V-AWARDS 2018

SHINING A LIGHT ON THOSE WHO SERVE IN SILENCE

The Journey  

In 2011, the United Nations Volunteers Programme (UNV), the Ministry of Social Services, the National Steering Committee on Volunteering, and News 1st launched the National Volunteer Awards (V-Awards); a journey to recognize and appreciate those who serve in silence in their communities. It was a sincere effort to say ‘thank you’ to individuals who had selflessly contributed to Sri Lankan society and inspire other to following foot steps.

To Honour. To Salute.

The first edition of V-Awards was held in 2011. The V-Awards secretariat received over 450 applications from Sri Lankan citizens who had nominated individuals that they believed had significantly contributed to positive change in their communities. Out of the fifteen finalists, six were commended for their exemplary service to the people of Sri Lanka and one awarded as Volunteer of the Year 2011.

2011

To Honour. To Salute.

The first edition of V-Awards was held in 2011. The V-Awards secretariat received over 450 applications from Sri Lankan citizens who had nominated individuals that they believed had significantly contributed to positive change in their communities. Out of the fifteen finalists, six were commended for their exemplary service to the people of Sri Lanka and one awarded as Volunteer of the Year 2011.

2011

Volunteering for Water

The second edition of V-Awards in 2013 continued in the same vein, honouring and saluting individuals who had made extraordinary contributions to society, and identifying role models who can inspire a nation to volunteer for social causes.

2013

Volunteering for Water

The second edition of V-Awards in 2013 continued in the same vein, honouring and saluting individuals who had made extraordinary contributions to society, and identifying role models who can inspire a nation to volunteer for social causes.

2013

Recognize. Honour. Inspire.

Continuing this tradition of bringing to light inspiring acts of volunteerism, V-Awards 2015 looked to recognize, honour and inspire, individuals that have selflessly served the people of Sri Lanka.

2015

Recognize. Honour. Inspire.

Continuing this tradition of bringing to light inspiring acts of volunteerism, V-Awards 2015 looked to recognize, honour and inspire, individuals that have selflessly served the people of Sri Lanka.

2015

Volunteering for PeaceBuilding

Will continue to Recognize. Honour. and Inspire. selfless acts of volunteerism with special recognition for volunteering for PeaceBuilding.

2018

Volunteering for PeaceBuilding

Will continue to Recognize. Honour. and Inspire. selfless acts of volunteerism with special recognition for volunteering for PeaceBuilding.

2018

A Joint Initiative by  

V-Award Heroes 

Their work has empowered communities, united villages for a common cause, instilled hope and inspiration in both young and old, and renewed the spirit of humanity. Their stories of courage, perseverance and success have inspired us, and we hope that reading through their journey will rekindle the spirit of volunteerism in each and every one of you.

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Who will be the next Volunteer of the Year 2018?

Selflessness speaks no language.....

Compassion lives in the heart.....

Let us honour them.....

Winner of ‘Youth Volunteer of the Year’ award volunteered with the forensic unit of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She is now exploring avenues of mobilizing more volunteers to support the work of NIMH.

Nalaka and the villagers from Mirahawatta had been suffering for 40 long years without a proper water supply. Nalaka took the giant step of initiating a project to provide potable water to the villagers, and urge all Sri Lankans to take more interest in helping villages without drinking water.

A software engineer by profession, Danesh uses social media to raise awareness about those in need and bring about positive social change through his organization, “Samaja Sathkara.lk”. Danesh Traveling extensively to identify those who are in need and he has reached out to over 15,000 lives through these projects.

A printer by profession, Nilupul is committed to the preserving and protecting the Bolgoda Wetland system. He is also the founder of “DaltharaParisarakayo” (Dalthara Environmentalists). Danesh Maduranga. Nilupul volunteers for environmental conservation and sustainable development in his community.

