Thursday, January 06, 2005

Read-Write Sri Lanka Initiative

1. Read-Write Sri Lanka

A large number of schools in the northern, eastern and southern coastal belt have been completely destroyed by the tsunami. Read-Write Sri Lanka is a project started by volunteers in the Bethesda Maryland area led by Imalka Senadhira, an elementary school teacher there, and supported by Sarasali Fonseka. We, Rotary Club of Colombo Regency, have been requested to collaborate with them to rebuild ten destroyed schools. We are delighted to help and are currently discussing the formalities.
Read-Write Sri Lanka plans to work with international donor agencies such as U.S. Agency for International Development to identify the 10 schools that they will be renovating. Once the renovation work is completed, Read–Write Sri Lanka will be responsible for donating the school equipment and providing school supplies for children to go back to school.

2. Message from Imalka on “Read-Write Sri Lanka”
"Please take a moment to think about how education has helped you in your life. Think of several thousands of innocent victims that have been robbed of this opportunity, for no fault of theirs. Please think about sharing something - money or goods with these children. We are the grievers from a distance, they are the devastated victims. Let's put a smile on a little face.
Today, I have initiated Read-Write Sri Lanka Initiative together with the Rotary Club of Colombo Regency. Our project will initially re-equip ten schools in South (predominantly Sinhala), North (predominantly Tamil), and East (predominantly Muslim) of the island and provide school supplies to innocent, little children who have been left to care for themselves.
While gradually waking up from the horrible nightmare, I am thinking about the tens of thousands of children that are left orphans with no schools and no parents to motivate them. I can only picture them dropping out of education and becoming dependents of the nation. This is scary. This could create an unimaginable increase in unemployment and lead to deep poverty in the future. We have to take care of these children now.

Sri Lanka has always been proud of its high literacy rate. In fact, the estimated literacy rate in 2003 was 92%. We are proud of this because every citizen in Sri Lanka is a teacher. I became a teacher when I was 10 years old. My mother was actively involved in an Association that supported an orphanage in Galle - my hometown. I taught these children to read and write in English. I am sure I am not the only Sri Lankan child who was a student and a teacher, while growing up. For Sri Lankans, education is as sacred as religion or as important as the air we breathe. Please help our children - Education is not a choice, it's a must!

Imalka Senadhira
Elementary School Teacher, Bethesda, MD, USA

3. How the assistance will be delivered
Most of the schools in the North, East, and South coastal line are completely destroyed. To get an idea of the destruction, we have included pictures of Sri Sumana Jyothi School in Unawatunne, Galle – the South of Sri Lanka.

Rotary intends to work with U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID], U.K. Department for International Development [DFID], and German Technical Cooperation [GTZ] to identify these schools that they will be in renovating the physical infrastructure.
This initiative is a long term project. Your assistance will be used to equip these schools and provide school supplies to children, to get them back to school. We are in the process of identifying the schools and tabulating the many needs of these schools and children. A detailed plan will be available in a few weeks.

4. How you can contribute
Anyone wants to contribute school supplies or equipment, please hold on until we sort out the logistics. As you surely understand, storage in Sri Lanka is not a possibility right now. Please plan on your commodity contributions by collecting and storing any of the above items and informing us, so that we could contact you at the appropriate time.
You could also use the “donate by credit card” option at our site and make a note that it is for the "Read-Write Sri Lanka" initiative.

5. Contact persons
U.S.A - Imalka Senadhira +301-656-6919 or
Sri Lanka - Chamila Wicramasinghe at

For more information about Imalka Senadhira and Read-Write Sri Lanka, read this story which ran in the January 6th issue of The Gazette of Bethesda, Maryland:

17 January 2005

Read Write first initiative completed

We have received the following update from Imalka Senadhira from Bethesday, Maryland who with the help of Sarasali Fonseka in Atlanta, Georgia initiated the Read-Write project to help restart the lives of students of 10 damaged schools. Thank you. We look forward to working with you in taking the initiative forward.

he Read Write Sri Lanka (RW SL) initiative in the U.S. shipped 75 boxes of children’s clothes, shoes, linen, toiletries, toys, dry rations, etc. to Sri Lanka on January 14, 2005. This package is expected to reach Sri Lanka mid February. Rotary regency will collect this package and distribute them to children in selected schools in the north, south and east.

RW SL team says a big thank you to people who contributed in kind and all who assisted in sorting and boxing them. In particular Paul and Evette Lindler, Christopher Ingraham, Chetana Senadhira for loading the 75 boxes to the truck. Special thanks to Marc Lande and Stephen Fernando for driving the truck to New Jersey and Sunil Wijehewavitharana of Colombo Express Inc., the freight forwarder for shipping for free.

