‘Stop the Spread -Beyond COVID-19’ was an initiative by the Rotary International District 3220 to help combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Sri Lanka. It was conducted for the purpose of bringing young Rotaractors’ together to help flatten the curve by spreading awareness and raising funds for the less privileged. The project focused on helping small businesses and schools in low-income areas. One part of the project focused on helping schools reopen while the other focused on helping chosen business entities to create COVID-19 controlled environments and obtain the SLSI Certificate.
As the Rotaract Club of the University of Colombo Faculty of Arts, we opted to take part in the ‘Back to School Donation Drive’, which focused on aiding schools from low-income areas reopen. Under this part, the club was required to help one of the schools from the list provided by the District committee.
Initial discussions and communications about the project from the Rotaract District Committee started in July of 2021, but due to the prevailing situation of the country, the start of the project was delayed to November. Afterwards, all instructions regarding the project were communicated to the respective Rotaract clubs and we were advised to complete the project before the 31st of January 2021.
Our school of choice for the project was the Batawala Primary School in Padukka. The school is located in a low-income area in Padukka with a student population of between 80 to 90 children in the ages ranging from 5 to 10 and about 10 staff members. Our initial visit to the school was conducted on the 3rd of November, where we acquired a list of items that was required by the school.
We assisted the school in two stages, involving another project of our club, by the name of ‘Mithudam 2.0’, under which the club donated dry rations to the households of the school, and it was conducted as an extension from the existing club project.
Under the ‘Donation Drive’, we took the initiative to collect funds for the project. We reached out to a charity by the name of ‘Angel Amma Foundation’. This organization took the initiative to sponsor the list of required items products as mentioned by the school. The list of essentials mostly consisted of masks, face shields and other sanitary items that would aid the school to continue their activities in a COVID controlled environment. After organizing the list of items to be donated, we organized an awareness program to be conducted along with the donation.
The awareness was conducted by the Rotaractors of ROCUOCFOA on the 24th of January 2022 with the onsite participation of 5 Rotaractors. It focused on educating the students on the appropriate hand washing practices and awareness about social distancing. Since the students were between 5 to 10 years of age, it was conducted in a friendly manner with instructions that were easy to understand. We also made sure that the program was conducted in small groups of 10 to 20 students, taking 15 minutes per session. After the project, some refreshments were also presented to the students with the donations of club members.
The project was chaired by Rtr. Yeshani Fernando with the participation of ten Rotaractors. The project objectives ranged from aiding the smooth continuation of education of underprivileged students of low-income households, educating young students about COVID-19 prevention, and aiding underprivileged households overcome the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic. The project focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education and Reduced Inequality.
The project was a good experience for all involved and was a most rewarding community service project. The contribution of the Angel Amma Foundation and the help provided by the ‘Mithudam 2.0’ project team was also immensely helpful to make this a more engaging experience. The Batawala Primary School is a low-income school and while the school is very clean and organized, it can use more sophisticated facilities and is looking for sponsors who are willing to support the uplifting of its facilities in order to promote a better-quality education for its kids. The school is situated in an area surrounded by nature and the staff and students are very diligent in education.
All in all, it was a rewarding experience, and I would encourage others as well to consider supporting this school with future community service project as it will be a most rewarding and fruitful endeavour. I always say that community service should not be about charity but about providing empowerment and support. With these ideals, community service can transform into much more than one-off charity projects.
– Rtr. Yeshani Fernando
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