SriLankan Cares empowers children with ‘Dream Flight 2’

Wednesday, 7 May 2014 00:09 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Pix and text by Daminda Harsha Perera For 113 teenagers from 11 children’s homes who were picked for a special flight by SriLankan Airlines, it was a chance of a lifetime recently when they experienced a rare opportunity of seeing some of the most scenic views of the country from the air. During the one-hour-and-45 minute flight, the children had the rare opportunity to enjoy the picturesque sights of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Pada, Hambantota International Airport, and the coastal area. The program was organised by SriLankan Cares, the community development arm of SriLankan Airlines. Tilted ‘Dream Flight 2,’ the flight to Hambantota on 5 April for the second consecutive year was done with the mission of empowering and shaping the future of Sri Lankan children, through education, good health and clean environment. The children boarded the fight after covering the operations at both Bandaranaike International Airport and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport. The special plane ride not only gave the children their first air travel experience but an interesting insight of the overall operation of air travel. A handpicked group of children on the flight had the opportunity to go to the cockpit of the aircraft and take a look at the operation side of an aircraft as well as get the pilots eye view from the air. Some children also had the chance to travel on the business class of the aircraft which flew at low altitude of around 12,000 feet so that the children could get an aerial view of the country. SriLankan Cares, the community development arm of SriLankan Airlines, has, since its inception in 2003, essentially focused on the welfare of children across the country. Child health and education have consequently been two key areas which have got wide attention during the past decade with a record number of social service projects touching the lives of thousands of children across Sri Lanka. SriLankan Cares brings together and institutionalises the national carriers many programs that have each been independently working towards the company’s goal of uplifting needy children throughout Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Cares began the year with the signing of an MOU with the Ministry of Health for the building of a Multi-Disciplinary Child Psychiatry Ward at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital in Colombo. Estimated at Rs. 8 million, this will be the first-ever dedicated Child Psychiatry Ward in Sri Lanka. In keeping with its endeavour to enhance the quality of healthcare and wellbeing of children, SriLankan Cares facilitated the visit of two separate paediatric cardiac teams from the Southampton University Hospital, UK. This was part of an exchange program where the visiting cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons shared their experience and expertise with the Sri Lankan doctors at the Paediatric Cardiac Unit of Lady Ridgeway Hospital. A number of critical heart surgeries were done in-house with the support and expertise of the paediatric team thus contributing largely for the free health care services in Sri Lanka. Being the national airline of Sri Lanka, SriLankan has a great responsibility towards children, especially those from low-income families, who cannot afford medical treatment in hospitals overseas. SriLankan Cares came forward to assist these families by providing free air tickets for both the patient and the guardian for the critical surgeries done in hospitals overseas. This has greatly helped low-income families since air travel is a considerable cost when it comes to overseas medical treatment. SriLankan Cares not only provides the tickets, but also assist and facilitates patients with special care at airports, special seating arrangements, wheelchair and stretcher facility on-board, business class upgrades to ensure a comfortable and safe travel, etc. Apart from air tickets, SriLankan Cares goes a step further and assists deserving children with monetary contributions for their surgeries in local hospitals. Ensuring the welfare of the differently-abled, SriLankan Cares also launched a CSR project ‘Disability is Possibility,’ a project that focuses on changing the attitudes of society towards those impaired at birth or later in life by circumstances beyond their control, via raising awareness. As an initial step, SriLankan Cares started staff awareness campaigns targeting its frontline and back-office staff. In December 2013 it hosted a gala charity concert with celebrity Emmanuel Kelly to create awareness and raise funds for the welfare of the differently-abled children in Sri Lanka SriLankan Cares also initiated a project to donate computers to rural schools and orphanages across the country, furniture and stationery items to Montessoris and schools and conduct regular familiarisation tours of the Bandaranaike International Airport and the SriLankan Airlines for rural school children. As SriLankan Cares embarks on its next decade of service, in the pipeline are significant projects which will make all that difference in the lives of thousands of children in this country. It proposes to establish a Multimedia Health Promotion Unit at Maharagama Cancer Hospital and also a project for the Prevention of Violence and Sexual Abuse among the children in Sri Lanka. Added to these are medical and health camps for school children to educate them on hygiene and good practices. Plans are also in the pipeline for visiting medical specialists to improve the national paediatric healthcare system. Playing a lead role in the national crusade for disability awareness are infrastructure development projects for differently-abled children under the ‘Disability is Possibility’ campaign. SriLankan Airlines recognises that social responsibility has many different facets and has identified Health, Education and youth development as its priorities. As an affirmation of its commitments towards the future of the nation, SriLankan Airline’s charitable arm, SriLankan Cares is believed to be the first private sector company in Sri Lanka’s commercial field to set up a specialised branding and an institution for charity.