Each box had pictures drawn with encouraging messages from the American and Sri Lankan children including many brownies and girl scouts living in Maryland area. Photo below shows kids drawing these pictures. [More pictures will be posted in the gallery].

rw kids

Thank you friends, children and Volunteers for giving up your weekend to make a connection to the Tsunami affected children in Sri Lanka. RW SL is not only about giving, but the main idea is the connection - to keep our world a small place."
posted by harsha at 10:12 AM

20 January 2005

Read Write Sri Lanka Phase 2

Read Wrire Sri Lanka [RW SL] is now moving on the second phase of the initiative after the completetion of the highly successful first phase. The phase 2 goal is to raise 5,000 backpacks by September 2005. RW SL hopes to ship a container in early June, as the first stage of supplies collected.

Each child could prepare a backpack containing school supplies appropriate for him or her to last a child for as long as you wish – six months, one year. You can put what you use in school. The backpack may include school supplies such as pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, crayons, scissors, bound notebooks [loose paper is not used in Sri Lanka]. In addition, little toys, toiletries, hair ornaments for girls, socks and shoes [Sri Lankan schools generally use all white or black shoes/sneakers and white socks], shoes/sandals for out of school wear also would be useful to be included in the backpack gift.

RW SL would like to encourage partnerships with schools/classes for this initiative. Individual contributions are most welcome too. The 5000 backpacks will be distributed to children to have new school supplies and a backpack for the new school term. Rotary Regency will directly hand over these backpacks to the most needy children of the South, East, and north of the country. At present, Rotary Regency is working with the Ministry of Education of Sri Lanka and the Center for National Operations to identify the most needy children and schools. As soon as the formalities are sorted out, we will upload the list of schools on the rotary regency supported weblog

If anyone is interested in participating in this initiative, please contact Imalka Senadhira in the U.S. on +301-656-6919 or to discuss logistics and other formalities.

Note by Harsha:
Imalka had sent me a detailed document which I am unable to load on the blog, so please email her or Chamila at for same.
posted by harsha at 11:14 AM

20 January 2005

Read Write Sri Lanka donations now tax deductible in the US

The Read Write Sri Lanka program implemented jointly by a group led by Imalka Senadhira in the Bethesda, MD area and of the Rotary Club of Rotary Regency has now obtained tax deductible status though the good offices of Mr Nihal Gunewardene, president of the Sri Lanka Association of Greater Washington. Thank you.

U.S. residents can make tax deductible contributions to Rotary Regency - Read Write Sri Lanka initiative through the Sri Lanka Association of Greater Washington, a non-profit organization registered with the Internal Revenue Service. Please refer to

Please send an e-mail confirming donations to and, along with any preference for how the funds should be spent, and your full name and address. This will enable us to track of your donations and keep you informed about our progress and how the money is being spent.

Contributions can be made in any of the following ways:

By cheque:
Please make cheques out to SLAGW, with “Rotary Regency - Read Write Sri Lanka” in the memo line. Mail cheques to SLAGW, 1820 North Fort Myer Drive, Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22209.

By bank transfer: Please send bank transfers to account of SLAGW, Chevy Chase Bank, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. Routing Number 255 071 981, Account number 544 374 711. Please specify that the funds are intended for “Rotary Regency - Read Write Sri Lanka”.

By credit card: A credit card portal will soon be inaugurated at on January 19, 2005. Please choose the “Rotary Regency – Read Write Sri Lanka” option.

In Kind: Please contact Imalka Senadhira in the U.S. on +301-656-6919 or to discuss details and logistics of your contribution.

Direct Donations: If you want to send to Sri Lanka immediately and tax deduction is not important, you may donate through the different payment options via Rotary Regency Please specify that the funds are intended for “Rotary Regency - Read Write Sri Lanka”.
posted by harsha at 11:33 AM

3 February 2005

Cuddles for our children all the way from Alaska!

This is a letter Imalka from our Read Write Sri Lanka project got the other day with a whole lot of cuddles for our displaced kids. The gifts will arrive in the first consignment of the current phase of the project.

"I am writing to you from Badger Road Elementary, North Pole, Alaska. In response to the recent tsunami disaster our entire school established a gift fund raiser for orphan children in Sri Lanka. Students came up with the idea to bring in a new stuffed animal and write a brief note to attach to each animal to send to affected children. The out-pouring of generosity and concern expressed by our students has been amazing. The tsunami disaster has had a very emotional impact on our students and they were excited about doing their part to help other children."

Mrs Billie Murdoch
Badger Road Elementary School, North Pole, Alaska

Thank you Mrs Murdoch and all the kids for keeping our world a small place.

