By Sanchith Karunaratne It has been an epic effort and they are not done yet. With over 4000 participants, 474 km covered and the hearts of the nation captured, the Trail team passed through Colombo on a bright Tuesday – October 25, on their long walk across the country. Amidst loud encouragement and cheers from [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Blazing a united trail from north to south


By Sanchith Karunaratne

Colombo joins in: The massive crowd of walkers streaming down Galle Road on Tuesday (top) and (right) a team of walkers from the Nalanda College OBA carry their banner

It has been an epic effort and they are not done yet. With over 4000 participants, 474 km covered and the hearts of the nation captured, the Trail team passed through Colombo on a bright Tuesday – October 25, on their long walk across the country.

Amidst loud encouragement and cheers from the people of Colombo, as well as the inevitable traffic snarls, the walkers of Trail 2016 completed the 20th day of their inspirational journey. Along the way, they have faced scorching heat, heavy rain, had to deal with blistered feet and body aches, yet they soldiered on. The walkers supported by a team of volunteers hit Galle Face Green on the 25th and moved on, the next morning; their journey’s final destination, Dondra on November 2.

Walking from north to south (they began their walk on October 6 at Point Pedro), the Trail contingent is targeting to raise 5 million Dollars for the construction of a cancer treatment unit at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, Galle. With approximately USD 2 million already raised and 6348 donors (at the time of writing) their ambitious goal seems within reach.

Initiated in conjunction with the Colours of Courage Trust, the charity walk also carries a message of unity and understanding while raising funds for the cause. Spearheaded by Sarinda Unamboowe and Nathan Sivagananathan, the Trail initiative that has had the support of well-loved personalities like Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara, and many ordinary people of all ages, all pledging their allegiance to this journey has truly captured the hearts and minds of the people to come together to help make Sri Lanka a better place.

Blessings for the walkers: A poosari from the Hindu temple at Bambalapitiya places vibuthi on Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena. Pix by Indika Handuwala

The first Trail walk was organized in 2011 where the team was able to raise enough funds to construct a cancer treatment unit in Jaffna.
In conversation with Nathan Sivagananathan and Sarinda Unamboowe it was evident that even though the physical strains of the journey were indeed many they did not concern themselves with any of them. Both Nathan and Sarinda were simply ecstatic to receive such an awe-inspiring response from the country and deeply humbled by the commitment so many hundreds of strangers had shown. Nathan said he was just amazed by the generosity people had shown. Across the journey he encountered people from all walks of life who just ran out towards them assisting them in whatever ways they could. From humble shop keepers to farmers and business people to professionals the benevolence he witnessed was truly inspiring, he said.

Sarinda spoke of his amazement at how willingly the people of the north came to assist and donate towards a project that was to happen in the south of the island. This message of harmony resonated throughout the walk as children and adults assisted them through their strenuous journey.

Generous givers: People along the route contributing to the cause

Former national cricket captain Mahela Jayawardene and his wife Christina who pledged to be a part of the walk from start to finish were met with an amazing reception as they arrived at the Green. Along the way too it was clear Mahela was a huge draw as people waited by roadsides to see their cricketing hero close up. This entire journey had been a truly humbling experience for both his wife and him, said Mahela, as he felt the essence of unity and peace that exists within the country. He urged everyone to join them as they look forward to making a better and brighter tomorrow for the future of Sri Lanka.

Walking with blistered feet and tired arms, Rani, a middle-aged walker who simply radiated joy had joined in on the walk on Day 14. Beaming, she told us that she had been a part of Trail 2011 and was delighted to help change the nation this year too.

Coming from the UK to be part of Trail 2016 was Dr.Akram Mohommadus who launched his book ‘Flying with Flamingos’ during Trail. Dr.Mohommadus, a medical practitioner was truly touched by the cause and vowed to do whatever he could to help. As he was born and raised in Sri Lanka he witnessed the disparity that existed amongst the people that led to him writing the story of ten different characters who all were affected by the civil war and how they had to learn to coexist in order to survive. He would donate all proceeds from the book to Trail, said Dr. Mohommadus, presenting the first copy to Mahela Jayawardena. He had not anticipated the difficulty of the journey and had already gone through three pairs of shoes and was now in his Bata sandals, he said, adding that none of the physical challenges matter when you witness the unity of the people walking.

Charya Dharmadasa who joined Trail on Day 21 with the aim of raising Rs. 100,000 with her till collection stated that it was amazing to be a part of an effort where the nation came together.

Trail ends on November 2 at Dondra and the Trail team asks all who can, to join in whatever way possible to be part of this journey that will make you rediscover the meaning of being a Sri Lankan.

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