Navajeevana celebrates 25 years of making a difference for people with special needs.
Navajeevana meaning ‘New Life’, is a non-governmental organisation situated in Hambantota, and has been committed towards improving the quality of life of persons with special needs.
Continuing their efforts through their 25th anniversary year, special focus is given to raising awareness on the Rights of Persons with special needs amongst policy makers and significant stakeholders.
Importantly Navajeevana would facilitate dialogue and interaction between policy makers and persons with special needs, showcasing Navajeevana’s best practices and models on rehabilitation. They also recognise the organisation’s long term funding partners and the Government, and explored sustainability through public-private partnerships.
Speaking on the event Navajeevana Founder and Chairperson Kumarini Wickramasuriya stated: ‘‘Navajeevana came to life from humble beginnings and through the years our journey has faced challenges. Persons with special needs deserve the support of rehabilitation and development of their abilities. They should be merited for their contribution and encouraged to be part of society. Continuation of public and private partnership efforts are crucial as this is the fuel for an effective model and program such as Navajeevana to progress in the future.’’
The preliminary event marking the organisation’s twenty fifth milestone began with the opening of the Disable-Friendly access road at Navajeevana, the construction of which was sponsored by the Ministry of Disaster Management.
Following on, awards were distributed to Companies that employed persons with special needs – a USAID funded project on Economic Self Sustainability of persons with disabilities, through Motivation Sri Lanka and implemented through Navajeevana’s CBR program.
These two significant events were followed by an ‘Open Day’ at the centre in Tangalle with the invitees engaging in a number of unique activities organised by Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs).
The welcome address was delivered by Pradeepika Samaranayake, a wheelchair user who went on to describe the challenges encountered by her as a person with disability. In her speech she spoke to the audience about the challenges she faced and how she overcame each challenge with self-determination with the continued support of Navajeevana. She proudly spoke of how today she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colombo and manages her own agricultural enterprise.
Prasadhika’s story in essence describes the positive transformations brought about in the lives of many persons with disabilities through the interventions and care of Navajeevana.
Over the course of 25 years of committed community and individual rehabilitation, Navajeevana is proud of achieving social inclusion for over 25,000 individuals directly and changing the lives of about 40,000 individuals indirectly.
In a heartfelt speech, Southern Province Governor Kumari Balasuriya stated, ‘‘I am no stranger of the excellent work carried out by the Navajeevana program. I praise Navajeevana’s commitment and holistic approach to the rehabilitation of differently-abled people and can assure you that I will do everything within my means to support the continuation of the organisations work. ’’
Balasuriya further stated, ‘‘The Western world gives differently-abled people first priority in social and economic settings. Sri Lanka should move away from the cultural taboo of marginalising people and children with disabilities and recognise their special talents and abilities. I applaud Navajeevana and highly commend the founder, Mrs. Wickramasuriya for her lifelong commitment to the well being of differently-abled people and for pioneering an organisation focused on establishing the dignity of a forgotten community. ’’
Minister of Disaster Management Mahinda Amaraweera stated, “It is the public’s responsibility to meet the needs of differently-abled people. His Excellency the President had also declared in Parliament that the Government would not approve any infrastructure activity or construction of a public building unless and otherwise the design meets accessibility guidelines. I pledge my continued support to the effective work and human development activities carried out by Navajeevana.”
The event consisted of a number of unique activities which started off with the participants volunteering having an experience of a disability. Minister Amaraweera volunteered to have a blind experience while Governor Balasuriya used a wheelchair with several other distinguished invitees following suit.
The activity was then followed by a tour of Navajeevana’s Rehabilitation and Social Inclusion Centre – spanning the community based rehabilitation programme, special school, physiotherapy unit, prosthetics and Orthotics unit, audio services and language unit and responsible tourism (coffee shop and craft shop).
Present at the event were several dignitaries including the Minister Amaraweera, Southern Provence Governor Kumari Balasuriya, Deputy Chairman of the Tangalle Urban Council Wimal Dunuwila, District Secretary for Hambantota Mr. Meegasmulla, Assistant District Secretary for Hambantota Himali Rathnaweera, District Secretary of Matara, Divisional Secretaries of Hambantota District, SSP Tangall C.E. Wedisinghe and Captain N.A.P.P Nikagoda.
Representatives from bi-lateral funding agencies and international non governmental organisations were also present at the event: namely Cyril Siriwardena of Rehab Lanka, Adam Schmidt, Director Humanitarian Affairs, USAID, Sunil Fernando of SightSavers Sri Lanka , and Nirmi Vitarana, Program Manager of the Sri Lanka liaison office, for Christoffel BlindenMission – Navajeevana’s principal partner.