Harshini Kumari Pathiraja, studying for the Advance Level in the Commerce stream, came all the way from Kurunegala to take part in 2014’s AIDEX (Aid to the Ex-Abled) Sports Festival that was held in Colombo. A regular entrant in the event organized by the Colombo Friend-in-Need Society for the differently-able, it is held annually for recipients of free limbs under the Jaipur Foot Program.
“I very much look forward to taking part in this sports gala. Back in my village, I have no opportunity to compete in sports,” said Harshini, an above the knee amputee since an accident aged 4.
“Having a chance to engage in sport has made me more confident. I have learnt to discipline my mind and complete tasks with a passionate desire to excel. I now feel that disability is not a handicap in courting success,” added the self-assured lass. By the day’s end, Harshini had won medals for all three events she participated in.
However, there are no losers for the 300-plus girls, boys, men and women who took part in the sports activities. Cheered on by family and friends, they were determined to break records in courage and sportsmanship.
Chairman of the Organizing Committee, Prof. A.H. Sheriffdeen said: “We provide a travel allowance for participants and family to accompany them and also provide hostel accommodation. On the sports day, their breakfast, lunch and tea too is taken care of. There is a mobile service bus to repair limbs and is also equipped with a first-aid station. Special toilets too have been installed for the amputees.
“Dilmah has supported us over the years by providing t-shirts and caps for all participants and volunteers. Additionally, each person receives a corduroy satchel with a substantial gift package. Of course there are prizes for winning and sometimes consolation prizes up to eight places,” said Prof. Sheriffdeen.
The day progresses in bursts of honour and principle as some are forced to a slow start when their false leg comes off mid-race but labour on nonetheless to the finish line. Yet others inch towards the finish line with the aid of an umbrella for a walking stick, long after the rest have completed racing.
The program is sport in its truest sense, for the goal is not to win but to try. From almost total obscurity, perhaps one day a great hero will arise.
Started in 1991, AIDEX is the Annual Sports Festival for users of the Jaipur Limb. Organized by the Colombo Friend-in-Need Society, this is the only event that draws public attention towards the society and its hard work in the community.
Dilmah has sponsored this event since 2003.