ealth is a primary need in any society. Sri Lankans are fortunate to enjoy a free health system in the country. People who have really benefited from the system will vouch for it. Unfortunately most of them don’t think that they need to speak about it because they are already served with this facility. In other words they have taken this service for granted. The best example is the children who were treated for heart disease and critical illnesses at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH). Since 2005, over 10,000 children have undergone catheter based interventions or diagnostic procedures at LRH. Since 2007, over 7000 children have undergone cardiac surgeries. All these procedures were done totally free, but the actual cost could have varied from Rs. 30,000 to over one million a procedure. This is the full side of the half-filled glass of water. Unfortunately there is an empty side which is almost equal to the full side. An equal number of children with heart diseases or critical illnesses are added to the waiting lists as the hospital doesn’t have adequate facilities to treat all children in need. They occasionally make their voices heard when they ask for financial assistance to seek treatment in the private sector or overseas. Most of them continue having their names in waiting lists and even without their knowledge eventually lose their beloved child. Certain losses can be accepted, but the preventable loss of a child can’t be accepted under any circumstance. Who will say no to it, if it can be prevented by improving infrastructure facilities?
Project Little Hearts was initiated with only the sole objective of minimising the number of preventable childhood deaths in Sri Lanka. Approximately 375,000 children are born annually in Sri Lanka and around 3000 of them leave this world even before reaching their first birthday. Out of this, about 1500 deaths can be prevented every year through improvement of infrastructure facilities to treat heart diseases and critical illness in children. Considering the geographical, infrastructure and population characteristics of Sri Lanka, the best and most cost effective intervention is to expand the facilities to treat such children at the LRH, the premier public children’s hospital which provides free treatment to children from all districts of Sri Lanka. The first step in addressing the issue is development infrastructure facilities. Little Hearts is a project initiated to construct and commission a ten (10) storey Cardiac and Critical Care Complex to provide necessary infrastructure facilities for such children.
The proposal for this building came up in 2013, with the expansion of the cardiac complex at LRH. It was initially planned as a four storied building to accommodate the need to perform 2000 surgeries and 1000 catheter based interventions to treat all children with heart diseases in Sri Lanka. However, considering the limited space available and other requirements of the hospital, the building was later expanded to a ten storeyed complex with addition of Medical Intensive care unit, Neonatal Intensive care unit and training facilities required in a tertiary care teaching hospital. Planning is done by the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB). The Ministry of Health and Department of National planning has provided necessary approvals. Land has been allocated according to the master plan of the hospital. What is left now is the raising of funds and the construction.
Our target is to raise Rs. two billion that’s required for construction and commissioning of this Cardiac and Critical Care Complex at LRH. If we have charged Rs. 120,000 from all 17,000 patients who have undergone treatment for their cardiac condition at LRH, we could have easily built this complex. But as treatment was given totally free, today we have to seek public support to expand the facility. Two billion is a colossal amount of money to raise this facility, but if we all get together and donate whatever we can, we can raise even double that amount in no time. We need only willingness to donate and to do it without a delay. Everyday that we delay the project, we lose about 4-5 children. Imagine the public’s interest in saving 5 children getting drowned or being caught up in a fire. In such a situation, everybody will do his/her part without a delay. That is because they see the need themselves. These children die at different places due to different reasons. Only we know that they have died due to heart disease. Therefore, you need to believe in us. Don’t wait until it happens to your own child or your grandchild as it may be too late.
On the day, when Mrs. Rubasinghe, a retired Clerk, first saw the television program in Derana TV, she realised this need. Her child, who is now a medical student, was treated at LRH in 1992. She called more than 60 people in her list of contacts and requested from them to donate. The following day she arrived at LRH and made a personal donation of Rs. 25,000 to the project as a person who had reaped the benefits of free health care. She wanted the system to improve and save more children.
Mr. Thabrew’s granddaughter was about to celebrate her first birthday. He thought that the best gift that he could give to her granddaughter was to save another child in her name. He donated Rs. 10,000 and received a certificate under her granddaughter’s name in recognition of his efforts to save a child.
Tehan Dhanushka is a first year student in management faculty at Wayamba University. He has saved Rs. 10,000, from the money he raised by giving tuition to school children, with the view of doing something for the benefit of children. The moment he came to know about the project, he came to LRH and donated it to save another needy child.
