Disability in Sri Lanka is a matter of great concern. As revealed in a survey carried out by the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) in 2011, 8.7% of the total population of the island comprised persons with disabilities.
The census details all persons with disabilities of a variety of age, sex, and economic backgrounds. However, those from impoverished environments struggle with their disability as it often defines their identity, primarily becoming an obstacle in accessing education and thereby preventing them from moving further in life and availing opportunities.
Persons with disabilities have been consistently marginalised in Sri Lanka and are often denied opportunities to participate effectively in society.
Kaushalya from Ampara is a 17-year-old girl ready to face her GCSE Advanced Level (A/L) Examination and since birth, she has suffered with locomotor disability, having been born without her hands and legs. Kaushalya comes from an extremely impoverished family, where her father is unable to support the family and her mother has been forced to take up the financial burden while also taking care of Kaushalya.
Kaushalya’s care up until now had involved her mother carrying her from place to place, and as a girl in her teens, it became progressively more difficult for her mother to carry her as she had been doing for the last 17 years. As such, she had asked for aid on social media, pleading for someone to lend a helping hand.
This is how Senura Yapa Senadhipathi, a student of The British School in Colombo, having just finished his Ordinary Level (O/L) Examination, saw Kaushalya’s situation and proceeded to make arrangements where on 15 June, he donated a wheelchair for her. Senura shared that the wheelchair is a temporary setup; in order to effectively assist her, they have made arrangements to gift her with prosthetics in two weeks’ time.
“Kaushalya’s mother badly wanted someone to help her daughter by supporting her with a wheelchair and also limbs. She actually wanted legs only, but after seeing that this girl is without hands, my father Nissanka Senadhipathi thought to help her with that too.
“She is a very intelligent child who has done her O/L exams as well and has passed six subjects. She can also paint and draw very well. All she wants to do is be independent without being a burden to her mother who has been carrying her throughout her entire life. I wanted to make a donation anyways, in whichever way I could, and my father wanted me to attend to this donation personally,” Senura shared.
Senura therefore spearheaded carrying out the project courtesy of his father’s assistance. He shared that from a young age, he was dedicated to lending a helping hand to anyone in need, as his family was often involved in charitable programmes for shelters, in purchasing medicine for the Cancer Hospital, etc. He stated that this impacted him greatly as he has continued that work into his teens. “I am a child who has been charitable ever since I was very young, which is a result of what my parents do. So this practice is not new for me,” he said.
In addition to the wheelchair donation, he was also involved in distributing around 30 dry ration packs to those struggling to gain access to essentials due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He stated that he made the deliveries himself, and following the arrangement of the packs, drove around Colombo to distribute them.
We asked Senura what he hopes to gain from the charitable acts he has dedicated his life to and what he hopes his peers would take from it. He responded: “I just want the message to go to other people born into privileged homes in Sri Lanka; to help these kinds of poor and disabled people.
“I didn’t do this to gain any recognition or popularity or some sort of personal status, but rather to pass the message to all who can do something, to ease the suffering of our children and the needy in this country.”
Photos: Eshan Dasanayaka