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mother's love shines on the destitute

8 May 2013 06:30 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Upon ar­riv­al we were gree­ted with the noisy chat­ter and the laugh­ter of young chil­dren. All around us there was a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty with sev­er­al adults bus­tling about and girls and boys whizz­ing past, some on their feet, some in wheel­chairs and one boy on his hands. We were stand­ing in­side MarcS­ri Sar­a­na Seva, home for dis­a­bled or­phans and the des­ti­tute. 

Un­dis­tur­bed by all the ac­tiv­i­ty around her sat a se­rene look­ing eld­er­ly lady with a kind face and a gen­tle man­ner. Ms. Ri­ta Per­era who foun­ded MarcS­ri 30 years ago, in 1983 said she nev­er plan­ned her home to be turned in­to a shel­ter for or­phans and the home­less. 
“Af­ter my hus­band passed away in 1982, I was liv­ing in this house by my­self,” she re­mi­nisced. “One day a man with a bro­ken back ap­peared at my door­step. He could not walk and had no place to go. Ev­er since then this place has be­come a home for the eld­er­ly, the sick and dis­a­bled or­phans.” 
She add­ed that in the ear­ly days she made huts with co­co­nut branch­es to house those whom came to her and took care of them by her­self. Then grad­u­al­ly a few hu­man­i­tar­i­ans like her­self star­ted help­ing out at the shel­ter. Even­tu­al­ly, those who were tak­en care of by Ri­ta grew up to vol­un­teer at MarcS­ri. Now there are about 40 vol­un­teers, most of whom had lived at MarcS­ri for 15-20 years and had grown up un­der the lov­ing care of Ri­ta. 
Since that fate­ful day in 1983, Ri­ta has nev­er tak­en a break from her hu­man­i­tar­i­an ef­forts. She now runs 11 shel­ters in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Paiya­ga­la, Ber­u­we­la and Wad­du­wa. Fa­ther Ju­li­an Tis­sera helps Ri­ta with ef­forts while Ms. Iran­ga­ni is her sec­ond-in-com­mand at MarcS­ri. 
“MarcS­ri was star­ted with­out a plan. I nev­er im­ag­ined my­self be­ing a moth­er to so many chil­dren,” she said. “Now we are all a fam­i­ly and this a place fil­led with love and kind­ness.” 
Du­lan­ja­li, the old­est child at the home, was brought to MarcS­ri 17 years ago, when she was on­ly a few days old. Her dev­as­ta­ted pa­rents were heart­bro­ken when Du­lan­ja­li was born with no arms and de­formed legs. In the ab­sence of pa­rents, Ms. Ri­ta was a lov­ing moth­er to Du­lan­ja­li. Just like all the oth­er chil­dren at MarcS­ri, Du­lan­ja­li calls Ri­ta “moth­er.”
“Du­lan­ja­li was the first to be brought to MarcS­ri as a ba­by,” Ri­ta said. “At the time this was an eld­er’s home. There were no chil­dren. But when Dulan­ja­li’s dis­traught fa­ther brought her here, I didn’t have the heart to turn him and his child away. Ev­er since that day Du­la­na­ja­li has been here.” 
Cur­rent­ly Du­lan­ja­li is the star at MarcS­ri. This is be­cause of her great per­form­ance at the Or­di­na­ry Lev­el ex­ams last year. Gain­ing 6 As, a B and 2 Cs is no small feat, es­pe­cial­ly since Du­la­na­ja­li did not go for any tui­tion classes. How­ev­er, gain­ing these re­sults by writ­ing for the ex­am with her feet is an in­cred­i­ble ach­ieve­ment. 
It was evi­dent that Ri­ta was proud of Du­la­na­ja­li’s ach­ieve­ment as any moth­er would be. 
“I al­ways knew Duan­ja­li had a good brain. She has al­ways been very in­ter­es­ted in her school work. She al­ways works so hard at her stud­ies,” Ri­ta claim­ed. 