Mr. and Mrs. Pathirana had their first baby and on the first day itself came to know that the baby had a heart problem. They were helpless as it was a complex condition and the baby was just a newborn weighing even less than 3kg. She was operated at LRH and discharged from hospital. When they came to know about the project, they immediately visited the hospital and donated Rs. 300,000, not because they had enough spare money, but because they came to realise the need to improve such facilities in the government sector.
At the till donation campaign called “Till Parade”, children arrived from morning till late evening and donated their Tills to save another child. Within a day it was possible to collect over Rs. 1.4million through till donations alone. Some children had collected money to buy toy cars, dolls or compute games. But they decided to donate all what they had to save another child. They have realised that saving a life is more precious than a car or a doll or a computer game. The happiness that they have experienced by making the donations will last for many decades in their hearts unlike the mental satisfaction they get from a car or a doll.
Prisoners at Welikada Prison are a category in our society without any income. After realising the importance of helping the project they have worked out a way to offer support. The only thing that they can donate is their food which they get from the government. They have decided to donate the cost of their meals for a single day to the Little Hearts Project. This clearly proves that if there is a will, there is a way.
We need only one million people in Sri Lanka to donate Rs. 100 per month for 2years to raise this amount. We have facilitated that through Dialog and Hutch mobile companies. Any user can send a text message typed REG<Space>LH to 77100 and register for donation. Individually, what can you do with Rs. 100, but if we all work together we can save 1500 critically ill children. Can you imagine the power of masses? Why not be one of them?
Mrs. Rubasinghe, Mr. Thabrew and Tehan don’t belong to the highest income group in Sri Lanka. But they have a heart to give. Having money and giving money are two different things. People who give are the ones who know the happiness and benefits of giving and therefore will continue to give. Once this facility is constructed, we can treat 10,000 children who have heart disease and critical illnesses, annually. In 20 years we can save 200,000 lives. So to initiate the process we need only Rs. 10,000 per life. We need 200,000 people like Tehan, Mr. Thabrew, Mr and Mrs. Pathirana and Mrs. Rubasinghe, who will give something back to the society. If you are one of them, you can visit any BOC branch or visit our website and donate Rs. 10,000 to save a life. You need only a heart to donate. If you have a heart, you will have enough money to donate.
All top corporates are spending millions on CSR projects. The best CSR project one can carry out is one that will save the life of a child. People who will benefit from this project are the average people working in those corporates. So what you donate is actually donated to look after ‘your own staff’. It may not be the average worker and his child. We have seen enough and more instances where critically ill children from the most affluent families die due to lack of facilities in that country. When your child is critically ill even if you can hire an air ambulance, you might not be in a situation to move him out. However much money you have, you can’t get a cardiac transplant in a developed country if you aren’t a citizen in that country. This highlights the need to improve such facilities in our own country, not only to help the poorest of the poor, but to serve all strata of the society if a need arises. We need only 200 companies to donate 10million each. Is your company within that top 200?
We have facilitated almost all the possible ways to donate for the project. Those who are willing to donate Rs. 100 per month can donate using their Dialog or Hutch mobile. Just type REG<space>LH and send a SMS to 77100. Mobitel users can use M Cash to donate. Those who wish to donate online using their credit cards or Sampath Vishwa portal, can do so using our secure website www.littlehearts.lk/donations. If you wish to donate cash, you can either deposit it in our account no 79738633 at BOC by visiting one of the branches of Bank of Ceylon. You can also make donations at any Keels Super outlet islandwide.
We request children to donate their tills at any BOC branch nearest to them. They will be happy to accept your till.
If you work in a corporate, you can organise the donation of a day’s salary or the funds set aside for CSR projects. You may also consider donating a fraction of you profit from each item sold by your company. If your corporate or organisation has a big heart and is ready to donate 200 million, we can name one floor after your company.
We have seen parents selling their houses, tractors or whatever they have to seek treatment for their children. As a society, if we can get together, we can prevent it happening to our own brothers and sisters. This isn’t only a donation to save another child. It may be your own child or your grandchild who gets treated following a heart disease, dengue or pneumonia in this unit. It will serve the whole country as almost all children with heart diseases and critical illnesses are transferred to LRH. By helping to construct this unit you assure a safe childhood to your loved ones. Do you want to wait for others to do it and risk the life of your beloved child? Imagine that your child gets a critical illness and is brought to LRH. How will you feel if we have to say sorry because we can’t provide intensive care treatment as all ICU beds are occupied? Imagine your situation when you have to witness your beloved child leave this world due to lack of critical care facilities. It has happened in the past and happening at present, but don’t let that happen at least in the future. Donate today to prevent it happening in the future.
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