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!
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.
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: https://photos.app.goo.gl/39byeDfzApp5LM6A7 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: https://photos.app.goo.gl/WjdjZD38iQSSCShS7
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.
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.
A message from our Chairman, Dr Velautham Sarveswaran:
I would like to share a personal charitable initiative in Sri Lanka with you. My wife Ananthi and I opened an eye clinic in Vavuniya on 24th March 2019. This clinic is funded by my wife and I and is named “Ananthi Eye Care” (AEC), which was ceremonially opened by Mrs Parameswary Amma, who is from Ampalavan Pokkanai (neighbouring village of Mullivaikal) and one of the early beneficiaries of AssistRR’s cataract free surgeries. She was taken from Mullaithivu to Mannar in 2013 for the cataract surgery in one eye, as she had already lost vision in the other eye due to cataract. Dr M Sathananthan, Consultant Gynaecologist from the UK, Dr Asela Abeydeera from Association of Community Ophthalmologists of Sri Lanka, Ganeswaran Velautham (Founder of Shivan Foundation and my brother) and many more guests attended the ceremony. See Photos of AEC Opening Ceremony here. Local Consultant Ophthalmologists have been carrying out eye screening at this centre. We provide fee paying as well as free eye care services at this clinic including free spectacles to poor patients. Free screening is currently costing around £5.50 per patient. We have so far screened nearly 200 patients from Mullaithivu, Mannar, and Pathaviya for free. These patients were brought to our Clinic by buses on 3 different weekends and were screened. Around 35 elderly patients from Udaiyarkaddu were recommended to us by Oru Paanai (a UK based charity). Nearly 175 of these patients suffer from cataract and some of them were clinically blind. These patients would require surgeries to regain their eyesight. Fifty patients from Pathaviya were brought to our clinic by Karuna Trust (http://www.karunalanka.org), which is chaired by Mr Mahinda Karunaratne, who, in return, offered to fund 25 cataract surgeries to patients from Mullaithivu.
Further to requests from some hospitals in the east and north, AssistRR recently donated medical instruments to some of these hospitals. AssistRR would like to thank Diaspora Tamils, who provided funds to assist the hospitals, as described below:
- Kalmunai North Base Hospital – Biometry A-Scanner to assist cataract surgeries – As the A-Scanner had broken down at Kalmunai hospital, patients were being sent to Batticaloa hospital for biometry scan. As a result, many elderly and vulnerable patients were experiencing difficult journeys. Consultant, Dr Prem Anand, at Kalmunai Hospital shared the issues faced by the patients and asked whether AssistRR could assist the hospital to have an A-Scanner. In order to assist the elderly and vulnerable patients, AssistRR donated this instrument to Kalmunai Hospital in March.
- Chenkalady Divisional Hospital, Batticaloa – 2 Multipara Monitors – This hospital serves many remote villages, where people face snake bites, attacks by elephants, and many more health issues. As this hospital did not have multipara monitors, “Our Society” members, Dr Kantha Niranjan and Mr Venugobal, made a request to AssistRR to donate 2 multipara monitors. AssistRR donated these instruments on 3rd April.
- Mullaithivu District General Hospital – 5 Air Mattresses were donated to help patients, who are paralysed below the waist.
- Vavuniya Nursing Training School – Funded a water filtering system – Principal of the training school approached AssistRR and made a request for a water filtering system. She informed that she has been trying to have a filtering system since 2011 but all her efforts have been in vain. Nursing students have been forced to either bring water from home in bottles or to buy bottled water from shops. AssistRR funded a water filtering system and opened it for use in April.
Poor elderly and vulnerable people in Sri Lanka with poor eyesight lead their lives without spectacles due to their inability to buy. They struggle to manage their day-to-day activities including reading without spectacles. Assist RR have been collecting spectacles in the UK and donating them to hospitals in Sri Lanka. These spectacles are then given to underprivileged people by the eye doctors. Solihull Junior School Head Master, Mark Penney’s daughter, Amelia, recently collected more than 1000 frames and reading glasses from Solihull School Community. A parent, who works for an Optician, donated hundreds of frames and reading glasses, which were brand new. Another parent donated a foci-meter, which is used to verify the prescription in a pair of reading glasses. Solihull pupils, Amelia, Francesca, and their friends also collected 255 women’s trainers to be donated to girls in Sri Lanka. Mr Penney, on his way to SCOT’s dinner as the chief guest on 20 Oct 2018, dropped these items in London to be shipped to Sri Lanka.
All these items have now been donated to the needy in Sri Lanka. The foci-meter was donated to Mullaithivu DGH hospital. The frames were donated to Kalmunai, Kilinochchi, Mullaithivu, and Vavuniya hospitals. These frames are given to patients with poor eyesight, who can’t afford to pay for them. The trainers were donated to schoolgirls in Thunukkai and Kilinochchi. I recently spoke with the eye medical officers of these hospitals. They told me that they have already run out of these frames and reading glasses and requested for more for the benefit of many more poor people. Assist RR’s sincere gratitude to Solihull School community, in particular to Mr Penney and his family, for their continued support.