I have always wanted to make an impact on the society but being chosen as the Community Service Avenue Director was something I never expected. I still remember how overjoyed I was when Gethmi and Tharushika asked me whether I was able to take on the role and I am grateful for them for believing in me to handle such a position. I was a Rotaractor by then and had been the chair of only one project; “Let’s Talk Periods” and I still remember how the past Director of the Community Service Avenue Rtr. Sithmi Edirisinghe encouraged and guided me in handling it. As a warm, kind hearted and a very committed person, she taught me many valuable things throughout the project which helped me come this far in my tenure. From writing captions to reports, she took time to admire even my smallest efforts and taught me how to work with others as well as how to get people to work. She has always been helping me whenever I needed her help and I am truly grateful for everything she has done for the benefit of the Community Service Avenue.
Our very first project was “Save the Paws” in which we fed more than 400 stray dogs and cats from all over the country with the participation of more than 70 Rotaractors as well as non-Rotaractors. It was the very first project of our year and even though it started as a small project to feed animals, it eventually grew to become a wholesome project because we were lucky to encounter many people from all around the country who were eager to make an impact on the lives of these animals. This not only made our project a great success but also made us, Rotaractors, stronger and more resilient to work toward the betterment of the society.
Our second project was “Supipena Kakulu” in which we celebrated the world childrens’ day with the kids at the Sri Lankadhara Child Development Centre – this was a joint project with the embassy of Egypt. We did fun-filled games and interactive sessions with the kids and we donated stationary items to the kids including new & secondhand story books. It was an unforgettable day for the members of the organising committee as well as for the participants of the projects as we gained lot of fun singing and dancing with the kids and we were more than excited to have made an impact on the lives of orphan children.
From “Supipena Kakulu” we then moved on to “Maw Diriya” – A Nutrition Promotion Program for pregnant mothers at Aralaganwila MOH, Polonnaruwa. We chose Aralaganwila given that it has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Sri Lanka. As the first phase of the project, we conducted a nutrition awareness session together with a distribution of essential dry rations for needy pregnant mothers. The days we spent in Aralaganwila were so very precious to us since we were not only able to make a great impact on the lives of pregnant mothers but also could get a glimpse of the rural life, the alluring nature, serene rivers, authentic foods and the hospitality of the people. We are thankful to our brother Dineth Edirisinghe for providing us with accommodation, food and warm hospitality. With the conclusion of the first phase, the experiences we got from our endeavours made us go beyond providing nutritional foods and making pregnant mothers aware of their basic nutrition needs and delve into their real-life issues and circumstances which limit their access to better resources. With this intention, as the second phase of the project, we organised a field visit to Aralaganwila and met with pregnant mothers and their families and obtained information about their daily problems in order to provide them with sustainable solutions. It was also followed by a distribution of essential dry rations among their families. This also gave us a bunch of memories to cherish for life. We conducted “Ambalame Thala” as a Club Service event to collect funds for the project. We sang and sold food items and eventually it turned out to be a great success. During the field visit, we inquired the mothers about the economic status of their families, the effect of the current economic crisis on their day to day lives, the job opportunities available in the area, the skills that they have but haven’t been able to put into use as a career opportunity, their ideas about family planning and sexual health education and so on. It was such a wholesome experience for us, Rotaractors, to gain an insight into the lives of these marginalised people to find the best ways to help them. The medical staff of the Aralaganwila MOH were very supportive to us throughout the first and the second phases of our project. They conducted the nutrition awareness session for pregnant mothers at the MOH and guided us on other projects by informing us about their harsh conditions. They were also generous enough to supply us with a vehicle and a nurse for our field visit.
Project “Yaluwa” was our next project and this was a district project conducted by 4 clubs for kids suffering from Down Syndrome. We, the Community Service Avenue of the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo, Faculty of Arts, were assigned to conduct the talent show and the arts and crafts session. It was a whole new experience for us to witness the hidden talents of children and adults with Down Syndrome and we learned how amazing the people with Down Syndrome can become when given access to proper education and training on their preferred fields. I have a beautiful memory of the project Yaluwa that I will cherish throughout my lifetime and I am eager to share it with you all. As a club, we had to make a contribution of 50k for the project and we were trying really hard to get a sponsorship but ultimately, we were at a loss. We gave up on it and it was becoming uncomfortable to work with the other clubs knowing that we haven’t contributed to the project as others. Out of the blue, the day before the project our president Gethmi got a call from a company mentioning an email that they had got a few days earlier which had asked for a sponsorship. I was on cloud 9 when Dinithi informed me about this and me and my friend Muthu went to the company right after our lectures and we were nervous since we had never done something like that before. However, eventually, we could get them to give us the expected amount as a sponsorship and it really taught me that we should never give up until the very end because if we really need to do something, we will definitely find a way. I still remember how thrilled Kavindi and I were when telling the news to Gethmi. Those are the moments when you feel that all your effort really is worth it in the end.
Our last project “Mind First” was to be an awareness program on brain tumour but later we had to change it to an awareness project on the importance of maintaining good mental health. We collected testimonials from Rotaractors as well as non-Rotaractors on how they survived stressful situations. They talked through their problems and shared their experiences with the public and thereby helping to decrease stress feelings among others.
The journey thus far, as they say, has not been a bed of roses. We had to face many challenges and specifically with regard to finding sponsorships and donations for some of our projects. There were times when we had to give up on some projects due to various reasons such as lack of finances, exams, lack of time and lack of responses from joint clubs and so on.
However, I was never alone in my journey as the members of the EXCO and Board of Directors and my fellow juniors at the Community Service Avenue have been there for me at every single moment. Thank you Tharushika for always being there asking about updates and persuading me to go forward with the projects and especially for yelling at me for not sending reports on time. You are a great leader who is highly committed to your work (PS in a very annoying way sometimes) Thank you Yohan for always encouraging me to pull off the projects and supporting me by attending the projects whenever you could. Thank you Dinithi for attending the projects and lending a helping hand when I needed it the most. Also thank you for tolerating my messed up financial reports. Thank you Kavindi for always coming up with such marvellous ideas for projects and being there for the projects doing your best to make them a success. Thank you, Oshini, for encouraging me and admiring me with your kind words and being always ready to offer help. Thank you Heshani for being there to help me out with PR work whenever you could. Thank you, Sarasi, Gethmi, Jayani, Ranmali, Shihara and Tharini for always providing support whenever I asked for it. I also need to appreciate effort put in by the juniors who worked under the Community Service Avenue, I would never have done any of the projects without your support. I am more than proud to have had a team of great strength and enthusiasm when it comes to working for the society. Baagya, Lihini, Nirodha, Hasini, Manthini, Amandi, Dhanuji, Thimira, Sayuri, Senali, and there are many more that come to my mind. I apologise since this article is not enough to put all your names but I am truly grateful to all of you for your commitment to the work and I wish you all nothing but the best to go along your journeys with all the experiences you have got from our endeavours.
Finally, I would like to thank Shihara and Tharini again for giving this wonderful opportunity to dig into all the wonderful memories and to recall what we have done as a team. Concluding the article, I send my best wishes to the upcoming Community Service Avenue Directors; Amandi and Manthini. I have no doubts about your hard work and dedication to your work guys and I look forward to seeing how the avenue will be fared significantly better in the near future under your leadership.
Rtr. Buddhimali Parindya
Director of the Community Service Avenue
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