An eye-opening tour, an inspiring workshop and to top it all, a fun evening on the beach to cap the day. The 19th of September is definitely a day the Rotaractors of Achievers Lanka Business School, look back to in nostalgia. “Skill Up” was a venture consisting of a tour into the well renowned charity organization “Foundation of Goodness” in Seenigama along with a workshop “Art of the Deal”, discussing project Management and the art of effectively approaching sponsors, conducted by Mr. Kushil Gunasekara, founder of “Foundation of Goodness”.
“Foundation of Goodness”, is a voluntary Social Service Organization, focused on building a holistic rural community development model, focusing on 10 empowerment divisions including Rural Welfare, Children and Youth Empowerment, Women Empowerment and Business and Enterprise, in a wide range of areas. They hold the mission, “To empower the less privileged rural communities whilst inculcating the spirit of goodness, so that they may have equal opportunities to excel in life.”
The journey started off with a one hour’s journey to Seenigama, a small coastal town bordering Hikkaduwa. We reached the “Foundation of Goodness” premises by 8.45 a.m and were greeted graciously by none other than Mr. Kushil Gunasekara, himself. To briefly introduce who Mr. Kushil, he is a former manager for the legendary cricketer, Muttiah Muralitharan, businessman and a proud Rotary Past President. His great dedication to charity and volunteering is well renowned across the globe and has lauded him the support of global icons such as Sir Ian Botham and Bryan Adams to name a few.
At our arrival, Mr. Kushil provided a lengthy but inspiring introduction of the organization, all the way from its humble beginnings, the story of how it was brought to the ground by the mighty strength of the 2004 tsunami, and how despite all the odds, the organization rose back up stronger than ever. He explained his initial motive to embark on this mission, where he saw the large gap between the Colombo educated, privileged individuals like himself while the people of his village Seenigama, though very talented, smart and committed, unable to enjoy the same privileges due to the lack of opportunity and underdevelopment in the area. This bore his conscious heavy and prompted him to begin this campaign to better the lives of the people of his hometown.
The entrance was glamorized with different pictures, banners and different snippets depicting donations and achievements each telling a unique story of its own and each backing up that introduction provided. The profound impact that FOG has provided not only to the people of Seenigama but also to citizens all across different corners of this island was made aware through each of these different displays.
Following this introduction, we were provided a tour of the premises where we were shown the preschool, play area, computer rooms and the technical training rooms.
The organization has offered a multitude of courses in order to enhance the skills of the people ranging from Programming, GIT, Technical training (NVQ), Cookery and Bakery, hairdressing and many more. These courses had proven a lot of success over the years with multiple success stories of students gaining meaningful employment across different fields in various multinational organizations. Many of these individuals have had sorrowful back stories as they’ve been rendered orphaned and homeless due to the 2004 tsunami, but despite these odds, they’ve strived hard and achieved successful careers. We watched as the classes were conducted in meticulous manner with students young as their 20s up to students in their 50’s, mainly those whom were housewives who wish to learn a trade to create new forms of income for their households.
We then wandered across the other sections of the foundation such as the crafts store which displayed a variety of creative, environmental handcrafts which were up for sale for those interested. This was right next to the FOG library which had a variety of donated books from donors across the world. This was also adjoining a “Good Thoughts Room” which was pioneered by Mr. Kushil in order to instill peace upon a troubled mind and to invoke motivational thoughts for the students of FOG.
The room that had got everyone’s attention was the cricket room which consisted of signed cricket memorabilia from multiple global cricketing stars including signed jerseys, game bowls and bats, signed pictures from global cricketing icons; Sir Ian Botham, Nasser Hussain, Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan and many more. This felt like a holy place of worship for our cricket crazed Rotaractors who enjoyed the opportunity immensely!
Up next we had the “Art of the Deal” workshop conducted by Mr. Kushil Gunasekara himself. During this workshop, Mr. Kushil spoke about his extensive experience in Rotary, both as a club treasurer and as a president. Understanding that his core principles were not aligned with those of the Rotary movement in Sri Lanka back in the day, he became disillusioned with the concept and went on to embark on this journey of his own. Here he explained how he built donor trust in his foundation and how he made this foundation started by himself, into one of the most successful charity foundations in the country to date. This he achieved through making the best use of every donation he received, making sure that its impact was truly felt not only by its recipients but also his donors. The many life lessons and tips he explained based on his years as a Rotarian and in his NGO career were of immense value for our Rotaractors and truly inspired us too, to reach beyond.
The skills development program carried out by the foundation has not only been limited to the fields of academic, soft skills and vocational training, but has also taken great strides in the field of sports. As an avid sportsman himself, Mr. Kushil identified the importance of sports and the great potential of the children in Seenigama. We got the chance to see the great strides the foundation has made in this field where they’ve built two well maintained cricketing grounds along with a 20 feet swimming pool complex. The immense effort taken to maintain the cricketing turf took all of us by surprise as we’ve never seen a ground so well maintained in our lives and this was clearly well reflective of the quality standards the Foundation of Goodness has maintained.
The Swimming Pool complex namely the “Bryan Adams Swimming Pool Complex” was one donated by the iconic Canadian guitarist and singer Bryan Adams who was so impressed by the foundation’s work, that he not only provided a grant to build the complex, but also funded its maintenance for an entire year. The results of all these collective efforts of the foundation and its donors has borne fruit with the multitudes of national level sportsmen/sportswomen this initiative has trained and created for the country.
We capped off this very eventful day with a relaxing and fun evening in the Hikkaduwa beach where everyone got a chance to unwind before heading back home.
Reflecting back on this memorable day, it truly gave inspiration to what great acts of kindness we as human beings are capable of achieving if we put our heart and soul to it and its profound impacts to those who receive it. To quote Mr. Kushil Gunasekara himself “It’s not about doing great things, but doing little things with great love”, and I truly believe that even the small bit of kindness can make all the difference in the world.
Rtr. Asel Gunaratne