10 February 2005

Rebecca wants to help Read Write Sri Lanka

Rebecca Borjs, the 11 year old girl who made the headlines in Sri Lankan news papers with her generous donation of USD 5.00 is all excited to help raise funds and backpacks for Read Write Sri Lanka [RWSL], to help our children continue with their education. Imalka Senadhira of RWSL wrote a thank you letter to Rebecca, as soon as she saw the article in the newspaper. [see below]

Her letter said, "I was delighted to see your letter and to hear about your wonderful contribution, in the Sri Lanka newspapers. You made the headlines! What a special girl ...I think large hearted girls like you, will enjoy reading about the work I am doing to help the children of Sri Lanka. I have a 13 year old daughter, and she helps me with most of the work... Thank you once again for your generous contribution, it will help our people so much, and has already made every Sri Lankan very happy today."

Imalka had a call from Rebecca's mother soon after she received the letter and said how excited they all were to receive it! She received the letter in school and was able to read in front of her whole class! She now, wants to get her school involved in RWSL and who knows? She might be in Sri Lanka to distribute supplies personally!

Well done Rebecca.

Daily Mirror, 1 Feb., 2005
Thank you,

Amidst world funds for tsunami relief being talked of in millions and billions it was touching to see that concerned little children were also making contributions in a small way.

After all little drops of water make the mighty ocean. The People's Bank received this heart-warming letter from an eleven-year-old girl from the United States, attached to a cheque of US$5.

The Park Street branch of the People's Bank got this little note .

"I am Rebecca Borjas. I am 11 years old. I am writing from the United States because I felt sorry for the people who died in the tsunami. I want to give money to you so you can rebuild your towns, cities and to help your people who lost their family. When you get the money I am hoping that you can build better and safer homes so that people would be safe where they are. I know that many children died. I also want to help you get clean water. I am asking you can use the money I sent to get graves, tombs and safe water," the letter said.

Rebecca's address was given as, 55 Middle by Road, Lexington, MA02421, USA.

Daily Mirror 8 Feb, 2005

My dear Rebecca...

Remember little Rebecca from Laxington in the United States -- she touched the hearts of Sri Lankans with her five-dollar contribution towards tsunami relief.

Former Air Force Commander, now a peace activist Harry Goonetilke, moved by Rebeccas' compassionate gesture has invited her and her mum or guardian to be his guests in Colombo for 10 to 15 days.

"…I will undertake to take the two of you to whichever devastated area(s) you wish to travel to see things for yourselves and to interact with affected parents or children, if you so desire," Air Vice Marshall Goonetileke said in a letter to 11-year-old Rebecca Berjas.

In a letter to Rebecca, Uncle Harry said,

"My Dear Rebecca

You do not know who I am, nor, as to how much I was touched by your great contribution of $5.00, which was received by a bank here and sent to the 'Daily Mirror' newspaper, a leading English daily in Sri Lanka, to acknowledge with thanks. I suppose this has been done by now, as I read the details in a front page article of their newspaper of 1st February, 2005.

I think, just a big thank you alone is not enough for your thoughtful and spontaneous gesture, which I believe came from the bottom of your heart to help in some way to bring relief to at least one person/child affected by the massive tsunami tragedy that hit our country in living memory. The best way to describe it is the possible dubious world record we held for the biggest single train tragedy where more than 1,200 perished when the whole train was swept away from its rail rack by the merciless waves, in only one place down south approx. 50 miles from Colombo. In sum, the tsunami debacle affected 2/3 of our Island coastline.

Now, I believe that your grand gesture must be better appreciated. Hence, I invite you and your Mum or a Guardian to be my guest in Colombo for about 10 to 14 days where I will undertake to take the two of you whichever devastated area(s) you wish to travel to see things for yourselves and to interact with afffected parents/children, if you so desire.

All you have to bring is the required clothing, for I will take over both of you (or even three) at the Colombo International Airport on arrival and deposit you there, again on your departure. You all will be guests for the entire period, where all the inland travel arrangements will be made by me to enable you to go where you want.

If you can make it, our embassy in your country could be helpful to plan your itinerary although I can do it myself given the green light by you. As for dates, since you have school, I suggest any period before 13th April or after 16t April, 2005 but before our monsoon in October.

I think your only problem might be the cost of return air passages. Here, I would like to think that I may be able to find you a part of the money if the greater part for the two of you could be found at your end but I need to hear from you soon if this is necessary, so that I can approach some of my friends.

In the meantime, here’s me, my wife, children and grandchildren (7) wishing you, your Mom and Dad good luck and happy 'landings' in your habitat.

Affectionately Yours,
Uncle Harry

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