Rev. Sr. Bernie Silva, the founder and late Rev. Fr. Joe de Mel, the co-founder
Have you heard of ‘Samata Sarana’? Well it is amazing, although this organisation has been in existence for over three decades, I came to know about this only last month. November being dedicated to the dearly departed, I was looking for a deserving place, to give a donation in memory of all my departed loved ones. In this regard, I was looking for a place which is really dedicated to the poor and the needy, and a place where I have not contributed before. I spoke to a few friends and surprisingly when I went for the Sunday mass the priest announced about ‘Samata Sarana’ which is an ideal place to be considered for donations in memory of our dearly departed. Well I thought this information was timely and ideally suited my desires.
‘Samata Sarana’ established on October 1, 1988 was the brain child of late Rev. Sr. Bernie Silva, the founder and late Rev. Fr. Joe de Mel, the co-founder. According to‘Samata Sarana’,these two personalities ‘transformed the dream to reality’. Located at 531, Aluthmawatha Road, Mutwal, Colombo 15, it currently functions under the leadership of Executive Director Rev. Fr. Leo Perera
When you look at the building from the road, it does not look impressive at all, but when you walk in, it is way beyond your expectations. It is a spacious five storied building serving 200 school children, 40 elders (males and females) and 14 kids. Samata Sarana provides free education up to grade 5 to 200 girls and boys. These 200 kids get a complete package, from school books, to bags, to shoes and uniforms, to breakfast, lunch and tea and in addition to this, they are picked up in the morning and all dropped in the evenings at central points, in the organisation bus. All these services are provided free of charge, not a penny do the parents of the children nor the elders contribute. The creche which has about 14 kids from the ages of about 2 – 3 are taken care of by matrons at ‘Samata Sarana’ until the parents pick them up in the evening. The working mothers drop their kids before they set off to work and the kids get their breakfast, lunch and tea and cared for with much love and affection. The 40 elders who are beneficiaries of the daycare Centre too are provided with free accommodation and meals. They have leisure time facilities and occupational therapy. 18 other elders who are now house-bound are provided with regular packs of dry rations.
"It is an organization which is worth helping, as they do not restrict their services to a particular nationality, race or religion. They cater to Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians without any prejudice or discrimination"
The most noteworthy policy of this institution is to help the poor and the needy irrespective of nationality, race or religion. Their motto is ‘Samata Sarana – Help to all’ which means they reach out to all in need. Their objective is to enhance the quality of life of those living in slums and shanties of Colombo North. The multi faceted services of ‘Samata Sarana’ looks at covering all basic human needs and as they quite rightly state, their services are from ‘Womb’ to ‘Tomb’. Samata Sarana is an approved charitable organization and in December 2007 this was registered under the Ministry of Social Welfare as a voluntary social service, non governmental organization.
The ongoing activities could be summarized as Day care creche for babies between the ages of 2-3, Montessori and Primary school, skills training programme – to empower young girls with vocational skills to generate income, Computer literacy programme for children according to school curriculum, Day care for elders – taking care of helpless elders from the slums and streets by providing nutrition, health, recreation and assist with funeral expenses, Shelter for the homeless, caring for the terminally ill and finding sponsors for needy families. These could be categorized as the main activities. In addition to this, they conduct awareness programmes for expectant mothers, Children’s rights and child abuse, feeding the needy and many more, too numerous to mention.
"Samata Sarana provides free education up to grade 5 to 200 girls and boys. These 200 kids get a complete package, from school books, to bags, to shoes and uniforms, to breakfast, lunch and tea and in addition to this, they are picked up in the morning and all dropped in the evenings"
I had the privilege of meeting Rev. Fr. Leo Perera and getting an insight into the workings. I was then taken around and was able to witness the actual routine of that day, the school in progress, the elders and the crèche. When I asked Rev. Fr. Perera what their daily expenses would be. And his answer was Rs.95,000/- per day. More than 400 people are provided breakfast and lunch every day in a week and the daily expenses for food alone works out to about Rs. 50,000/-. He said no one in need was ever sent away empty- handed so far. I was shocked and was wondering how they manage. When I posed this question to Rev. Fr. Leo Perera, he said we survive with the generosity and goodwill of people like you and the divine Father above.
I was so happy that at least at this stage I got to know about this devoted voluntary organization offering yeoman service to the poor and the needy. Personally, I was so touched by the services they provide with much dedication and commitment. It is an organization which is worth helping, as they do not restrict their services to a particular nationality, race or religion. They cater to Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians without any prejudice or discrimination.