Updates From Ceylon

3 Oct

Life in Sri Lanka does go on, and things do keep improving, with or without the help of foreign volunteers.

One of the most challenging parts of working in a foreign country is creating sustainable solutions. In other words, you might be working super hard on a project. Anticipating your departure, you’ll train a few locals to take over the work after you leave. But as soon as you do, it falls apart. Your project isn’t adopted and merged into “the usual way things are.”

It’s a story that has repeated itself over countless times throughout history, and Rohana is no exception. Even today, I wonder if they’re buying replacement whiteboard marker pens for the classrooms or if they’ve just taken the easier, cheaper route and switched back to blackboards. Whether the new library card system is still working. Whether Lakmal is still working as a carpenter apprentice or not. Whether that women’s bag-making workshop still meets every week to manufacture purses to sell in the West.

Which is why updates from Sri Lanka always delight me. It’s proof that there are still people helping out and that things are still pressing forth.

Here’s an update from the Ruhunu Sumaga Circle of the Deaf, Matara’s deaf association with whom I worked often:

on this month (September 23) we did celeberate our Deaf day at Uyanwattha Stadium. our All members ware come at there (295 members) and we all happy on that day. we will held on that day 3 programmes. its 1. blood Donation( wow..its hear to good news. because this is first time blood donation programme in deaf persons in sri lanka. our 56 deaf persons did give thier blood.) 2. eye glass Donation( free give for more than 35 members) 3. travel for get donation to our deaf Association on sep 21 and 22. Also we create new t shirt for our deaf association.

we start new bank for deaf persons Saving and getting loans its Name “SANASA”. we think its more help to our deaf persons future life.

A savings and loan bank for deaf people? A blood drive with deaf donors? All new things, and all wonderful signs of progress.

The blood drive.

A vision exam.

New shirts for the members.

In other news, last August the charity Rebuilding Sri Lanka (RSL) opened its new school, library, and IT center in Uragasmanhandiya, a poor rural area northeast of Ambalangoda. To date, this school has already nabbed 500 members for the library and and 150 children for English tuition classes.

RSL’s school opening.

But RSL is dear to me because they have been the biggest supporters of Anoja Weerasinghe’s dance troupe. Anoja is one of Sri Lanka’s most famous film stars, and routinely puts on stage performances throughout Sri Lanka. Last October, we watched her group put on Mother Courage, performed in Sinhala!

In creative collaboration with Wolfgang Stange of AMICI Dance Theatre Company in London, Anoja has been working for two and a half years with Rohana Special School’s deaf and disabled children, planning and rehearsing a new dance performance: Memories of a Monkey Boy. Based on several grassroots stories about the 2004 tsunami, the cast includes both Anoja’s professional dancers and Rohana’s children.

While I was in Sri Lanka, Anoja’s group came three times for multiple-day rehearsals in Rohana’s main hall. All day, parents and children would peer from outside through the main hall’s windows enraptured by the music, the dancing, the star power, and the talent. For many deaf and disabled Rohana pupils who were chosen to be part of the final cast for Monkey Boy, it’s been a tremendous source of self-worth as they realize they have just as much skill and stage presence as any other dancer.

Actors flee the “tsunami.”

A scene from Monkey Boy.

Sanjeewa has fun in the congo line.

According to RSL:

[Last September,] the cast of deaf and differently abled children put on an astonishing show leading to standing ovations from the packed auditorium every single night!! Two of the actors have since been offered acting parts on TV and film. RSL have been actively involved in supporting this school and their production since March 2005 so it was very moving for us to see these children shine so brightly and to be given opportunities which had previously been an impossible dream.

There’s now the possibility that Monkey Boy might have a showing in London next June. That’s right. Some of my kids at Rohana might be going to the United Kingdom!! We’ll need to raise money first so you’ll definitely be hearing about this again shortly!

So there you have it. Two updates–and proof that life goes on in Sri Lanka and that people are still helping make wonderful things happen.

6 Responses to “Updates From Ceylon”

  1. Adamzmom 03. Oct, 2007 at 10:33 am #

    It’s great to read the good news. I have a question about blood donation. Before this, how was deaf community able to donate blood? Great that they had their own blood drive!
    Keep the updates coming.

  2. Adam 03. Oct, 2007 at 10:36 am #

    I’m not sure. I think it means that this was the first blood drive targeted towards the deaf population. I hope deaf people were allowed to donate blood before then somehow, though!

  3. rosebudz 07. Oct, 2007 at 11:11 am #

    Did you take this picture of the three wheeler scootin down the street?

  4. Zoée Nuage 18. Oct, 2007 at 3:01 pm #

    Hello Adam, I have been searching something deaf related to volunteer at, and a friend suggested that I look at your blog. I read your entire blog overnight lol. I’m really interested and submitted a volunteer application the other day. I’m hoping I’ll hear something back sooner than later! :)

  5. rosebudz 12. Dec, 2007 at 12:29 pm #

    Adam, the picture of ACTORS FLEEING TSUNAMI should be sent to NY TIMES TRAVEL section on Sunday, where they run picture every week. This would be quite an enlightening one!

  6. Idetrorce 15. Dec, 2007 at 4:08 pm #

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you