Appreciation – re Late Kithsiri Seneviratna
Posted on March 16th, 2011

Mahinda Gunasekera Toronto, Canada

The sudden demise of Kithsiri Seneviratne of Pirivena Gardens, Mount Lavinia has left a void that is not easy to fill. Kithsiri was the Co-Founder of the Araliya Community Trust which he formed with his wife Anoja and other relatives and close friends to assist the needy of his motherland. The charity was launched soon after the devastating tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in December 2004, in order to provide some sustenance to the children who were orphaned and those who were severely handicapped by the loss of their homes, loved ones and breadwinners to the mighty waves of our normally placid sea. His appeal to his former workplace colleagues and friends in the UK and other parts of the globe resulted in an excellent response of cash inflows that he decided to register a charity and expand his services to fulfilling the needs of his less fortunate brothers and sisters of his island homeland. When I met Kithsiri earlier this year, he was proudly telling me that three of the tsunami affected children for whom he found educational sponsorships had gained admission to follow courses in Medicine, Architecture and Engineering in the university.

 Kithsiri had moved back to Sri Lanka after a 24 year stay in the UK in the late 1980’s where he was well settled, as his only daughter Amrita who was a high school student at the time preferred to live in Sri Lanka and had her parents agree to her wishes. I had known Kithsiri during the time that we were doing our business studies in the early 1960’s, and thereafter parted ways with him proceeding to the UK for further studies and myself immigrating to Canada in the mid-seventies. An e-mail concerning Sri Lanka which I had initiated in my capacity as an office bearer of a patriotic Sri Lankan Association in Toronto had been seen by our mutual friend J.N.V. Perera who too had recently migrated to Australia, which brought about the renewal of our ties and subsequent meetings in Sri Lanka. Soon Kithsiri’s colourful e-newsletters with pictures and stories started to reach me, which I circulated to my contact list, that also made me and my wife convinced donors who were happy to help the highly committed charity directors in their varied programs that assisted the needy to rise above their less fortunate lot in life.

 Kithsiri was a very compassionate person who would always consider every request made to him in a positive light and seek to meet all such requirements. His charity had grown with time and was providing nutritious meals to 126 children in pre-schools, supplying clean drinking water to toiling villagers in the Hambantota district, meeting their agricultural challenges and even seeking markets for their produce and handicrafts. Having been told of children in a pre-school in Kumbuk Oya being given half-a-coconut shell of rice and a red chillie ground with salt for their mid-day meal, he undertook to provide a balanced meal and also visited the village after a six hour drive to see the abject poverty at first hand. His appeals for funding reached his numerous supporters including us in Canada resulting in funding for construction of mini-homes of brick and cement plus a sheeted roof to replace the dilapidated wattle and daub houses and others seeking shelter under a few poles holding up a piece of polythene. I had the pleasure of accompanying Kithsiri, his wife Anoja and their eager grandson Reahn to Kumbuk Oya on February 4, 5 and 6 on a memorable trip that involved getting past an earth-slip at Pallegama by trekking on foot via a jungle path and finding transport beyond the roadblock to attend to ceremoniously gifting of a new home that had been built and lay foundation stones for two more units in addition to feeding and meeting the nearly 200 villagers that had gathered to celebrate the happy occasion.

 These poor villages on learning of his sudden death rented a bus and travelled to Colombo to attend the funeral. Anoja the good lady that she is reimbursed the bus rental, fed the villagers and comforted these poor people who came to comfort her and sent them on their way with the assurance that she will complete the housing project started by her late husband. Kithsiri, you certainly will be missed not only by your family members but all donors, recipients of your aid other readers of your newsletters whom you touched deeply. Farewell my friend, I wish that your journey in samsara will be short and may you soon attain the highest peace and happiness of Nibbana.

 Mahinda Gunasekera
Toronto, Canada

Dated: March 15, 2011

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