How­ev­er, the path which led to her ach­ieve­ment has been rough with many ob­sta­cles along the way. It has re­quired an im­mense degree of strength, cour­age and faith. 
“Du­lan­ja­li was a very sick ba­by. At first we didn’t even think she would live,” Ri­ta said. “Be­cause of her con­di­tion we couldn’t even send her to school even. When she fi­nal­ly star­ted go­ing to school she was al­most eight years old. How­ev­er, I taught her at home and she dis­played her in­tel­li­gence and tal­ents from a young age. She even taught her­self to write with her foot. It was ob­vi­ous that she was a very wise child.” 
Since she was sev­en years old, Du­lan­ja­li has at­ten­ded the Ka­tut­kur­un­da Ro­man Cath­o­lic Col­lege. Cur­rent­ly she is pur­su­ing her Ad­vanced Lev­el stud­ies there in the Com­merce stream. 
Speak­ing about her fu­ture dreams Du­lan­ja­li said she wanted to be­come a graph­ic de­sign­er. Right now she is fol­low­ing a course in graph­ic de­sign­ing and hopes to con­tin­ue her stud­ies in this field when she leaves school. 
“I have al­ways been in­ter­es­ted in the IT field, es­pe­cial­ly in ani­ma­tions and graph­ics,” Du­la­na­ja­li said with an en­thu­si­as­tic smile. “Web brows­ing is my hob­by. I al­so like to read books. Re­cent­ly I fin­ish­ed read­ing the en­tire Sher­lock Holmes ser­ies.”
Du­la­na­ja­li said she was for­ev­er grate­ful that she was brought up at MarcS­ri. Even though her bi­o­log­i­cal pa­rents came back to her life a few years ago and vis­ited her some­times, she con­sid­ers Ri­ta to be her re­al moth­er. 
“I am glad that I was brought here. MarcS­ri is the per­fect place for some­one like me,” Du­lan­ja­li ex­claimed. “This en­vi­ron­ment is bet­ter than a typ­i­cal home en­vi­ron­ment. If I grew up in a reg­u­lar house, I might have been cor­nered and kept away from so­ci­ety. But at MarcS­ri I in­ter­act with the world and I get ex­posed to so­ci­ety. I al­so re­ceive un­con­di­tion­al love and care. I have nev­er felt that this was not my home and I nev­er want to leave.” 
  Apart from Du­lan­ja­li there are 7 oth­er chil­dren at MarcS­ri, rang­ing be­tween the ages of 16 and 2 years. They have all been re­jec­ted by their pa­rents and were brought to MarcS­ri as ba­bies. Two of the young­est chil­dren suf­fer from Down’s syn­drome while the oth­ers ex­hib­it phys­i­cal de­form­i­ties and dis­a­bil­i­ties. 
Ex­cept for the two chil­dren with Down’s syn­drome, ev­ery­one else at­tends Ka­tu­kur­un­da Ro­man Cath­o­lic Col­lege. Five year old She­han at­tends Holy An­gle Con­vent in Go­na­pi­nu­wa­la, a place built es­pe­cial­ly to ed­u­cate chil­dren with Down’s syn­drome. “It is cer­tain­ly dif­fi­cult to send them to school be­cause they all have spe­cial needs and re­quire in­di­vid­u­al at­ten­tion,” Ri­ta said. “We have to take their wheel­chairs and sev­er­al changes of clothes. Ma­neu­ver­ing the wheel­chairs is some­times very hard in­side the school. How­ev­er the prin­ci­pal, the teach­ers and the staff at the school have been ex­treme­ly pa­tient and un­der­stand­ing.” 
She add­ed that the chil­dren are of­ten hel­ped by their class­mates and even though they come across dif­fi­cult, un­com­fort­a­ble sit­ua­tions, they face them brave­ly.
“It can­not be easy to go to school or even face life with their dis­a­bil­i­ties,” Ri­ta said. “But these chil­dren over­come these chal­leng­es re­mark­a­bly. They are hap­py and well-ad­jus­ted. Even though they might be hand­i­cap­ped phys­i­cal­ly, their men­tal­i­ty is very good.” 
