19th September 2016, Colombo: In an effort to improve the quality of life and independence of children with disabilities, special needs and learning disabilities, Hemas Holdings PLC together with the Kelaniya Faculty of Medicine, announced the launch of their latest social responsibility initiative, ‘AYATI’ – a centre of excellence for children with disabilities. The name AYATI is derived from the Sanskrit language and means ‘hope’.
The AYATI centre will provide opportunities and hope for children with disabilities to achieve their maximum potential and be fully integrated into our society. This initiative will address a burning national issue prevailing in the country, by establishing a national centre of excellence to provide these children with multidisciplinary care.
The centre will be set up at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya at Ragama, as it is the only medical faculty in the entire Asian region that has a Department of Disability Studies, which offers a multidisciplinary team for the care of children with disabilities. It is also easily accessible by public transport as both the railway and bus stations are in close proximity to the Faculty premises.
Shedding light on the current plight of this National issue, Prof. Nilanthi de Silva, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya said, “Disabilities are on the rise worldwide for multiple reasons. I am glad that we have launched this project to address a national need in the country with a vision to enable children with disabilities to reach their unique potential. At present we run a small clinic with minimum facilities where approximately 1,500 children are registered. The proposed centre will deliver services to a larger community, providing initial assessment followed by interventional therapy where necessary, along with basic vocational training and life skills. Medical assessment, speech and language therapy, audiology and occupational therapy as well as physiotherapy, will be available at the Centre under one roof.
Prof. Nilanthi de Silva further added, “We are also fortunate to receive a proper training and re-search facility. This will definitely enhance the experience of many undergraduates and regular foreign graduates who visit the University as well as the lives of a lot of parents who have children with disabilities, and the children themselves. The transformation factor of this initiative is that it will be the first national centre of this nature.”
While enabling such children to reach their unique potential, it is expected that AYATI will also provide training to parents and service providers such as midwives, preschool teachers and primary teachers.
The centre will also be affiliated with other recognized institutes in Sri Lanka, thus providing parents with the opportunity to receive further referrals or treatment etc.
The proposed AYATI centre designed by renowned Architect Mr. Channa Daswatte is spread across 1.5 acres in Ragama with a 42.000 sq.ft floor area. It is estimated to cost approximately Rs. 350 million. The centre will function as a hub with connected spokes to the peripheries within the 25 districts in Sri Lanka and will pioneer the provision of telemedicine to distant centres within low-resource areas during the initial phase.
“We initiated the AYATI project due to the success of our primary CSR project ‘Piyawara’ which was launched in 2002 in partnership with the Ministry of Women & Child Affairs focusing on Early Childhood Development in Sri Lanka. ‘Piyawara’ has now become a National Project with 41 Pre-schools Island wide and more in the pipeline. There are currently over 100 teachers and approximately 3,500 children in ‘Piyawara’ pre-schools. Over the years it has grown in stature and impact to become one of Sri Lanka’s most successful public private partnerships. The confidence and trust gained through our partnership with the Government led us to initiate a project of this nature to address the burning issues of children with disabilities,” said Mr. Abbas Esufally, Group Director, Hemas Holdings PLC and Chairperson, Hemas Outreach Foundation.
The centre will be managed by an eminent Board of Trustees chaired by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine University of Kelaniya. An independent accountancy firm will be appointed to be the Fund Manager and Ernst & Young will be the auditors.
“Our aim is to play our part in ensuring equal access to education, healthcare, social participation and employment for children with learning disabilities in Sri Lanka. While a significant amount of capital for the proposed AYATI centre will be funded by Hemas, we invite all other corporates and business partners to join us and be a part of this much needed facility in Sri Lanka,” said Steven Enderby, CEO Hemas Holdings PLC.
This project will also have the support from the cricketing legends Kumar Sangakkara and Roshan Mahanama who will play a crucial role as AYATI trustees in joining the national campaign to speak out against the stigma associated with disability in children and bring in the necessary support in order to construct the facility.