VACD May 2020 Newsletter

Dear Friends, Colleagues, Supporters and Collaborative Partners,

Trust this finds all of you and your loved ones safe and well.

We thoughtfully delayed publishing our regular monthly newsletter post the self-funded tour by Yasmin and myself in February to Sri Lanka, conscious of the challenges and difficulties faced by many and the need for those working from home to have one less email in their inbox to browse.

VACD Sri Lanka tour highlights in brief:

Visit to Chitra Lane school for special children in Colombo:

(Mrs. Delysia Gunewardene, Ms. Nishalie Fernandopulle, Dr. Manel Goonasekera & Ms. Nirosha Karunatilaka). This school was founded by Mrs. Delysia Gunewardene 52 years ago and will train specialist teachers for VACD sometime soon. Mrs Gunewardene recently published her book ‘The Chitra Lane Way’ (a definitive approach to empowering children with special needs in Sri Lanka) in English, Sinhalese, and Tamil, which is being used as a textbook for training special needs teachers.

Courtesy call to the Australian High Commission Sri Lanka:

We met with Ms. Danielle Cashen – Second Secretary Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka to apprise her of the VACD mission, our present projects & programs, and future initiatives.

Visiting our collaborative partners:

We met with Mr. Sharad Sri, Mr. Tharanga Gamage and Mr. Asanth Sebastian of Ataraxia Capital Partners who donated five used units of desk top computers for our VACD Bandarawela and Badulla centres.

Visit to the VACD/ Sir Robert Clark centre for Children with disabilities Bandarawela:

We had meetings with the leadership team, staff, parents, children and the young VACD club members to review ongoing projects and programs and plan and implement new initiatives.

We have decided to increase the number of specialist teachers at each centre and appoint Young VACD Club Members (some of whom have disabled siblings with us) as Assistant Specialist Teachers once they have been trained. The recommended ratio of teachers to students is 1:6. This program is given the highest priority as we presently have only one specialist teacher at each centre.

Visit to the VACD/ Dora Jeanne centre for Children with disabilities Badulla:

  • The VACD Badulla centre has turned out to be a model centre thanks to the dedication and commitment to our mission by the specialist Teacher Ms. Manjula, Director Mr. Kumarawansa, Young VACD Club members, the support and dedication by parents, medical staff and the local community.
  • The Lions Club of Badulla donated spectacles to some children that were specially dispensed for them on a need’s basis.
  • It was heart-warming to listen to the Young VACD Club members from Badulla pledge their support for our humanitarian efforts, be advocates of our mission and help dispel community and social myths, superstitions, and discriminations against children with disabilities and their families.
  • We were deeply moved to learn that a family with a child with disabilities who lived quite a distance away from Badulla had moved close to our centre so that their child could have access to our facilities.

Meeting with the Secretary Uva Provincial Council and the Ministry of Health Uva:

(Mr. P B Wijeyarathne – Chief Secretary, Mr. Anil Wijesiri – Health Secretary Uva, Dr. Amitha Sumanasekara – Asst. Secretary Health Services Uva, Ms. H.C.A.H. Priyanthi – Director & Commissioner Social Services Uva & Ms. G W C S Priyabhashinie – Probation & Childcare service Commissioner Uva)

VACD and the Uva Provincial Council have agreed to establish a formal collaborative partnership so that we could combine our resources and expertise under a Memorandum of Understanding and work to uplift the lives of children with disabilities and their families across the Uva province.

The Chief Secretary has decided to adopt VACD governance, compliance, code of conduct, accountability, transparency, anti-money laundering, child protection policies etc. across all relevant ministries in the Uva Province.

Rehabilitation Camp, Health, Eye & Dental clinics at the Bandarawela Town Hall:

  • A remarkably successful rehabilitation clinic was held at the Bandarawela Town Hall for our VACD children and parents by specialists from the MJF Charitable Foundation organised by VACD & Dr. Gopi Kitnasamy – Head of Rehabilitation Services at MJF. A team of experts in physiotherapy, trainers in early detection, posture and feeding and general care of children with disabilities etc. not only provided specialist guidance and services but interacted warmly and lovingly with our children and families and donated 11 paediatric wheelchairs to eligible VACD children.
  • Huge thanks also to the mobile Dental Unit from Badulla Hospital and to Vision Care, Bandarawela – these organisations attended to around 75 children with disabilities who needed check-ups and dental work.
  • Hats off to our very own Young VACD Members’ Club youngsters who worked tirelessly to ensure all the children who attended and their families were registered for the day’s services with the minimum delay, received refreshments and a meal etc. and were taken good care of by the specialists and at the clinics.
  • A big “Thank you” to our dedicated and dynamic VACD Sri Lanka leadership team, staff and parents who continue to tirelessly work as a close-knit team to ensure that all our programs work well, and the mission is successful.

