Inspired by principles of compassion Kushil Gunasekera set about philanthropic work catering to the people of his home area in Seenigama in the early 2000s. He received support from such cricketers as Muralitharan and Vaas as well as many friends. I was fortunate enough to see the place and its activities in early 2003. I was also fortunate in not being at Seenigama when Kushil and others were assembled for a Childrens’ Scholarship Programme on 26 December 2004 — when the tsunami swept in and all of them ran for their lives. Several people in the locality died. Muralitharan was on the way to star in the festivities, but was fortunately turned back at Kalutara.
As we know, Murali continued to haunt opposition batsman thereafter, but also devoted considerable energy to tsunami relief work everywhere, especially through the auspices of the World Food Programme. He also has been a staunch supporter of Kushil Gunasekera’s Foundation of Goodness (FOG for short). Likewise, after the tsunami hit, several cricketers such as Shane Warne, Steve Waugh have supported the venture at Seenigama; while the singer, Bryan Adams, donated funds for a top-class swimming pool and the MCC was the principal sponsor of its Centre of Excellence.Significant levels of support to FOG have also been provided by the Laureus Foundation where Sir Ian Botham is an important hand. I reproduce two official memoranda presented on web by FOG and Laureus to indicate in skeleton manner what the FOG philanthropy in Seenigama entailed; and the initial lines of emphasis at the new venture at Mankulam on which Kushil has been working for over an year (as I discovered on my trips to Lanka in mid-2010).
Let me stress this: Kushil Gunasekera is the principal engine. Murali’s total commitment is an important aspect and the Laureus hand-cum-fund of aid is a vital pillar.
While Kushil has been conceiver and driving force of the Mankulam venture, it was Murali who was given the government land by His Excellency the President at the nodal point of Mankulam. In the result during the last three months Kushil and his FOG assistants have traveled by road on three occasions to Mankulam to donate
(1) 525 Essential school packs were distributed on the 6th January 2011.( 8 Exercise books, pencils, pens, lunch box, water bottle, uniform material, shoes, socks, instrument box as per requirement related to different grades);
(11) 125 bicycles including all necessary parts…..dynamo, carrier, lock, bell along with basket;
(111) 100 Essential home packs (Double bed mosquito net, 10-litre water can, 2 kerosene oil lamps, 1 Torch, 1 thermos flask)
to selected needy families as one part of their engagement with people in the area.
As with Seenigama, FOG, Kushil and Murali are in for the long haul. I make these points because of the ‘spin’ being presented this week by foreign reporters who highlight the centrality of celebrities to the neglect of those in the engine room. That is the force of the commodity market called “news.” I am aware that Kushil will not mind this form of skewed publicity in the least. The end-product of public support and delivered outcomes is what he values – and, indeed, what all of us should value. Michael Roberts, 28 March 2011
Seenigama Sport for Life Project – Galle, Sri Lanka
The Foundation of Goodness is a small but highly regarded NGO based in Sri Lanka. It provides a holistic community development approach including healthcare, education, sports, employability and enterprise support to 20,000 people from more than 25 villages in the rural south of Sri Lanka.
Established in 1999, the Foundation has expanded and is now exploring plans to replicate this community development model, including a sports academy, to bring peace and prosperity to conflict-affected communities in North Sri Lanka.
The Sport for Life project involves girls and boys, aged from six to 25 from the rural communities of southern Sri Lanka. In the early days, an estimated 800 participants took part in the project through various sports and community events as part of the Foundation of Goodness’ post-tsunami rebuilding and trauma relief work. The Laureus supported project then focused on building community confidence and participation through training, inter-village competitions and events. Sport was used as the means to tackle a wide range of social issues generating a positive impact on the region as a whole.
The Tsunami Disaster of December 2004 left large areas of Sri Lanka and Indonesia devastated. In the months after the disaster, as the people in the worst affected areas tried to come to terms with what had happened, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation organised a three-day visit to Galle in Sri Lanka in April 2005 led by cricket legend and Laureus World Sports Academy member Ian Botham, to explore the long-term potential of sport in healing the wounds of the devastated community.
As he toured the area, England’s greatest cricket all-rounder was visibly moved by the accounts of the disaster, and stated that: “It’s clear to me that sport can and should play a key part in giving a structure back to their lives, giving them a sense of hope and, most importantly, helping them to have fun again to try to put this devastating event behind them.”
Following the visit, the Laureus Sports for Good Foundation began working with the Foundation of Goodness to develop a programme that organised sporting activities and competitions across the villages worst affected by the disaster. This resulted in the development of the Seenigama Sport for Life Project based in Seenigama, near Galle.
The Sports for Life project began in September 2005 with a men’s volleyball competition that attracted hundreds of players and supporters. This was a very encouraging start to the programme as one of the key objectives of the scheme is to increase participation and communication amongst the people of Seenigama and its surrounding villages.
Today, the Seenigama Sports for Life project has moved on from a focus on post-tsunami healing and rebuilding, to a long-term commitment to community development and social change through sport. Working with over 1,400 children and youth, the approach combines sports training across eight rural schools in cricket, volleyball, swimming, netball, badminton and ladies cricket with programmes for sports participants that build crucial life-skills such as leadership, confidence, communication skills and sports etiquette. Programmes are organised by a youth forum and include community aid work programmes and community sports activities to bring people together and inspire all involved, as well as special life-skills workshops run by experts and health-professionals in the fields of nutrition, mental health, physiotherapy, fitness and physical well-being.
More information can be found on http://www.unconditionalcompassion.org or on our Facebook page ‘Foundation of Goodness’
Unity Through Sports Project – Mankulum, Sri Lanka
The Foundation of Goodness Learning & Empowerment Institute in Mankulum, Sri Lanka, is a replica of the successful post-Tsunami disaster community development project in Seenigama in the south of the island. It provides facilities and services to meet the needs of rural areas in the aftermath of 30 years of conflict, to bridge the gap between communities and to help develop peace and prosperity.
The Institute will cater for the housing, healthcare, educational, business development and empowerment needs of the local population through programmes of sports, community development, inter-cultural activities and skills exchanges.
The Unity Through Sport project provides innovative sports programmes in North Sri Lanka to help in bridging the gap between these areas and the rest of the country. The project will focus on utilising the power of sport to enhance life skills and build lasting peace.
The Institute benefits from the experience that the Foundation of Goodness now has in community development and disaster-response work. Based on the model established in Seenigama, Southern Province, this will be a holistic community development initiative designed to meet all the various needs and challenges faced by villagers as they strive to lift themselves out of poverty and into a brighter future.
The emphasis of this project will be to empower local people to tackle poverty through productive activities while building bridges with and between all cultures and communities for a united and prosperous Sri Lanka. [http://www.laureus.com/foundation/projects/item?id=2236%5D