Donating fishing equipment to resettling IDP families in the coastal areas of north and east of Sri Lanka

AssistRR, with the support of like minded organisations (IMHO USA, Tamil Forum Malaysia and CHRF UK) have been donating fishing equipment to families who were displaced from their coastal villages due to the war and were living without carrying out their livelihood. Many of them have been working as labourers for very little and have been struggling to look after their families. As the capital investment to buy a boat, engine and nets is around Rs 600,000.00 per one set, these families have been unable to afford to invest in the fishing equipment. AssistRR carried out a pilot study in Sampoor, Trincomalee, by providing 10 sets of equipment (one set = 1 boat, 1 engine and 10 nets) to 50 families to be shared between them. Data gathered later showed that these families were earning very well and one family had already bought a boat of their own. AssistRR therefore wanted to expand this to other areas and partnered with IMHO USA to raise funds to donate more boats. Solihull Junior School Head Master, Mr Mark Penney and Mrs Donna Penney voluntarily came forward to walk 55kM to raise funds for this cause and walked in the UK on 25 Aug 2018. Following their walk, they raised nearly £50,000.00 in the UK and USA. Using this sum and funds raised at AssistRR dinners, AssistRR have now donated 28 sets of boats, engines and nets, in addition to the 17 sets donated (by IMHO USA – 10, TFM – 5, & CHRF UK – 2) earlier in Trincomalee district. In total 45 sets have already been given and are being shared by 225 families. The families are earning around Rs 3000-4000 per day and are very grateful to Diaspora Tamils and other nationals who have contributed. AssistRR also would like to thank all those who were involved in this project and enabled families to stand on their own feet. In particular, we would like to express our gratitude to Mr & Mrs Penneys for their hard walk and for raising the enormous sum of £50,000.00 towards this project. We are indebted to them for their tireless services to the victims of war in Sri Lanka. 14 sets were handed over to the beneficiaries by Mr & Mrs Penneys during their visit to Sri Lanka in Oct 2019.

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AssistRR Annual accounts to 30 Nov 2018

Our charity’s annual accounts to 30 Nov 2018 has been submitted and is published on our website:  Annual Accounts 2017-18. We apologise for the delay in submitting the account and sharing it with you. We are very happy to inform you that an anonymous retired medical practitioner from the UK donated £71,250.00 during this period for building hostels for boys and girls in Mallawi (Mullaitivu district). There are around 79 girls and 30 boys, who are learning at Mallawi Central college by staying in these hotels. Mallawi Central College serves many remote villages in the middle of jungles between A9 and Mannar in Mullaitivu District. Commuting from these villages to their secondary school in Mallawi is an arduous part of their schooling days. The contribution from the anonymous doctor is making a difference to nearly 100 children from this part of the world. He is still continuing to contribute towards the maintenance and expansion of these facilities. AssistRR on behalf of the local communities wish to express its gratitude to the Doctor for his generous and kind assistance. I will write more about this after the ceremonial opening of the boys hostel soon. Please note that his contributions also attracted 25% gift aid (£17,812.50)  from the UK government (in addition to his donations). We also spent nearly £30k on providing fishing equipment (boats, engines and nets) during this period to families, who have been resettling in their coastal villages. These families have been making a success of this livelihood support. Please note that Solihull Junior School Head master Mr Mark Penney and his wife Mrs Donna Penney made a significant contribution (nearly £50k) by walking 55 km in the UK.

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Penney family’s visit to East and North of Sri Lanka – A Report

Solihull Junior School Head Master, Mr Mark Penney, and his family spent a week (between 22/10 – 29/10) with AssistRR volunteers in the north and east of Sri Lanka during their half term holiday. They covered a lot of grounds from Amaparai to Pandatharippu (north western corner of Jaffna peninsula) including Vavuniya and Mankulam during a 6-day tour. Based on their whirlwind tour, Mr Penney has written a report, which is given in this link, Penney family visit to the North & East of Sri Lanka-October 2019-2. You can recall that he raised nearly £50k in the UK and USA to provide fishing boats to families who were affected by the war. 10 of these boats were donated during their recent visit and they met many beneficiary families who received boats in April 2019. Please kindly read his report that is very informative and an eye opener. Thousands of families are still struggling to feed themselves.