Visit to Equality-based Community Support & Training (ECSAT) in Galle:

(Prof. Chandrani Liyanage, Mr. David Kimber, Ms. Fran Siemensma & Mr. Lakshika de Silva) ECSAT employ specialists (speech therapist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist) from the local hospitals to attend on a regular basis and provide one-to-one therapy for the children while some capable adults who were former students are employed at the centre. Please extend your support to ECSAT who are doing work similar to VACD to uplift children with disabilities in the Galle region

Visit our collaborative partners the National Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy & other developmental disorders in Rajagiriya:

(Mrs. Dilani Gopi – Centre Manager & Dr. Gopi Kitnasamy) Dr. Gopi Kitnasamy has offered to train our specialist teachers at this centre given that they are well established, structured, administered and resourced and is an ideal location and opportunity for our VACD trainee teachers to have hands-on training under their expert guidance.

Visit to the Ayati centre in Ragama:

The newly opened Ayati Centre for children with disabilities typically sees between 100 and 200 children daily (referred by paediatricians, Social Services, word of mouth, etc), who seek their numerous free services for special needs children, among them: speech, auditory, occupational, physio, corticovisual impairment, psychology and psychiatry therapies.

Dr. Samanmali Sumanasena, Dr. Tamara Handy and the specialist team along with Col Wimalasurendra – Resident Manager at Ayati centre have offered to train specialist assistant teachers from amongst the Young VACD members Club at their facility in Ragama, assist with logistics and follow up this training with regular supervision.

Other meetings:

We took the opportunity to meet with our sponsors, supporters, and collaborative partners: Mr. Neil Fernando (Chairman of Neil Marine), Mr. Henry Fitch (Managing Director of Teardrop Group of Hotels), Mr. Sunil Perera (Gypsies), Dr. Naj Nagendra (philanthropist) from LA, the Team from Foundation of Goodness led by Mr. Kushil Gunasekara & Ms. Fazana Ibrahim, Ms. Shiromi Masakorala (Executive Director of Hemas Outreach & Ayati Trust), Mrs. Rohini Nanayakkara (former General Manager at the Bank of Ceylon), Paediatric consultants Dr. Chaminda Liyanage and Dr. Tiraj Mendis, Mr Somadasa Palihawadana (ex-colleague Bank of Ceylon & EAP Sponsor), Mrs. Gaya Hapuarachchi – (Leadership Training Specialist), Mr. Tissa Jayaweera (Managing Partner of TJ Associates) and other potential supporters of our mission while on this tour.

Our Six Top Priorities:

  1. Train and allocate 4 more specialist teachers to our two centres to devote closer attention to children with specific needs.
  2. Provide specialist furniture and equipment for these centres.
  3. Support impoverished single parent families with A$ 25 or equivalent per month under our “Family Assistance Program – FAP”.
  4. Assist children with academic potential who are from impoverished families under our “Educational Assistance Program - EAP with A$ 25 or equivalent per month.
  5. Open more VACD centres in impoverished rural areas where there is a high concentration of children with disabilities and provide them with critical rehabilitation, support services and training.
  6. Work closely with the local medical and provincial and local government authorities to reach out to children living in remote, rural, and impoverished areas and provide them with critical assistance, support and services.

Please support us in our efforts to make a difference in the lives of children who need your support and assistance. 86% of donor funds go directly and 12% indirectly to benefit the children and their families while admin costs remain anchored around 2% because of our unique administrative model. We keep our overall costs down because our mission is administered by a team of dedicated and devoted volunteers. Donations to VACD are tax deductible in Australia and the USA.

Please join us on this benevolent journey:

Please reach out to us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. support our initiatives and share this newsletter with your family, friends, loved ones and colleagues so that together we can make a difference in the lives of children with disabilities, one by one!!!

Our sincere thanks to all of you for your continued invaluable support, guidance, counselling, and assistance and for being part of this incredible, challenging, immensely rewarding, and fulfilling journey.

Many thanks, best wishes and warm regards…. Felix

Felix Stephen

Chairman of the Board of Directors - VACD Ltd. Sydney – Australia -
Member of the Advisory Board – VACD USA –
Member of the Advisory Board – VACD Sri Lanka
Senior Associate – Cognoscenti Group – Sydney – Australia-
Consultant - Investment Committee - Lonsec - Sydney – Australia -
Member of Investment Committee - Arrive Wealth Management - Brisbane – Australia -
Consultant - Global Financial Market Investment Research & Investment Strategy
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.