Sarinda Unamboowe and Nathan Sivagananathan who walked from south to north in 2011 and raised funds to build a  cancer unit in Jaffna hospital are now set to ‘walk back’ to build a similar unit at the Karapitiya Hospital By Sanchith Karunaratna Moved by the dire situation of cancer patients in the North, suffering due [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

One dream fulfilled, another to begin


Sarinda Unamboowe and Nathan Sivagananathan who walked from south to north in 2011 and raised funds to build a  cancer unit in Jaffna hospital are now set to ‘walk back’ to build a similar unit at the Karapitiya Hospital


By Sanchith Karunaratna
Moved by the dire situation of cancer patients in the North, suffering due to the lack of care and medical facilities, two Sri Lankans pledged to unite for a cause. That was Trail 2011.

Now with over 4500 patients treated, 670 kilometres travelled, more than 2.6 million USD raised and a life-changing experience, Sarinda Unamboowe and Nathan Sivagananathan are inspired to ‘walk back’ and unite for a purpose through Trail 2016.

Trail is an initiative under the Colours of Courage Trust in aid of cancer, which carries a message of harmony and unity. Trail came about due to the fusion of an idea and purpose. Sarinda returning to Sri Lanka after living overseas was grieved by the ethnic conflict that was sapping the nation. Coming back in the midst of the JVP insurgency, he vowed to himself that if this conflict were to end he would walk the entirety of the island in a free Sri Lanka.

Nathan had a close affiliation to philanthropy through his father who had bequeathed a considerable amount of funding for social service. As Nathan suffered a personal loss to cancer he realized the necessity for the improvement and establishment of more accessible and state-of-the art welfare and health services in the country.


When Sarinda and Nathan initially attempted to organise a charity walk in 2010 they faced several organisational obstacles. Their initial intention was to raise USD one million to build an extension to the Tellipalai Jaffna hospital as a cancer treatment unit. After much persistence in July 2011 they began their 28-day walk from Dondra Head. As Sarinda and Nathan arrived at the launch of the walk they recall being struck by the amount of support they had. They recall that this support inspired and motivated them to begin their 670 km walk with a spring in their step.

As the walk progressed Sarinda and Nathan were strengthened in their determination by the generosity and diversity of the people they met along the way. The journey was not only telling physically, but also mentally and emotionally. There were moments where the wounds on the soles of their feet and the blisters on their shins seemed to make it impossible to continue, yet they did not let their physical difficulties bring down the spirit that existed within the group. Each day they encountered new faces and new people that renewed their passion to complete the mission they had undertaken. The simple singing of a folk song or a cheerful clap on the shoulder was enough to keep them going. They recollect the experience of travelling as a group to be one of the most memorable parts of the walk.

There were many moments within the journey that truly showed them the spirit for service that existed within communities. Sarinda recalled a woman cheerfully walking along with them in tattered slippers. When he asked if she was in any discomfort she replied that if he was able to bear the pain of walking for 28 days, she could definitely tolerate one. Nathan recalled one walker who had to stop after sustaining severe injuries but rejoined them 10 days later determined to finish what he had started.
They were thrilled at the way everyone wanted to help. They were met with children carrying tills filled to the brim and villagers donating in whatever way they could.

As they travelled from the South to the North they were able to touch the hearts and minds of the populace and gained a firsthand perspective of village communities. They met farmers who were content with cultivating yams and were unfortunate victims of the corporate process. They also encountered benevolent people who ran out with bottles of water or fruits when they passed by.

Over the course of 28 days, Sarinda and Nathan were joined by over 30,000 people, including high-profile cricketers like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and others like Otara Gunawardene who wanted to be a part of the important message that Trail stood for. As a result, they were able to raise USD 2.6 million and build the Tellippalai Trail Cancer Hospital.

This time, Sarinda and Nathan will walk back from Point Pedro to Matara to take the next step as a foundation to help cancer patients. They will embark on their next dream with a fresh set of challenges. Their aim: to raise USD 5 million to build a cancer treatment unit as an extension to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital in Galle.

Having already received the support of several corporate juggernauts such as Akbar Brothers, MAS Holdings, Dialog, J.Walter Thompson Sri Lanka, A&E Lanka Ltd and SriLankan Airlines, Sarinda and Nathan have begun the initial stages of Trail 2016. They will be joined by an even larger host of donors and participants as they embark on their ‘walk back’. Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Jacqueline Fernandez, Yureni Noshika, Natalie and Nadiya Anderson, Nushelle de Silva are just some of the generous individuals who have come forward in their support for this worthy cause.

Sarinda and Nathan stress that this is a walk for everybody, free of segregation – not about their own corporations or them as individuals, but merely for the unfortunate victims of cancer. Anyone could get involved in whatever capacity -as a donor online, a participant at any stage of the walk or simply by sharing their event page on social media you could effect change and help Trail 2016.

This large scale event that saw a Sinhalese and a Tamil unite to effect change, served as a great symbol of peace and harmony The sense of fulfillment they had when they saw the first patient check in to the Cancer Centre in 2014 was unmatched, they say and extend a heartfelt invitation to anyone, from any part of the island or any walk of life to join hands with them and unite for a cause.

Trail 2016 will begin on October 6 at Point Pedro and end on November 2 in Matara. For further information on how you could get involved as a donor or a participant see their website

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