Impressive Progress at Horizon School – Lanka Page July 03, 2002

Impressive Progress at Horizon School – Lanka Page July 03, 2002

 

IMPRESSIVE PROGRESS AT “HORIZON SCHOOL”

By Gamini Gunaratna, USA. , July 03, 2002

Last month on June 8th my family and I had the opportunity to see a musical concert staged by a group of kids in rural Mahawilachchiya, a village bordering Wilpaththu National Park, 40 km away from Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. This is a village that had been subjected to numerous unfortunate incidents in the past due to the “ethnic conflict” in Sri Lanka. The village survived and recovered. Thanks to the parents, most of whom are farmers, all the kids had a healthy smile. These talented kids are from the Horizon School of Mahawilachchiya, founded by the selfless effort of Mr. Nandasiri Wanninayaka.

We met “Wanni” before the concert and he showed us the New Computer Room he is building with the money (US$ 1500) he had received from Mr. Kumara Badhuge from Qatar. We were quite impressed with his efforts and efficiency in handling the funds and getting things done. We did not see any waste of resources. Unexpectedly, the Horizon kids have received another donation from Mr. Badhuge (a total of US$ 3,000) and a new computer from Mrs. Vayomi from the USA. You can see all the donations on the Horizon’s website.

Wanni explained his future plans for the Horizon kids in this rural part of Sri Lanka. It seems to me that he needs a great deal of support to achieve his goals. It is obvious that Horizon needs more financial help. Wanni also believes that moral and professional support from all expatriates is equally important. He said, “When they are in Sri Lanka to see their families, they can come and see our kids. That will give our kids the motivation to excel, knowing that somebody cares. Depending on their professional experience they can educate our Horizon kids. Give a one-hour seminar or talk about health. It may take one day of their vacation but I think it is worth a million to these kids.” His final goal is to send a few bright kids to MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the US. With our help these kids can do just that. They can have the same future as any city kid.

We really enjoyed our visit to Mahawilachchiya. The villagers treated us with a lunch and dinner with all the traditional food and “Sri Lankan traditional hospitality”. The Horizon kids entertained us into the night under the stars, performing beautiful dances and songs in their “Musical Concert 2002”, which they put on for their community.

As Wanni has requested, we are trying to form an advisory committee for Horizon. The goal of this committee is to raise funds and seek professional help from expatriate Sri Lankans or others worldwide. We can help to bring out the talents hidden in these youngsters so that they can step into the world and have a bright future. It would especially be nice to have a medical doctor as a member of the advisory committee to provide some advice for these kids. You can send your comments and ideas to Wanni.

As of today Wanni left his regular job with no pay leave for one year to help the kids. Wanni works for the “Slimline” garment factory, and I personally appreciate the understanding they have to give him leave for one year.

It is admirable to see one dedicated volunteer trying to brighten the future for these village kids and to see many other Sri Lankans helping him in his struggle.

Computer Room Dream Coming True – LankaPage May 28, 2002

Computer Room Dream Coming True – LankaPage May 28, 2002

COMPUTER ROOM DREAM COMING TRUE

By Nanda Wanninayaka, Mahawilachchiya, Sri Lanka – May 28, 2002

May 28, Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura: When we put the story about our ‘Dream Computer Room’ on our website, we never imagined that the dream would come true as early as this. The story was uploaded to the Net in February this year and there wasn’t much response except for some encouraging emails from well-wishers. But things changed dramatically when a feature about our site appeared on the LankaPage news site. The hits to the website went up sky high with more than 100,000 hits only in April.

After the feature appeared, Kumara Badhuge from Qatar contributed US$ 1500/= and promised he would contribute more if necessary. The building work resumed with that money and now it has gone up to the roof level.

Prabhath Dasanayaka, a construction engineer in the USA, contributed Rs. 10,000 when he visited the village and met the kids and the parents two weeks ago. He was greatly impressed and promised he would convince the Sri Lankan expatriate community in the USA and Canada once he goes back.