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Donation of an Internal Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) to a Heart Patient in Mannar

Dr Mayooran Shanmuganathan, a cardiologist from the UK, has been conducting regular free cardiology clinics with Assist RR in Mannar, Killinochchi and Mullaititvu over the past 2 years. Assist RR has bought and donated several cardiology medical equipment with the help of crowd-sourced funds of over £65,000. One such equipment is the echocardiogram machine donated to Kilinochchi hospital in July 2018 through the generous donation of £27,500 by Mr Vinoth Varatharajan, who is a good friend of Dr Mayooran. This echocardiogram machine has helped Dr Mayooran and colleagues conduct clinics in Mannar, Killinochchi and Mullaititvu since then. Mr Vinoth Varatharajan had also told Dr Mayooran that if a patient scanned with this machine requires life-saving surgery, he would fund it. One such patient is Mr Anthony from Mannar. He is a middle aged man with a young family of 2 children and wife and earns his living by doing painting, decorating and metal welding. He had lost one of his legs during the civil war. Assist RR was so impressed by his steely determination to be self-sufficient and independent, that it supplied him with a welding mechanical equipment in 2017 to help him make an income. Dr Mayooran has also been seeing him regularly in the cardiology clinic as he has a condition called ‘Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy’. In other words, he was born with this condition which has resulted in his heart muscles being thicker than normal and renders him at risk of sudden collapse or death due to dangerous heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias) or lack of blood circulation from the heart.

Recently, Mr Anthony had reported to Dr Mayooran that he had a collapse and that he was seen by cardiologists in Jaffna and in Colombo and that he was recommended to have a surgery for implantation of ‘internal cardiac defibrillator’ or ICD. This is a pacemaker box like device and is placed in the heart. It will monitor the patient’s heart rhythm at all times and will administer an electrical shock internally to terminate any fatal heart arrhythmias and save the patient’s life. He was told to either purchase this privately for 900,000 Sri Lankan rupees (approx £4300) or wait for funds to come from the Ministry of Health. He had waited for over 6 months and unfortunately the Governmental support did not materialise. Alarmingly, he developed another collapse and was hospitalised in Mannar in the middle of June this year. His wife called Dr Mayooran asking for urgent help. Immediately, having remembered Mr Vinoth’s promise to help in such cases, Dr Mayooran called Mr Vinoth, who without any hesitation released £4300. Dr Mayooran made contacts with the local cardiologist (Dr Bhanu) and the private supplier of the ICD and Mr Anthony was promptly transferred to the National Hospital in Colombo where he underwent his life-saving surgery within 5 days of the SOS call from his wife. He has since returned to his home in Mannar and has sent a heart-rendering message of gratitude. Assist RR is very happy to have organised this life-saving surgery and would like thank Mr Vinoth Varatharajan for once again contributing so generously. It is people like him we need. Please spread the good news and together we can do so much for so many needy people back in our motherland!

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Living conditions in two villages of Batticaloa District and CHRF’s timely support

When AssistRR visited Sri Lanka in March 2019, Dr Namasivayam (Sivanarulillam) asked AssistRR to visit a couple of villages in Batticaloa District to assess their needs. As a result, we visited Elichchi & Singarathoppu villages near Vantharumoolai on Sunday, 17th March. There are 65 families including women and children living in Elichchi village without a single toilet, proper shelters and without access to good quality water for their daily needs. A few photos showing their toilet, pre-school and a well are given below. First photo given below is their typical toilet covered by coconut leaf tiles (or kiduku in Tamil). They dig a hole, use it for passing motion in the morning, and then close it. It is their permanent place, move from one spot to anther within that small space.  Very hard to imagine how they manage their day-to-day morning rituals in this day and age. Second photo is their dilapidated preschool building. Third photo is their typical well. A metal drum is inserted into the ground to stabilise the well. Water is stained with metal corrosion. They use this water for cleaning, bathing, and farming. They walk a long distance to fetch drinking water as the water from these wells is contaminated with metal corrosion. Please click here to view more photos of their living conditions.

We shared the story with like minded organisations. Mrs Shanthanadevi Kaneshanathan of Children Hunger Relief Fund (CHRF) from UK immediately responded and promised to fund wells for the 65 families in Elichchi Village. We received quotations of Rs 50k – 70K from local contractors for one well. However, our Sri Lankan NGO President, Eng Henry Amalraj, came up with a design and plan to construct one well for Rs 35k. Construction of these wells are progressing very well with the support of CHRF. We are grateful to CHRF for coming forward and for solving their water problem permanently. In particular, we express our gratitude to Mr Krishanthan Jogeeswaran UK, whose donation of £5000 to CHRF was utilised towards this project. This donation of £5000 enabled the construction of 31 wells. We received a photo recently after the completion of a well. The house owner immediately after the completion started having a shower with his clothes on (track bottom and shirt). It shows how eager they have been to have a well in their lands. Following our visit, Henry Amalraj also held talks with the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) regarding houses and toilets for these families. NHDA have now started building houses and toilets using government funds. More photos for the progress made so far are given here. These photos show progress of house building in the village and construction of concrete rings for ring wells. Assist RR will renovate/rebuild the pre-school soon.

