Team spirit and enthusiasm was demonstrated by the parents of our students of The Rainbow Centre, the staff members of the centre and the students themselves, with the preparation during the lead up to the big event on the 7th.
On the morning of the visit by the Dilmah Global Partners the staff and students of the MJF Centre Moratuwa were anxiously awaiting their arrival all lined up amidst the flags that fringed the pathway. The four big buses that drove in one by one were as colourful as the flags that were flapping in the wind. The hosts were waving flags of the nations that were represented by the guests who were greeted with lots of cheer and a traditional Sri Lankan greeting of “Ayubowan”.
No amount of preparation was enough for us to comprehend the extent of the crowd that morning. We were expecting approximately 150 guests but the children were astounded by the numbers and were anxious about their dance that they were about to perform to this large crowd of unsuspecting guests soon after their arrival. They had practiced this dance over weeks in an empty hall and that was a cake walk compared to 75 kids dancing amidst 150 guests. When the music began I recall vividly, Madushani, pictured below in a state of panic, asking me where she could dance as her regular spot was now occupied by a host of guests. She along with the rest of the students and staff did a wonderful flash mob. The guests gravitated towards this interactive dance and entertained themselves as well as the others to the rhythmic sounds of the popular song “Do Re Mi”.
Immediately after hype and excitement of the flash mob the kids burst into a happy birthday, with equal enthusiasm, for their dear Chairman who has so generously provided them with all the wonderful opportunities and experiences. Once Mr Fernando cut the cake which was in the shape of a tea cup he reached out, offering a couple of children a piece of his birthday cake.
Whilst Dilhan Fernando shared a few words about the MJF Centre and the Declaration that the guests were about to sign everybody was served cup cakes which were baked in our own kitchen.
Whilst the Declaration was being signed the kids moved around and interacted with the guests and loved being photographed by them. This was a great opportunity for them to meet people from different parts of the world.
The Centre for Children with Cerebral, a project in collaboration with the Cerebral Palsy Lanka Foundation was officially opened that morning with many selected guests who joined the Settlor of the The MJF Charitable Foundation to cut the ribbon. New students who will benefit from the facilities were present that day with their families.
Once the guests inspected the multi sensory room, special education facilities and equipment that would be instrumental in the development of children with cerebral palsy the guests had more surprises awaiting them. Divided into groups, the guests would now have the opportunity to join the kids and participate in fun and interactive activities which, to a great extent, exposed them to Sri Lankan culture. All these activities are a component of their regular curriculum at the MJF Centre . Everybody involved had a great and memorable time. Interacting with children with disabilities and those from underprivileged backgrounds would have been a very emotional and novel experience for all.
The ladies dressed in the traditional Sari and with frangipan flowers adorning their hair and the men in sarong danced with the children to the traditional popular Sinhala music known as baila which has it’s roots in the Portugese colonists of the 16th century. The term “baila” is adapted from the Portuguese verb “bailar” meaning “to dance”. Though unfamiliar, the catchy rhythms of the baila kept the guests on the floor. Ruandhi, our dancing teacher taught the guests some special baila steps.
Pavithra, an MJF Kid pins a flower on Ranjitha from the Graphics Design Course… whilst a mother of a student of ours helps a guest with his sarong.
Sulochana, the facilitator of the puppetry/drama workshop entertained a group with an interactive workshop with her legendary character, mahadana mutta,’ Mr know it all’ who actually knew nothing. Puppetry, has been a part of Sri Lankan culture and dates back many centuries.
Another group was engrossed in a mural painting in the art room, guided by Cherry a support staff member of the Rainbow Centre. Their theme was marine life around our island. There are traces of mural art in Sri Lanka dating back as far as the 5th century. Some of the guests commented that they had not painted since primary school!
In the other end of the Art Room, another group kept their hands busy by making traditional vesak lanterns. A frame made by reed and bamboo was covered in coloured tissue paper. During their visit to Sri Lanka the guests would’ve seen colourful lanterns throughout the streets of Colombo which mark the traditional Buddhist Festival, Vesak.Vesak lanterns are lit in most of the homes in Sri Lanka on Vesak poya day, which coincided with their visit to Sri Lanka.
Out in the corridor Dhammika, along with the kids were teaching our guests the lyrics of a popular children’s Sinhala song which was enhanced with colourful props of butterflies and flowers. They also had the opportunity to sing the song in their newly learned language.
Everyone had the opportunity to experience something new on that hot and humid morning of the 7th. Needless to say they would have had a great time and would surely have been exhausted after all that hard work.
Before the guests left the MJF Centre and proceeded towards the cricket match played by the visually impaired, which was literally across the road, they were all given a coconut drink known as “thambili” which is a natural refresher. What better way to quench ones thirst by drinking thambili straight from the fruit itself after a hot and steamy morning of hard work.
The Thambili hut which had been erected the previous evening was made out of dried leaves of the thambili tree.
It was an experience, with a difference for all!