After 10 years of partnership, with much gratitude for the support and dedication to the work of Sunera Foundation, we bid farewell to our good friends FSF (Friends of Sunera Foundation, U.K) as they wind down their operations.
The Friends of Sunera Foundation, U.K started in 2006 with one aim – to raise funds for Sunera Foundation. Since then, FSF has always been our biggest supporter and have been true ‘Friends of Sunera’ over the past decade. Despite many challenges, FSF continued their fundraising efforts with much dedication. Their hard work has resulted in them raising a phenomenal amount of money in support of our work. This has been the backbone of our existence. FSF funds have supported the majority of our workshops, five issues of the Sinhala and Tamil provincial newsletters, and T-shirts for our trainers and participants; FSF also saw to completion two programmes of speech and language therapy. To do all this, they have obtained funds from U.K based trusts and ably assisted in fundraising events in aid of Sunera Foundation, as well as providing a focus for their many regular donors. We are indeed grateful.
Our appreciation to His Excellency Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, for donating a valuable gift of a brand new TATA bus for the work of Sunera Foundation. The bus will transport our participants from their homes in the estates to our workshops in the plantation sector in the Hatton and Maskeliya Regions.
The Sunera Trainers are regularly trained with current methodology and disability arts techniques to help them serve the disabled community better. Two such workshops were held during this year.
A workshop on how to use Yoga exercises for the disabled in an effective way was held in February 2017 and was conducted by experienced Yoga instructor, Mr. Lakshman Ratnayake. The workshop covered techniques that can help disabled individuals mentally and physically.
A workshop on script writing was held in April 2017 for our trainers and was conducted by Mr. Nilanka Dahanayake. Mr. Dahanayake taught our trainers basic techniques of script writing which will help our trainers when producing dramas for our regional drama festival ‘Samanalayaya’, to be held in 2018.
‘Gods Stars’ on Stage in Batticaloa
The Batticaloa workshop produced a drama titled ‘Gods Star’ which was held at the Municipal Council Hall, Batticaloa on the 27th of February 2017. The participants performed a short drama and four dance items which were well presented on stage. The Bishops in Battocaloa, clergy, community leaders, parents and children as well as the Chairpersona and staff members of the Foundation were a part of the large audience in attendance.
Taking Theatre to the Streets
The Thirappane workshop produced a street drama for the community of Thirappane on the 01st of June 2017 which was held alongside the main road in Thirappane. 15 participants performed in the production which was a drama on narcotics addiction in our society. Sunera performed as part of the campaign against Narcotics which was organized and sponsored by the Divisional Secretary of Thirappane.
Spreading our wings to Mullaitivu!
Sunera Foundation started its 37th workshop in the District of Mullaitivu on May 2017. The workshop is held at MARDAP (MN/Association for Rehabilitation of Differently Abled People), Mulleyaweli, with 19 participants attending the workshop. The Sunera workshop is the first of its kind and is reaching out to the disabled community in Mullaitivu who have limited or no access to any form of help and support. We are excited to see the developments of our participants in the Mullaitivu workshop in time to come.
For the first time in the history of Sunera Foundation, the parents of our participants took the stage for their moment of glory! Having dedicated their entire life to caring for their disabled children, primarily the mothers, have let go of their dreams, plans and aspirations for their own lives. Untiringly and lovingly they support their children day in and day out encouraging them to progress against the odds. Through the success of the Parents Committees in each workshop, Sunera Foundation realized the need and desire in the parents to interact, socialise, belong and feel self confident themselves. This has been the beginning of a support structure, a learning forum and a place to socialise for the parents while waiting for their children to finish their workshops. Sunera decided to take it further and give these amazing parents the same opportunity that they aim so selflessly to give their children.
‘Ahasatath Udin’ (Beyond the Sky) was an evening of dance, song and drama performed by the parents of the Dehiwala, Maharagama and Panadura workshops. It was held on the 3rd of June 2017 at the S.D.S. Jayasinghe Hall in Colombo. Performing to a full house the 23 mothers and 2 fathers sang, danced and acted like pros!
The short drama was a moving story of a family whose parents had three daughters, one being differently-abled. The story showed the real life struggles of a family trying to face the challenges that came their way, all while being alert to the physical and emotional needs of their differently-abled daughter and sister. The story shows us that even though limitations are many in disabled people, they are caring and loving and are able to be there for anyone who needs them.
The parents were delighted at the opportunity given to them and made their families proud!
What they had to say…..
I have worked many years with disabled childen but never with adults. Having got the opportunity to train and direct the parents performance was indeed a great experience for me for which I am very grateful. For these parents who have endured much and been stigmatized by society, an opportunity to perform gave them self confidence and self worth.
Sandun Bandara Dissanaike, Sunera Trainer and Director of ‘Ahasatath Udin’
A person with disability is someone that society has looked down on for many years. The greatest sorrow in this is not for the child but for the parents. Having been through years of heartache, being in something that gave them joy was a challenge. But being a part of this drama brought out laughter amidst the pain. They performed so well and not only received a standing ovation but a life changing experience which made them feel special again.
Thilini Kidituwakku, Sunera Trainer and Director of ‘Ahasatath Udin’
This was new a experience for us. For me, as a mother who has endured hardship in bringing up a disabled child for so many years being a part of this event gave us great joy and inner strength to keep going. We are so grateful to Sunera Foundation for giving us this opportunity.
As the Parents’ Committee of the Dehiwala workshop we have formed good friendships amongst us. This gave us an opportunity to widen our circle of friends with the parents of the Mahragama and Panadura workshops. Never did we imagine such an opportunity; to act, sing and dance on a stage. It was given to us without us having to spend any money for it and helped us to smile through all the difficulties in our lives. We are so grateful.
Gamini Liyanage , Father , Dehiwala Workshop
The service that our children receive through the Sunera Foundation is a great blessing to us. They extended that to us. We are so happy and grateful. We saw ourselves through the drama. My daughter watched me dance on stage with so much joy. The joy I had on that stage continues with me today. I want to continue life with the strength and motivation I received that day.
The ‘Process of Play’ Theatre workshop was held in Colombo from 24th – 28th October and in Kandy from 30th October to 3rd November. Jenny Sealey the Artistic Director of the Graeae Theatre Company U.K, led the threefold project, working with our trainers, participants, mothers and fathers. The project provided Sunera Foundation’s 35 trainers the opportunity to rediscover and develop their creativity, build their confidence, develop their leadership skills and increase their knowledge on disability and the disability arts.
The parents workshop was an opportunity for the them, to remind themselves of their hopes and dreams and to share their frustrations and fears. They were also taught how to create a dramatic framework through which they can tell their stories and share it with the wider community and policy makers.
Process of Play gave all the stakeholders the much needed international exposure of learning not just new techniques, but also a creative experience to remember. The last day involved the trainers putting into action the techniques which they had learned with a group of our participants in the presence of the media, who gave awareness to our work and the disabled community in Sri Lanka.
A few things the Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company U.K had to say after the ‘Process of Play’ training workshops…
– A different Romeo and Juliet but still with elastic and paper!! Simple things but full of creativity. Truly wonderful.
– Seriously wonderful – they created the story of Cinderella in an hour!
– It has been an awesome experience. It has been such a learning curve and there is so much potential with trainers, participants and Mothers.