They are my heroes..

They are my heroes..

As they say, not all heroes wear capes.

Some are ordinary people with no stars in their eyes – they do what they have been doing and don’t think big of their achievements.

Yet, those achievements have changed lives, transformed people and empowered others to go where no one has gone before.

They come from everyday ranks. They rise above the pettiness of race, religion and creed.

They are heroes because they are humble enough to acknowledge that they have made a difference – for all the right reasons.

Hiruni Nadeeshani is one such young woman who believed in a child with special needs. She was the teacher who together with his mother who never gave up on her son, turned him around – who had the conviction to teach a differently abled child to excel in an exam used to evaluate talented children across Sri Lanka.

A teacher at the school where the parents enrolled Ramal, a child with special needs in order to help him fit in with average children, Hiruni, along with other teachers, took him under her wing.

Together, they coached a child with speech and comprehension difficulties, giving him the confidence to sit for the Grade Five Scholarship exam and pass with flying colors.

In a Facebook post, Hiruni shared an emotion packed message – when she asked Ramal what he wanted as a present for passing the exam well, he told her in sign language that all he wants is a heart.

When she asked him what his position was in the exam, he smiled and said he was No 01 – in sign language.

If he could speak, he would have spoken volumes.

Words fail me as I write this.

This child and this teacher both came from an under-privileged school in need of many facilities, Karagampitiya Wijaya School.

Today, as her post about Ramal’s success went viral, the school and its star pupil and the teacher who never have up, have become a talking point, with many offering to help the school.

There are more heroes whose courage and commitment brought out the best in humanity during the same Grade Five Scholarship exam.

Umer Ahamath is a ten year old Muslim boy attending a school in Chilaw where he lives. He studies in the Sinhala medium. He scored 196 marks in the scholarship exam, bringing credit to his school and to the entire Chilaw district. Everyone in his town are proud of the little boy’s achievements.

There’s nothing remotely racial or religious about talent and skill. Umer has shown us that.

There are more heroes.

The Kaddupulam Govt Mixed School in Chankanai, Jaffna recorded a Year Five Scholarship success – after 35 years.

S.Thabishran of Kaddupulam passed the Grade 5 scholarship exam with 179 marks at a school without access to resources.

The smile on his face speaks volumes for the joy he and his family, his teachers and his school, feel in registering such a success.

He comes from a school that is functioning amidst numerous needs – for resources, for teachers and for facilities.

There are others heroes too.

The children who sit the scholarship exam often seek better schools, ones with more resources and opportunities.

The majority come from rural villages and are tremendously talented – their stories should inspire us everyday.

Their stories should empower the rest of us, the parents and the students from schools with plenty of resources and facilities, to appreciate and be thankful for what we have and often enough, take for granted.

From Ramal to Umer, Thabishran and the others who have gone on to score high in a competitive exam, it is the first taste of success in their pursuit to be given access to a better education.

They are the future of Sri Lanka. Their stories should drive us all to do something bigger and better than what we are doing now.

They never complained of what they didn’t have – instead, they made the best use of what they had to achieve results that make us all proud of them – and the future.

May their tribe increase.

Respice Finem – TCK, you rock.

Respice Finem – TCK, you rock.

When the whole drama of the little boy without a school ( forbidden word – HIV –  he is not infected , it is confirmed ) unfolded, what broke my heart was the way in which the little tyke sat, alone and downcast, his face turned away from prying cameras. The little blue shorts and the crisp white shirt reminded me of my son’s first day at the school by the sea. Seeing adults trying to outdo each other in shouting out against his admission to the school of their children, made it worse. This was Sri Lanka. In the 21st century.

As the little guy waited with vacant eyes, there was the silence, loud and clear. Folk on social media argued , appalled by the agitating parents and the school authorities. It was a moment when Sri Lanka would showcase her heritage, her pride and joy, her cultural upbringing, her deep sense of hospitality and her hope for her future generations.

It took a school with a strong and deep Christian heritage from the hills of Kandy, to break the deadlock. And to stand up and tell the world despite the protests, the concerns, there were people whose ethics would not permit them to sit still and do nothing when the call was for sanity and for acceptance. To the end. Respice Finem. In the hallowed traditions of the Trinity College Kandy, the values imbibed within its precincts by men the calibre of Rev. Senior who loved Ceylon and composed the beautiful hymn for Sri Lanka, the tune of which is adapted for Danno Budunge, which caused a storm in a tea cup recently when the well known soprano Kishani Jayasinghe sang it.

And so Trinity it was. It was heartening to see the Principal of TCK sign a MOU with the Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam in the presence of Bishop Dhilo, Bishop of Colombo. It was a brilliant move, Trinity – one that showed Sri Lanka and the world that as a Christian school built on values of humility, love and empathy, what it takes to make a difference is action not words. As empty words were exchanged between all parties, verbal swords were crossed and opinions aired, Trinity College moved in with deed, sealing the end of a poignant tale with agape love, as embodied in Christ’s mission to the world.

With a son who just left S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia, I deeply appreciate the wonderful cultural mix of Christian schools,not just as a Christian but also a Sri Lankan. At STC or at TCK, and also at Ladies College where my nine year old daughter schools and all other Christian schools, the children have the opportunity to mix and blend wonderfully – Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Moslems work and eat together, laugh together and learn together. To me, it is a truly beautiful representation of the multi cultural country Sri Lanka is. This little boy will get to experience a culture at TCK that is rich with diversity, that represents the true heart of Sri Lanka. Prejudice along racial and religious lines will be far from his orbit.

Thank Heaven for that.

He will have the opportunity to be a man of courage and conviction, a true Sri Lankan who someday, will give back to society what TCK taught him.

When the story broke, I looked around for any links that I may find in my immediate environment to TCK. And found some  that made me glad to claim a distant yet a link nevertheless, to this great school – my uncles from my mother’s side , the Devendra clan, taught there. My husband’s clan, Dodanduwa Weerasooriyas have had and continue to have Trinitians among its members. Its most illustrious Weerasooriya was Arnolis Weerasooriya who left the college in early 20th century to serve God ; Arnolis is credited with the arrival of Salvation Army in Sri Lanka. The next illustrious member of the Weerasooriya clan to have graced the halls of TCK was David Paynter, whose mother was Anagi Weerasooriya, wife of Rev. Paynter. David Paynter’s beautiful legacy of murals are etched in the chapels of STC and TCK – brilliant creations glorifying Christ, from the hands of a true master. The chapel at Trinity College is featured on a stamp as well and is recogniszed widely for its uniquely Sri Lankan architecture. My father-in-law Maurice Weerasooriya was also a Trinitian, one of the many Christian boys from Galle who went there.

So Trinity, you made us proud. We salute you because you showed everyone that you could make a difference. Stand up and be counted.

” For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” – Matthew 25:35