Harsha Perera of Oracle sent A$ 100/=. Initially Thushara Wijerathna from Microsoft, USA, had contributed Rs. 15,000/=. A Lion’s Club in Colombo had given Rs. 25,000 and Mr. and Mrs. Gaminitilake had contributed Rs. 20,000/= before the story went to the Net. Thus we have so far received around Rs. 225,000/= for the construction work.

According to the estimates, we may still need another Rs. 250,000/= to 300,000/= to finish the computer room. Original estimates had to be changed as the building material prices were changed drastically since 75 houses are being built in the village under a government project. This resulted in a price hike in materials like sand, metal and bricks and in the mason’s fees.

The budget of the room will be put online as soon as we finish the Horizon Annual Concert. All in the Horizon are very busy with organizing the Horizon kids’ annual concert these days. Building work also is going simultaneously.

Chula Bandara of the USA sent Rs. 10,000/= to Isuru, a promising student of the Horizon, after seeing a story about him on our website.

Ashraf Ahamat of Wattala, Sri Lanka, donated his laptop computer to the Horizon. Nuwan Samaranayake of the USA also sent a new multimedia computer with a UPS and some software to the Horizon kids. Even a floppy diskette is a luxury for these kids who cannot afford to buy them.

The kids are thrilled with the recent developments and working harder than ever as they see a glimpse of light about their future now. I thank all of you on behalf of the kids for contributing to Horizon.

Horizon Dream Computer Room Is Underway – LankaPage May 15, 2002

Horizon Dream Computer Room Is Underway – LankaPage May 15, 2002

HORIZON DREAM COMPUTER ROOM IS UNDERWAY

A SRI LANKAN PROFESSIONAL IN QATAR HELPS OUR KIDS

By Nandasiri Wanninayaka, Sri Lanka May 15, 2002

May 15, Mahawilachchiya: Since the story of The Horizon School appeared on the LankaPage and ColomboPage Sri Lankan news sites, I am getting a massive number of emails from all over the world. I couldn’t reply to all the mails personally, which resulted in some communication delays. To make things worse, I had to be hospitalized due to a terrible viral flu, which hampered all my work for three consecutive weeks. I am optimistic many who promised help would get back to me.

Surprisingly, I get emails from Singhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities praising our work. It seems to me that the Horizon kids’ innocent smiles have brought the Sri Lankans together at least once, after a long time. This is something they failed to do with peace marches, peace songs, peace prayers, etc., which only cost thousands of rupees. In Horizon, we do have a very few Tamil kids as well who learn together with the Singhalese kids under the same mango tree without any differences as Horizon is based on team culture. They love and respect each other.

When I got Kumara Badhuge’s first email I thought it would be like any other email, expressing the warmth of a Sri Lankan expatriate who felt homesick after seeing our kids’ website. But with his next email he said that he is sending US$ 1,500/= (SL Rs. 144,000/=), which is a big amount in Sri Lankan rupees. He kept the promise next day by sending the money through the SWIFT banking system.

The kids and the parents were over the moon when they heard it. They had been anticipating a positive response for more than a year as the foundation for the computer room was laid last year. Now the building work has been resumed. Two masons were hired and parents support the masons on a voluntary basis. The basic estimate done by a civil engineer revealed that the cost of the building would be around Rs. 600,000/=. With Mr. Badhuge’s contribution and some other contributions we have received around Rs. 200,000/= so far.

Kumara Badhuge has worked in Qatar National Bank, Qatar, since 1992 as a Senior Systems Analyst. He has been involved in software projects for the last four years and at the moment is engaged in a system replacement project.

