara (tailoring); Nuwan Sameera (wood-carving); and of course Rohana Godewithana (electronic assembling).

Explaining that the Abilympics have helped overturn traditional views with regard to the skills potential and ability of the disabled, DwDN's Programme Coordinator W. Asitha Weweldeniya says Rohana's win in Seoul proves this effectively.

In Sri Lanka it has been estimated that there are about 900,000 persons with disabilities, he says, pointing out that most of them have very limited access to employment or income-generating activities. Unemployment among them is high, when compared with the general population, which is about 10% of the labour force.

Quoting statistics, Asitha says the highest rate of employment, 26%, is among people with mobility disabilities, while only 1% of those with intellectual disabilities are employed.

He laments over the fact that even though the government has allocated a quota of 3% of employment opportunities in both the state and private sectors to people with disabilites, the reality is different.
Rohana's win proves beyond doubt that people with disabilities can work and work very well, says Asitha, adding that success is also very much within their grasp, if only given a chance.

Party all night with ABBA mania in Singapore

The show 'ABBA Mania', has been delighting audiences of all ages since its formation in 1999, selling out UK theatres on its debut.

If you're looking for an excuse to travel to Singapore, tour the Marina Sands Bay Hotel (the first hotel to have casinos in Singapore), party all night, or simply be entertained by the music, then the ABBA Mania concert is for you. It's on from November 11 to 13 at the Grand Theatre, Marina Sands Bay, Singapore.
Local travel company Pan Global Travels is now putting together a special ABBA Mania package. For more details contact Aundray on 0777 517 371. Join in and enjoy all of your ABBA favourite songs like never before.

Kiwanis showing the way to fight malnutritian

Kiwanis Sri Lanka is working with the Ministry of Health to eliminate malnutrition among children. In Sri Lanka almost one out of five children is born with a low birth weight, 14% of under 5s suffer from acute malnutrition and nearly 58% of infants between 6 to 11 months and 38% between 12 to 23 months are anaemic (

The Ministry of Health recommends that each undernourished child be given special "Nutri biscuits" manufactured on a formula provided by UNICEF, for 90 days to bring the child up to the required state of health and weight. In accordance with this recommendation, Kiwanis Sri Lanka launched the 'Eliminate Nutrition Project' and has so far provided 125 under nourished children of Etul Kotte MOH Division - Baddagana Centre with the Nutri biscuits at a cost of Rs 332,800 funded out of private donations.
Those interested in getting involved in this project could

The Worship Musical at Church of St. Francis

3:16 The Worship Musical, will be presented on Tuesday, October 11 (Poya Day) at 6 p.m. at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi Mount Lavinia.

Based on the book by Max Lucado, this powerful and poignant musical sums up the belief of every Christian. The theme that is interwoven in every song and narrative is of the hope that lies in this verse from the Bible.

For the last ten years, the choir has presented many musicals for the glory of God and these have been held in different churches in Colombo and Kandy. It all began in 2001 with 'God for Us', followed by 'God in Us' and 'God with Us', 'Evidence of Grace', 'Jesus, The One and Only', 'Lift up your eyes', 'One Lord - One Faith', 'Experiencing God' and 'The Passion of His Love'. Entrance is free.

Exhibition by Cora Abraham young ones

The youngsters of the Cora Abraham Art School will have their annual Open Day and exhibition on October 15 and 16 at the school premises No. 50/6B Siripa Road, Thimbirigasyaya from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibition will feature the work of the students aged between 4 and 16, in a variety of media.

Mahatma Gandhi Oration

Vice Chancellor of the University of Kelaniya, Prof. Sarath Amunugama will deliver the Mahatma Gandhi Oration under the auspices of the Sri Lanka India Society at the Indian Cultural Centre at No. 16/2, Gregory's Road, Colombo 7, on Monday, October 17 at 5.30 p.m. The title of his address is 'Mahatma- Beyond All Barriers'.

The High Commissioner for India in Sri Lanka Ashok K. Kantha will be the chief guest at the event at which Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, who was conferred the prestigious Basavashree Award will also be felicitated.

Dudley Senanayake Memorial Oration

The fourteenth Dudley Senanayake Memorial Oration aill be delivered this year by eminent Malaysian Dr. Dato Param Cumaraswamy on Friday, October 14 at 5.30 p.m. at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies at the BMICH.

The oration is organised by the Dudley Senanayake Memorial Foundation and the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung fur die Freiheit. A commemorative stamp will also be issued to mark the 100th birthday of the late Dudley Senanayake which was on June 19 this year.

The Chairman, Dudley Senanayake Foundation, Bradman Weerakoon, will make the welcome address followed by the inauguration of the stamp by Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne who will address the audience.

Mrs Sagarica Delgoda, will speak on behalf of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung fur die Freiheit, the partner and sponsor of the event while D.M.Swaminathan PC, MP, Director of The Dudley Senanayake Foundation will introduce the distinguished speaker. The vote of thanks will be by Ruwan Wijewardene MP, grandnephew of the late Dudley Senanayake and Director of The Dudley Senanayake Foundation.

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