Mar­io is one ex­am­ple of a child who has made the best of what he has been giv­en. Ri­ta de­scri­bed 10 year old Mar­io as a “very in­ter­est­ing” child. Born with no legs, the agile way Mar­io moves on his hands is as­tound­ing. 
Ac­cord­ing to Ri­ta, Mar­io has a mid-east­ern ori­gin and was brought to MarcS­ri from a mid­dle-east­ern coun­try. He had nev­er seen his pa­rents since. 
Speak­ing about Mar­io’s com­pas­sion Ri­ta said, “Mar­io loves an­i­mals, es­pe­cial­ly cats. If some­one hurts any of the cats here, he gets very an­gry. Be­fore he goes to bed, he wish­es them a good night and draws the sign of the cross on their heads.” 
The lit­tle an­i­mal-lov­er al­so has 18 hens. He is in­ter­es­ted in ag­ri­cul­ture and when asked what he would do when he grew up, his staunch an­swer was “farm­ing.”
Ri­ta proud­ly re­vealed an­oth­er one of Mar­io’s pas­sions. “Mar­io is a first-class crick­et­er. He watches in­ter­na­tion­al crick­et and has an ex­ten­sive knowl­edge about the sport,” she said. 
It was evi­dent from the sto­ries of Du­lan­ja­li, Mar­io and the rest of the chil­dren at MarcS­ri that this en­vi­ron­ment al­lows chil­dren to lead a nor­mal life. Ac­cord­ing to Ri­ta the pur­pose of MarcS­ri is to pro­vide love and care to those who need it the most and help them lead hap­py, healthy, ful­fill­ing lives de­spite their dis­a­bil­i­ties. She add­ed that some of the chil­dren she has hel­ped are grown up with jobs, are hap­pi­ly mar­ried have chil­dren of their own. 
“I don’t want these chil­dren to grow up feel­ing lost and lone­ly,” Ri­ta said ear­nest­ly. “I want them to have some­one be­side them. I en­cour­age pa­rents to ac­cept their chil­dren as they are. And some­times they are able to do that. But if they can’t, I don’t blame them.  In­stead I be­come a sur­ro­gate moth­er to these chil­dren who have been aban­doned due to no fault of theirs. They be­come my own chil­dren.” 
Even though Ri­ta tries her best to ful­fill the chil­dren’s needs, run­ning such a shel­ter is cost­ly. The ex­pen­ses in­clude the cost of food, cloth­ing, med­i­cine, wheel­chairs, school fees, the cost of school sup­plies and the charg­es for ex­tra cour­ses and train­ing pro­grams.  These costs can be a bur­den es­pe­cial­ly since MarcS­ri has no fixed in­come and it does not re­ceive any aid from the gov­ern­ment or any oth­er or­gan­i­sa­tion. MarcS­ri sole­ly re­lies on don­a­tions by kind strang­ers. 
How­ev­er Ri­ta has so far man­aged to ful­fill the needs of chil­dren and is pos­i­tive about the fu­ture of MarcS­ri as she has placed her faith in God. She is sure that MarcS­ri will be run ac­cord­ing to God’s will. She has taught her chil­dren not to grieve over what they don’t have but to be hap­py with what they do have. 
Ri­ta’s at­ti­tude and phi­los­o­phy about life is just as beau­ti­ful as her mis­sion. She has made it her life goal to make these chil­dren’s lives worth liv­ing. 
“We do not have much and we def­i­nite­ly don’t have many lux­u­ries. We have what God in­ten­ded for us to have and we make do with it. I try to give these chil­dren as much as they de­serve. Af­ter all, they were born to this world with so much of suf­fer­ing. It is our du­ty to keep them hap­py and make their lives as beau­ti­ful as pos­si­ble.” 
(Pix by Kith­siri de Mel)

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  • Renaka Saturday, 11 May 2013 03:37 PM

    How can we contact them. Please publish their information in your news paper

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