Kumara was born in Polonnaruwa. That must have been the reason why he wanted to contribute to the Horizon School in such a big way since he must have undergone the hardships of learning in a dry zone rural area like Polonnaruwa, which is very similar to Anuradhapura. Both his parents were teachers. One should be blessed to have teachers as parents since in Sri Lankan culture teachers are treated as gods who are only second to one’s own parents. Kumara is the eldest in the family and has three sisters. His parents are living in Kandy now. He is married and has two sons, Hansika and Madhushanka. His wife, Sriyani, is again a child of a schoolteacher. Sriyani – may be due to the influence of her teacher-parents – gave her full support to help Mr. Badhuge to make the contribution as she thinks that even a rural village kid in Sri Lanka should get the decent education her own children get. Mr. and Mrs. Badhuge can treat these village kids as their own kids.

When contacted after the donation they made, they were very reluctant to get the donation publicized. Mr. Badhuge said, “It’s not a donation. It’s only a contribution. I do not like the word ‘donation’. The word ‘donation’ we use today always drives us in one meaning, which is ‘material contribution’. It does not cover another major contribution a person can make for the betterment of the world.”

“What you are doing and sacrificing is a million times more important than what ever we all do together,” Mr. Badhuge continued. “You have provided those kids in Mahawilachchiya the much-needed ‘moral support’ and ‘guidance’ in all these years. Also, whenever we see the word ‘donation’, people forget to look at the reason for contribution; they look at the size of the contribution. I believe a contribution of a single brick with a pure mind and the right objective is worth a million times more than a contribution of a million dollars with a wrong objective. And we have an obligation to contribute at least in a minute way to the motherland where we were born and bred. So, we can’t ‘donate’ money as the foreign countries do. We can only ‘contribute’ to the betterment of the motherland.”

“I strongly believe that I have a job to do in this world, that is to assist others, not only by material means but to make the world a better and a peaceful place for the coming generations.”

Story of a Dynamic Teacher – LankaPage May 06, 2002

Story of a Dynamic Teacher – LankaPage May 06, 2002

 

STORY OF A DYNAMIC TEACHER
WILPATTU JUNGLE GETS A COMPUTER TEACHER

Monday, May 6, 2002

May 06, Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura: It is an incredible and amazing story. But it is true.

Thanks to Dialog (a cellular phone company in Sri Lanka) and individual donors, the children of farmers in Maha Wilachchiya in the western borders of the once LTTE threatened village will gain access to the Internet in the future. Kids are creating websites and posting their stories.

This village, bordering the historic Tantrimale temple, is 40 kilometres from Anuradhapura and had been the scene of many massacres by the LTTE until recently.

But nothing had deterred a young schoolmaster to take information technology to the kids who had never seen a computer.

The school is called Horizon School and their website is ‘http://www.horizonlanka.org‘.

The dedicated young man behind this effort is Nandasiri Wanninayaka. He is the sole guide and hope of these children, whose parents make a living from their meager agricultural products.

Wanni has effected a drastic change in the life of these children and a new horizon is before them.

He started to work with the children with one computer and now has several computers given to the children with the help of donors.

He has become the pioneer in taking the Internet to a jungle village in Sri Lanka.

“The world is now open to them and they could reach it from their humble houses,” said Wanninayaka.

Mr. Donald Gaminithilake, an image technologist, and his wife Bhadra, who earlier lived in Japan, gave him a helping hand in web designing.

A businessman who had an insight about Wanni’s computer capabilities and his devotion to poor children offered a job at the Slimline factory in the Northwest.

Wanni works five days for his employer and makes a beeline to Mahawilachchiya during the weekend to supervise the kids.

The unique feature of the website created by him is the abundance of greenery – a very soothing effect for the eye.

It gives a taste of that part of the neglected and arid area, nestling among the vast tract of jungle teeming with wild elephants, leopards, sambur, wild boar and many other animals and birds.

The students now write their essays in English thanks to Wanni, who earlier was an English teacher.

Wanni hopes to get a couple computers for his kids and train them in computer assembly and troubleshooting. In addition he teaches these kids singing, dancing and music.

He has achieved the impossible and can be reached through wanni@horizonlanka.org.