How a chance meeting kickstarts an engine of community development in Ampara
Aspirations Foundation principle, Ajith Abeysekera first visited Ampara back in 8th May 2012 while dropping off his doctor daughter, practicing at the Ampara government hospital. The work of the Aspirations foundation had been well underway, for four years, working in other regions of Sri Lanka. Just over a week later Ajith left his home in Colombo to visit the 'Ridimaliyadda School' in Mahiyanganaya and a school in 'Okkampitiya' to observe the requirements of these schools. He was travelling with the Edex team from Royal College Union under the “Live Your dream” program.
The idea was to travel from Mahiyanganaya to Okkampitiya and from there to Buttala to hand over some books to the school ibrary. Ajith decided to visit Ampara Hospital on the way back and show the Senanayake Reservoir (pictured below) and the Galoya Wildlife sanctuary to his team. Of important strategic interest to the region, the entrance to the reservoir is under police guard, and as non-locals and without a permit, the team found they weren’t able to enter. They decided to turn back and go. When standing at the entrance of the reservoir a man named Piyathilaka approached and asked casually, “Sir, where are you going?”
|The Senanayake Reservoir, Sri Lanka|
Mr. Abeysekera replied “We came to see the needs of some schools to see how we could help in developing the school and assisting the children with their education”. At that point Piyathilaka, a local young farmer told Mr. Abeysekera about a poor and needy school in Inginiyagala and pleaded to come and see it saying it’s in a real bad state and has only the basic foundation, roof and four pillars and the desks and chairs were kept on the sand. There are no toilets for children to use – you must just come and see for yourselves.
Mr. Abeysekera was touched by the way Piyathilaka had pleaded and discussed the issue with his colleagues. They were tired, had missed lunch and wanted to return to Colombo as soon as possible. But Ajith could not ignore Piyathilaka’s appeals and managed to persuade his colleagues to go there to see the school, about 5Km away.
On the way, Piyathilaka made couple of telephone calls to fetch the principal, teachers and parents of those children and arranged a meeting with Mr. Ajith and this team
On arrival Ajith’s heart melted because as Piyathilaka mentioned, the school was in desperate need and there was no government support. The school building consisted of only the foundation with a solid roof & 4 concrete pillars. The desks and chairs were in the garden just on the sand. Fleas from sleeping dogs could not be removed from the sandy floor and would bite the children during classes. There were no toilet facilities for the children.
Observing the situation Mr. Abeysekera decided to assist whatever possible ways to develop the school and quality of education of the children. The rest has become a key part of the Aspirations story, and you can read about it here. In addition to running his family farm and a successful market garden business, Piyathilaka has become an employee of Aspirations in the region, a ‘point man’ organisating and reporting on Aspirations programs, facilitating requests, building, digging, cajoling, planting; a true community leader and a fine example of how with the helping hand the locals the locals can do it for themselves.
|Piyathilaka, Ampara District Community Organiser|