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Eye care services in the North of Sri Lanka – Update

Further to free eye screening at Ananthi Eye Care (AEC), AssistRR have now been providing free cataract surgeries. As Karuna Trust promised, 25 Mullaithivu patients were taken to Suwanetha Eye Hospital near Rajagiriya on 1st June 2019 and surgeries were successfully conducted on the same day. Karuna Trust also took 25 of Pathaviya patients (screened at AEC) on the same day to Suwanetha for surgeries. Karuna Trust funded all the surgeries and looked after the patients very well. Ramakrishna Mission kindly provided accommodation and food on 31st May. Photos of this camp can be seen by clicking this link here: Further to our request to Association of Community Ophthalmologists of Sri Lanka, it arranged a surgery camp for 50 patients at Kadawatha Lions Eye Hospital on 09 June 2019. 49 patients were taken by bus to Kadawatha and 44 patients were successfully operated on the same day. Five patients had other medical conditions and couldn’t be helped. They have now been referred to Vavuniya and Jaffna hospitals. 5 of the 44 patients were recommended by Oru Paanai. These surgeries were funded by Uduvil Ratnam Family settled in Canada. Dr Prem Anand, Consultant Ophthalmologist Surgeon at Kalmunai North Base Hospital, made a request to AssistRR to support some surgeries at Kalmunai Hospital and told us that he can do around 40 surgeries on Sunday, 9th June 2019. AssistRR provided 40 lenses (IOLs) and consumables to enable these surgeries. He told us most of the mature cataract patients benefitted have already lost vision in one eye. These surgeries were also funded by Canadian Uduvil Ratnam Family and some of my Peradeniya 1980 Engineering batch mates from Australia and Canada,. AssistRR promised to assist more surgeries in the future, if needed. Photos of Kadawatha and Kalmunai surgery camps are given in the link here:

AssitRR would like to express its gratitude to Uduvil Ratnam family (Canada), Karuna Trust, some of my Peradeniya 1980 Engineering batch mates from Australia and Canada, and Ramakrishna Mission (Colombo) for their generous support to these efforts. A surgery is currently costing around £45-£50 due to various reasons, which are beyond our control. We should point out that this is the cheapest cost of a surgery at present. If anyone/any organisation interested in funding surgeries, please kindly contact us. There is still a huge backlog and we can certainly help the poor, elderly and vulnerable patients to regain their eyesight. We are taking another 50 patients from Mannar to Suwanetha Eye Hospital near Rajagiriya on 13 July 2019 for cataract surgeries.

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AssistRR’s Annual Dinner – January 2019 – An Update

We are delighted to inform that we have managed to raise £9,260.00, an amazing sum of money, at this year’s fund raising dinner in Solihull. We are incredibly grateful to all those who made this possible. We are going to use this to build an accommodation building for disable children in Mankulam. We wish to express our gratitude for all the support given by Mark Penney’s family and, in a broader sense, the community of Solihull School in helping the disadvantaged people of Sri Lanka. Mr Penney arranged to use their school refectory free of charges again for the second year. We would like to thank Mr Penney, Miss Franceska Yeaman, Conor Williams, and Harvey Blackhurst for their impressive presentations on projects carried out by them to assist the needy in Sri Lanka and Max & Amelia Penneys for their welcome speech. Our special thanks to many Solihull School parents who joined us at the dinner and generously supported our fund raising efforts. We have no words to thank the school community for their continued support. We would also like to thank our Patron, Dr K Somasundararajah for compering the event, Mr Selliah Yogamorthy, and our volunteer cardiologists, Dr Mayooran Shanmuganathan and Dr Manoharan Santhalingam, for their informative presentations. Special thanks to Miss Hanzika Bavananthan and Miss Harshika Bavananthan for their beautiful classical dance performances, which were well received by the guests including Solihull School community. Finally, we would like thank all of our volunteers including our trustees and members, who worked hard to make the fund raising dinner a successful one. Press here to see more photos of the annual dinner.

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