March 2015

Sri Lanka Tour Report in brief: Yasmin and I returned to Sydney late last week after a very successful tour of Sri Lanka. The entire itinerary was planned and arranged meticulously so that we could spend quality time with our volunteer leadership team, parents, children, supporters, medical authorities, government officials, bureaucrats etc. in order to seek advice, assess, discuss and plan future programs, projects and the expansion of VACD activities across the Uva Province of Sri Lanka.
 
Dear All,
 
Trust this finds all of you and your loved ones well.
 
Sri Lanka Tour Report in brief:
Yasmin and I returned to Sydney late last week after a very successful tour of Sri Lanka.
 
The entire itinerary was planned and arranged meticulously so that we could spend quality time with our volunteer leadership team, parents, children, supporters, medical authorities, government officials, bureaucrats etc. in order to seek advice, assess, discuss and plan future programs, projects and the expansion of VACD activities across the Uva Province of Sri Lanka.
 
The Uva province is divided into  2 districts, Badulla and Moneragala. These districts are then divided into 26 administrative sub-units known as Divisional Secretariats of which Badulla has 15 and Moneragala has 11. VACD presently has approximately 335 disabled children registered from 11 out of the 26 divisional secretariats for whom we offer various types of specific training and a variety of assistance. The Uva health authorities estimate that there are likely to be around three to four thousand disabled children in the Uva province, of which a disproportionately large number are believed to be in the Moneragala district and are in urgent need of assistance. We are in the process of gathering and analysing this data so that we can plan how we can assist these disabled children and their families who experience severe economic hardships and are regularly subjected to social isolation, discrimination, ridicule and stigma.
 
Thanks to the sound advice and promise of support and corporation we have since received from government officials and experts in this field, we have decided to coordinate VACD programs and projects in the Uva Province with various Uva Provincial Government ministries/departments given the sheer magnitude and enormity of the challenges that are ahead of us. Our Leadership Team will now design and plan projects and programs for VACD children in close consultation and with the assistance of the various provincial ministries such as Education, Health, Social Services and Probation and Childcare Services.
 
The VACD Centre in Bandarawela continues to provide children with education, life skills training, dancing and music training while the parents are given sewing, knitting, craft and other similar income generating training. The parents and the local community along with local businesses, medical and administrative authorities now play a critical and  visible role in most VACD activities. The charity has since established a “Parents Group” in Badulla with the likelihood of two more groups being established, one in Hali-Ela and the other in Welimada. At the very “core” of the VACD model is the training and empowerment of VACD parents who will eventually, with the assistance of the local community and government officials be responsible for VACD programs and activities in the various divisional secretariats across the Uva province. It is quite likely that a VACD centre will be established in Badulla in the very near future.
 
News in brief:
 
Educational Assistance Program- (EAP):
  1. The Educational Assistance Program (EAP) was implemented in February with children being given assistance on a needs and priority basis. A sibling of the disabled child would be given assistance under this scheme if the disabled child is unable to pursue his/her education.
  2. The need for educational assistance far exceeds the number of sponsorship pledges received by us. We have also encountered a situation where some who initially pledged their support are yet to fulfil their obligations or have since stopped fulfilling their commitment. We would look to extend EAP assistance only when we receive further pledges of support. Your continued support is critically important to us.
TOP PRIORITY: We need more sponsors for our Educational Assistance Program (EAP) to meet the significant demand for education related financial assistance as per above, requiring a monthly donation of A$20 or equivalent Rs.2,000 per child.
 
Fixed Term Deposit Program – (FTD):
  • We met with officials of the National Savings Bank both in Colombo and in Bandarawela who along with our leadership team are re-examining the best way to implement this program either as “Fixed Term Deposits” or “Trust Accounts”. We will keep you informed no sooner the final decision is made and the program is ready to be implemented.
Micro financing Program – (MFP):
  • A list of financing needs to commence/expand small businesses were submitted to us by the parents which we in turn shared with the Manger, National Savings Bank, Bandarawela so that his team and the VACD leadership team can evaluate and provide micro financing to parents who wish to enhance their family income in order to support their disabled children. We will keep you abreast of progress on this front.
Observations:
The change in overall attitude and a positive future outlook that has been gradually growing since VACD began to operate from 27th December 2011 is now quite visible. Uplifted spirits, positive attitude, joy and the determination of the children and their parents to join hands a make a difference in their lives is infectious and is gradually spreading across the province. The parents of VACD Bandarawela now act as ambassadors carrying the message across the province giving hope to others who like them need assistance and support.
  
CREDIT CARD PAYMENT FACILITIES: Please visit our webpage to make your donation.
 
We thank you all for your continued support, advice, guidance and generosity and for being part of our family who have embarked on this incredible and rewarding journey to reach out and help those who are less fortunate than us.
 
We bring to you greetings and the heartfelt gratitude and thanks from the children and parents of VACD Sri Lanka and add our personal thanks, best wishes and warm regards...Felix & Yasmin