“Even in the dark, we’ll be there- spreading light in the way of hope in the hearts and minds of all young and old,”- Rev. Father Dushantha Rodrigo
School walks as a fundraiser is something that is common in Sri Lanka. However, we are accustomed to seeing school walks take place in the mornings or afternoons, never in the night. But, S. Thomas’ Prep School has decided to do something different. On 1 February 2020, young and old Preppites will be participating in the ‘Prep Night Walk’ organised by the school together with the Old Boys’ Union (OBU) and the Parent- Teacher Association (PTA).
Talking to Daily Mirror, Headmaster Rev. Father Dushantha Rodrigo shared that the idea of having a school walk at night was given to him by a friend. “This was a novel idea and I thought it was great. Today, Colombo city is so crowded and walks during the day end up being a nuisance to the public. So, we decided to do something that people would appreciate. Something that will be of least inconvenience to the public.”
Project Chairperson of the Prep Night Walk, Mr. Hiran Molligoda stated that he accepted the idea because it was a novel one. “I always like to do something different and a school walk in the night sounded exciting. It has never been heard of before and we wanted to take the plunge.” Mr. Molligoda was also the Chairman of the 2017 Prep Walk which raised over Rs. 25 million and the funds were used to rebuild the ‘Fortrose Building’, the very building that S. Thomas’ Prep School was founded on in 1938. He explained that he also organised the Walkathon where all the schools under the S. Thomas family participated.
He went on to share that S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia pioneered the concept of school walks as a fundraiser in Sri Lanka in 1987.
Why is the walk held?
The walk will be held to raise funds for a 7- storeyed building for the primary section. “The primary section is currently housed in three buildings. The plan is to put them all together. Also, primary education has become very specialised and we wanted to have space to conduct STEM classes, Art and Music lessons and also have a daycare centre for the boys,” revealed Fr. Rodrigo.
Mr. Molligoda added that they decided to have a walk due to the fact it brought the S. Thomas’ Prep alumni together and walks give the alumni a souvenir for them as a reminder of their contribution towards the school’s development.
Night Walk- exciting yet comes with many challenges
Speaking about the challenges faced whilst organising the night walk, Fr. Rodrigo stated that the biggest challenge they faced was in regards to illumination at night. “We realised that since the walk was taking place at night, everything had to be lit up,”
However, novel methodologies have been discovered to overcome this challenge. “The crests on our walk caps are lit by LED. Whenever there is motion, the crest lights up. Likewise, we’ve got LED torches and illuminous face masks for the younger ones. These serve a dual purpose of illuminating the path and also makes this fun for the younger ones. Some old boys will be wearing headgear with torches on them to also light up the path we take. The banners we carry will also be lit up. Even the floats will be lit up. It will look like a festival of lights,” laughed the Deputy Chairperson, Fayyaz Mukthar.
Another challenge faced was the minimum financial sponsorships received due to the economic climate of the country. This has limited the organisers. “Whatever little we have collected from the sponsorships, we cannot spend it all because we need to think of the purpose of the walk and help raise funds for it. Due to this, we have to limit ourselves,” he shared.
A walk for peace
“After the April 21 attacks, it has been challenging for our diverse community. It is necessary that we carry the message of peace and harmony. Our walk theme is ‘Towards a Community of Peace’. Our walk has brought our various batches together. It has given them a reason to come here back to school. They are able to contribute to the development of their alma mater. When all of us are walking towards a common goal using a common route, it brings a sense of harmony among all of us. The night walk sends out the message that even in the dark, we’ll be there - spreading light in the way of hope in the hearts and minds of all young and old,” shared Fr. Rodrigo.
Adding to this, Mr. Molligoda revealed that even the route has been planned in such a manner that all the participants will be walking together without them leaving big gaps for vehicles to fill it up. “It’s a walk, not a vehicle parade and that thought was crucial when we selected the route. It is a 3.8km walk starting from Baladaksha Mawatha to Kollupitiya Junction and then from Perahera Mawatha along Prime Minister’s Office to Rotunda Gardens and back to S. Thomas Prep,” adding that Grades 1 and 2 will join the walk from near Bishops’ College.
He also informed that a Waste Management Team will be clearing the waste as the walk proceeds and that the committee has taken precautions to make sure to minimise waste as much as possible during the walk.
The Old Thomians Cadet Union, will be controlling the walk. “They did an exemplary job at the last walk controlling the walk and ensuring no outsiders crept in,” Mr.Molligoda said.
What happens after the walk?
Other than the walk, a Fun Fair too will be taking place at the school premises. The Fun Fair will commence for the participants as the walk ends at the school premises. “There are food stalls and fun activities that students will enjoy. A dining area too will be set up so that the past Preppites can enjoy the food and take in the atmosphere reminiscing about their school days,” said Mr. Mukthar.