TRAILS Walk from Dondra to Jaffna in Aid of Pediatrics Cancer Ward in Jaffna Hospital

Rajah Kuruppu,  in the Daily News, 26 December 2011

A recent event that underlines the innate good nature of man was the great walk from Dondra in the South to Jaffna in the North covering a distance of 670kms to generate funds to build the Paediatrics Cancer Ward in the Jaffna General Hospital. The walk named Trail, a journey of 27 days was undertaken from July 1 to 27. The Trail was initiated by the Colours of Courage Trust, a nonprofit organization which from its inception in 2008 has dedicated itself to provide the infrastructure for the treatment of cancer in Sri Lanka, a noble task where early detection and care could save numerous lives.

A noteworthy feature of this walk was that numerous people, rich and poor, young and old, spontaneously supported the walk which symbolized a noble gesture providing relief to children in the North who are afflicted with cancer. Some walked a part of the distance to record their support for a noble venture. There were others contributing in cash or kind to raise the necessary funds for the Pediatric Ward.

The brains behind this noble exercise was Sarinda Unambowe, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a leading commercial organization who with the support of his friend and colleague, Nathan Sivagananathan, also the CEO of a successful business undertaking and Director of the Colours of Courage Trust, launched this most worthy project. The willing support and generosity of many others enabled the vision of Sarinda to be made a reality.

The walk captured the imagination of a vast cross-section of the people of this country. It yielded Rs 186 million up to early November 2011 but what was worthy of note is that it did not come from a few of the most affluent but from a large cross-section of the people.

From a Buddhist stand-point, it is significant that a majority of those who participated in this great effort were Buddhists indicating their adherence to those qualities emphasized in the Dhamma, namely, Metta and Karuna or goodwill and compassion towards all living beings without any discrimination. In this case, these qualities were generously extended to the Tamil people of Jaffna who have suffered most from the ravages of three decades of war. This endorses the contention of our beloved Foreign Minister, the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, who declared to the world that the Sinhala people and large are not racists.

It is unfortunate that this great event did not receive in adequate measure the publicity and recognition that it so richly deserve both at home and abroad. At a time that Sri Lanka is being severely criticized regarding Tamil civilians killed or wounded by the repulsing of terrorism, this noble event should have been highlighted to reveal the overall humane nature of our people.

It was heartwarming to observe the popular support for this great walk and its objectives from all walks of life. During the walk, it is reported that a man shirtless, emerged from a mud hut to put a few rupees to the trail till. Furthermore, schoolchildren from their savings gave whatever they could for this noble cause. Schoolchildren lined the streets to clap and wave at the walkers while school bands from numerous schools performed to encourage the walkers. The bands were also playing for the children in Jaffna and the North afflicted with cancer and to provide some entertainment so as to offer momentary relief for the walkers from their pain and agony.

Well-known cricketers, Mahela Jayawardena former Captain, Tilakaratne Dilshan present Captain and bowler Dilhara Fernando were among those who joined this walk, on certain days as support for the walk. Eighteen walkers covered the entire distance of 679 kms over 27 days without a break. With swollen and damaged feet, they were encouraged by the invaluable cause for which they had committed themselves. Sarinda’s father, Stanley Unambocwe, at 79 years walked for 18 days with a short break in between.

We generally tend to look upon successful business magnates to be over-conscious of material gains and neglect social responsibilities, but these pioneers were of a different mould. They not only organized the walk but many of them walked the entire distance spanning 27 days and 670kms. Twenty six others achieved this feat with great discomfort for an outstanding cause.

The government has to be commended for taking decisive action to end terrorism that reigned in the island for three decades and the substantial economic development that is taking place today. However, there has been a sharp deterioration of moral and spiritual values, both in Sri Lanka and in many other countries, with the rise of the underworld, abundant violence and serious threats to life and property. Corruption has become the order of the day. It was earlier confined mainly to the public sector but now unfortunately it is penetrating the private sector as well. There is also the abuse of power by those in authority to the detriment of the welfare of the country and its people. Some are being harassed because of their views and actions when what is require is tolerance and patience as advocated in the Dhamma. The silence of religious leaders, including the Maha Sangha, in this sad situation is most disturbing.

In sharp contrast, we have the attitude of the King of Thailand in his dealings with the people.

When the army came to ensue that the Palace was safe and not adversely affected by the recent major floods in Bangkok his response was that there should be no special treatment for the Palace, but to assist the people who are suffering from the deluge. It is said that he has always wielded power and authority for the welfare of the people.

It is heartening to note that there are dedicated people ready to initiate projects or good causes and the general public willing to give a supporting hand when the cause is noble and the sincerity of the organizers are impeccable.

The recently concluded, walk, the Trail, was above all a triumph for the innate good nature of man. We salute the organisers and all those who participated and supported this noble event in whatever way they could in the true Buddhist spirit of Metta and Karuna – goodwill and compassion for all living beings without any discrimination. Let this walk be an inspiration to others to engage selflessly in good deeds of this nature.

Global warming, natural disasters, climate change and health: Other ways of reducing GW include less use of paper by encouraging communication on-line and re-cycling of paper. Re-cycling of garbage and production of biogas and fertilizer is another example of an environment friendly venture. Concept of minimalisation should be popularised so as to reduce the usage of fuel-powered personal items. As demonstrated in most Western countries and China, cycling should be encouraged by providing cycling lanes in urban areas. If public transport is improved, the need for the use of private motor vehicles would be reduced thereby consuming less fossil fuels. In Colombo, the results of terrible traffic jams during the rush hours is a good example of environmental pollution at it’s worst, reduction of work-hours and wastage of personal finances.

Web Editor’s Note: Way back in the middle of the year I was approached by email quite independently by Skanda kumar up in the hills, Singham in Vavuniya and Renton de Alwis in Kiula –all recommending this project. It was something towards which I gladly contirbuted [and note here that a receipt was duly received]. It was by pure chance that i met Sarinda Unamboowe at a relative’s wedding in Colombo and iscovered thta he had got on warmly with Singham when the latter joined the walk at Vavuniya. Even at that point I was not aware that SARINDA himself was key a figure in thinking up this venture and organising it.

From personal knowledge I can tell the world that SINGHAM has been one of the unsung heroes of local NGO relief work in the north and east after the tsunami and thereafter in assisting the IDPs at Menik Farm after the alst stages of Eelam War IV. It is therefoe serendipitous that Sarinda Unamboowe and Singham should have met, walked together, and become machang.


Filed under communal relations, cultural transmission, life stories, reconciliation, rehabilitation, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, tolerance, voluntary workers, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes

3 responses to “TRAILS Walk from Dondra to Jaffna in Aid of Pediatrics Cancer Ward in Jaffna Hospital

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