The national dream of establishing a centre dedicated for children with disabilities became a little closer to reality on World Disability Day as the foundation for ‘AYATI – a centre of excellence for children with disabilities’, was laid ceremonially at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya. The centre which was initiated by Hemas Holdings PLC together with the Kelaniya Faculty of Medicine, held its groundbreaking ceremony under the patronage of the Chief Guest, Hon. Ruwan Wijewardene, State Minister of Defence and many other distinguished personalities, along with the members of AYATI Trust Sri Lanka.
As depicted by the name Ayati (which means ‘hope’ in Sanskrit), the centre will provide many of the facilities required to help children with disabilities to achieve their maximum potential and become fully integrated into our society. With the blessings of the Ministry of Defence, the Sri Lanka Navy has volunteered to provide the required manpower to build a 42,000 sq.ft. State -of-the-art centre, which will spread across 1.5 acres in the Medical Faculty grounds at Ragama.
This initiative, which will undoubtedly help our country in its journey towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, will be driven by the Department of Disability Studies in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya, together with Hemas Holdings PLC, and has already received excellent support from the government, private sector as well as other international organizations.
Commenting on this historic moment, Prof. Nilanthi de Silva, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya and Chairperson, AYATI Trust Sri Lanka said, “As we lay the foundation for the first national centre for children with disabilities, I would like to thank everyone who enabled us to meet a very important, but hitherto neglected, need in our country. Once operational, the centre will provide facilities for the initial assessment of children with disabilities, as well as appropriate interventional therapy, basic vocational training and life skills. It will also provide a state-of-the-art training and research facility for our undergraduate students and foreign graduates who regularly visit the University. As a national centre that will provide many different facilities under one roof, AYATI will brighten the lives of many parents who have children with disabilities, as well as others who care for them”.
“We at Hemas are pleased to launch an initiative of this nature with the Faculty of Medicine Kelaniya to address a much needed requirement in the country. Our role in this project will be solely to facilitate funding and sponsorship towards the proposed AYATI centre which will be initially funded by Hemas. We are thankful to our partners Ernst & Young, TRIAD and MICD Architects for providing their services free of charge towards this noble cause. While we continue our fight in creating a better world for these children, we invite all other corporates and business partners to join us and be a part of this much needed facility in Sri Lanka,” said Mr. Abbas Esufally- Group Director of Hemas Holdings PLC and Deputy Chairperson AYATI Trust Sri Lanka.
AYATI Trust Sri Lanka also received enthusiastic support for this national initiative when they recently made a presentation to the Caucus for Children in the Sri Lanka Parliament. In her statement to the Caucus, Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Caucus for Children stated, “We will give our fullest support towards this initiative, considering this as a timely and important issue which has not been given proper consideration in the country. The Caucus wishes to thank the private sector for initiating this project and will seek support from all relevant ministries and departments to make it a success”.
The Centre will be managed by an eminent Board of Trustees, chaired by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine University of Kelaniya, and will also have support from cricketing legends Kumar Sangakkara and Roshan Mahanama, who will play a crucial role as trustees and spokesmen for the AYATI trust. They will join a national campaign to create better awareness among the general public of the needs of children with disabilities, and raise the support necessary for construction of the facility within the projected period of 12 months.