Seenigama and Community Aid Tourism.
It’s hard to imagine that it’s been almost five years since the horrendous Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. So many lives lost and livelihoods destroyed. The wrath of Mother Nature was unleashed on innocent lives in such a destructive way that a beginning thereafter seemed unthinkable for many. Out of this misery and devastation was born the `Foundation of Goodness’, a movement of goodwill and `unconditional compassion’ that has helped thousands of families affected by the Tsunami in the Seenigama area on the South cost. Founded by Kushil Gunasekera, whose ancestral home serves as the nerve centre of this project, the movement reaches out to men, women and children strengthening their inner being, their skills and knowledge, and creating a brighter future for each and every one of them.
I visited the foundation’s headquarters in Seenigama on Saturday 12 September because Red Dot is keen to set-up a long-term partnership to develop Community Aid Tourism, a new concept of travel for those people wanting a holiday that is a little bit different than the archetypal two weeks on a poolside sun lounger. We’ve realised that more people are open to the idea of a few days relaxing and a few days participating in really good grassroots community projects like the Foundation of Goodness. So Kushil and the RDT team are now working out exactly how we can help create real life-changing experiences and build long-term partnerships with people all around the world.
When I arrived, bleary-eyed after an early departure from Colombo, the village was already buzzing with activity. Young men and women learning web & graphic designing, electrical wiring, dress making, hair styling, English language and business development skills; mothers and their infants attending the Paediatric clinic; the village U13 cricket team playing against another school in the magnificent Seenigama Oval – built with assistance from Surrey CCC – that has been built alongside a 23-meter swimming pool donated by Bryan Adams. There was much excitement over the women’s cricket team which came together for the first time on that Saturday. Much has been achieved through sports and the likes of Murali, Chaminda Vaas, Shane Warne to name a few, have all played an active role in coaching the kids and providing financial support. Ian Botham was being expected soon for a week’s cricket coaching camp. Soon, Kushil hopes to extend the activities to the North and East coast which is desperately in need of the Foundation’s healing touch.
As the movement goes from strength to strength, the need for financial support as well as those willing to donate their time and knowledge is great. There are thirty odd programmes that one can get involved in which are described at length on their website: www.unconditionalcompassion.org . I was drawn to the `heartbeat village’ a project by a tranquil river with a small library that benefits so many village children and adults. The few books on the shelves were well read. The need for new titles seemed dire. I left Seenigama that afternoon planning to return soon with boxes full of interesting books.