“If your plan is for 1 year, plant rice.
If your plan is for 10 years, plant trees.
If your plan is for 100 years, educate children”
Most of us in our childhood, would often quarrel over the color of the pen we had and that of our siblings, from how many stickers we have to what the front cover of the book we are buying would be. Back then what we didn’t realize was that in this very country of ours, there are thousands and thousands of innocent children who are deprived of their basic right of receiving quality education because of poverty. Their parents can’t afford their school supplies due to the economical obstructions they face in their lives, which forces children to quit schools, sacrificing their valuable education in the process of upbringing the family economy. Some schools don’t have sufficient equipment and facilities to provide children with knowledge or to open floors for them to exhibit and polish their unique talents.
As a simple step towards helping such blooming minds of our country, The Rotaract Club of Faculty of Science, University of Colombo initiated Akhankhara Phase II, a community service project to donate school supplies to destitute children of two rural schools at Padawiya, Anuradhapura to ameliorate their educational standards.
Padawi C yaya Vidyalaya and Bellankadawala Vidyalaya are two schools situated in Padawiya, a bucolic town 98 kilometers away from Anuradhapura. Padawi C yaya Vidyalaya caters 212 students up to grade 11 and Bellankadawala Vidyalaya has 47 students up to grade 5. The main source of income in this area is from paddy cultivation. Children of these farming families of Padawiya and other nearby villages go to school amidst great difficulties while some drop out. So Akhankhara Phase II reached to provide them with the right gear to access better and quality education they deserve.
On the 12th of January 2017, we started our journey from Mt. Lavinia station to Anuradhapura by Yaldevi train with hope and energy to complete the project to the best of our abilities. Though, all of us were seated at the beginning, before we reached Ragama most of us had to give our seats to elderly people or mothers carrying their little ones, as the train was so crowded. That was indeed an act of great kindness and we took turns sitting in the remaining seats and occasionally enjoying a little ride on our friends’ laps! We got down at Anuradhapura and loaded our goods which we bought for the children in a lorry. We had spent the last few weeks shopping all over Colombo buying what we thought would be the perfect gifts for them. Then we boarded the bus which took us to Padawiya in nearly 3 hours taking us away from all the noise and dust of the city.
Our first destination was Padawi C yaya Viyalaya, where we were warmly welcomed by the Principal of the school. After lunch few kids from the school came on their bicycles to guide us on a small walk around the village amidst the lush greenery taking us into our serenity. We enjoyed the breathtaking view of streams and the spectacular sunset at the Maha Galkulama lake. At the end we all felt that village life is full of divine beauty.
Soon after we got back, we started unpacking the goods and arranging the gift packs separately, one for students from grade 1 to 5 and another for ones above grade 5. They contained many valuable items such as exercise books, drawing books, pastel boxes, pens, pencils, rulers etc. It was a fun filled job as we set us in different work stations each adding one item to the gift pack and finally arranging them in the boxes. Whilst cracking jokes and sharing the laughter, after 5 hours of hard work we were able to wrap 259 gift packs.
Next morning was the day we all were eagerly waiting for… Children rushed to the school hall like ants, sitting row by row according to their grades. We could see the excitement on their little faces as they zestfully waited to see what they would get in their gift pack .Ceremony commenced with religious observances. After principal of the school Mrs. Namal Kanthi and Rtr. Ochintha delivered their speeches explaining the cause of the event and the value of providing them to upgrade their educational needs, we gifted the packs to students who avidly came in a row to collect them. Their elation was shown in their enlightened faces as they climbed down the stairs hugging the gifts. Music instruments for the school band and material for the prefects’ blazers were also donated to the school. The ceremony ended after the thanking speech delivered by one of the teachers.
We left Padawi C Yaya Vidyalaya in a lorry which dropped us to the bus station, relishing that new experience as it was the first lorry ride for many of us. We were cordially welcomed by the principal of Bellankadawala Vidyalaya, Mrs. Kalyani and her staff. We were so happy to see the enthusiasm of the children seated awaiting our arrival. After the introductory session of the event, we gave out the gift packs to the students. A printer, a computer table and a chair were also donated to the school. Next was rather a surprising act for us. A splendid performance by the students. They sang a song and recited a poem beautifully. It touched our hearts and at the same time showed us how talented these little stars are. “Then it’s your turn..” they said! So we bashfully sang “Iren Handen” and “Hinchi Pinchi Hawa” with them, cherishing each minute which I’m sure took all of us back to our childhood. While we listened to the thanking speech, we all could see how a little boy seated in the first row was trying to sneak peek through the wrapper of the gift, bringing overwhelming joy to all of our hearts.
The day had come to an end. We had successfully completed Akhankhara Phase II. The happiness in those little faces and their twinkling eyes made us forget all the sweat and hard work we had put in to making this a success. The gratitude they showed is simply impossible to put in words! We left Padawiya, heading home with wonderful memories, satisfaction and contentment, that we were able to fuel those gifted souls with their educational needs and encourage them to educate themselves so that they can climb up in the ladder of life. Our hope was to see them become successful one day, gaining the potential to help their brothers and sisters in the generations to come.
“An ounce of practice worth more than tons of preaching.”
We would like to thank all our donors for their generous contributions.
Special thanks to Praveen Hasaranga for capturing these beautiful moments.
By Isurika Weerasinghe