Stories to Inspire 2015

A printer by profession, Nilupul grew up in the fishing village of Dalthara, bordering the Bolgoda Lake. As a child he would walk around the lake with his friends, fishing for prawns with self-made hooks. With the open economy coming into place in the late 70s, the area surrounding the lake turned into a tourist hotspot. Investors began constructing hotels and guest houses which affected the livelihood of fishermen around the lake and threatened the eco system.
Nilupul began by advocating for the protection of the area surrounding the lake by petitioning companies to stop annexing land from the lake. Realising that a collective voice will create a greater impact, Nilupul set up the ‘Dalthara Parisarikiyo’ (Dalthara Environmentalists) which included residents from the village.
The organisation took up the massive task of creating a platform for discussion, bringing together the different parties to resolve and protect the Bolgoda ecosystem. As President of the organisation, Nilupul worked tirelessly to draw the attention of authorities to the destruction taking place in the area. He gathered data on the impact of the construction work along the river, and shared numerous avenues that could reverse this trend.
However these suggestions did not yield results as the authorities continued to turn a blind eye on the destruction. As a last resort, they decided to take legal action against a group of companies operating on the banks of the lake. Despite being subject to intimidation and threats, Nilupul and the members of his organisation continued their struggle.
These persistent efforts culminated in a judgement from the Supreme Court urging all local authorities and enterprises to abide by environment protection laws. Such efforts also stand testimony to the heights that a community can reach if they work together towards one common goal. The residents of Dalthara are proud of what they have achieved and in particular of the strength and resolve of Nilupul.
Yet, Nilupul’s work hasn’t stopped completely. Using art to take his message further, he initiated an art exhibition with the participation of school children to raise awareness among the next generation of leaders.
In an age where our Eco systems are increasingly threatened by rapid development, Nilupul is committed to preserving what is left of them for the future generations. His efforts have not only brought about awareness but also policy changes which are fundamental to the protection of the environment.

Social media is not only changing the way we communicate, but it is also a powerful tool that can foster social change and help those in need. A software engineer by profession, Danesh uses social media to raise awareness about those in need and bring about positive social change. Through his organisation Samaja Sathkara.lk, Danesh raises funds on social media for projects that uplift the lives of people in rural areas.
A typical day in the life of Danesh involves visiting a town that lacks resources and facilities, walking from home to home, speaking with villagers and identifying those who need help. Taking pictures of the villages he visits, Danesh shares them on Facebook, calling out for those who would like to help. During these visits, he also provides school supplies for children, dry rations for families or nutrition supplies for expectant mothers. With the contributions received through social media, Danesh and his team of volunteers at Samaja Sathkara.lk have been able to build permanent housing and sanitation facilities for extremely vulnerable families in many villages.
Danesh also carries out long-term scholarship programmes for school children to support the study of Information Technology. In addition, Samaja Sathkara.lk supports people with physical disabilities by providing artificial limbs, wheelchairs and crutches in order to ensure that they are able to carry on with their daily lives.
Travelling over 1800 km a week to different cities and villages, Danesh has touched the lives of over 15,000 people through these projects. Devoting six days a week for voluntary activities, he has continued similar projects over the past five years. As a result, there are a growing number of followers for his organisation on social media, and it has also created a greater awareness about the work that he carries out.
Passionate and determined to create a better society, Danesh has overcome countless challenges and obstacles along the way. Samaja Sathkara. lk not only raises awareness about the lives of those who battle poverty on a daily basis, but also goes the extra mile to uplift them. By using social media to empower those in need, Danesh has set an example for youth of the country by indicating that modern communication tools can be used to make a better society.

Children with special needs are those who may have learning disabilities, cognitive impairment, terminal illnesses or developmental delays that affect the natural growth of a child.
Little Shivan was born as a premature baby with autism, cerebral palsy and was visually impaired. As parents, it was bound to be a lifelong challenge for Ganesh and his wife as they were not prepared for the difficulties they would face raising a child with special needs. Yet, it was this challenge that inspired Ganesh to set up the Shivan Foundation to help others who were raising children with special needs.
A London-based entrepreneur, Ganesh decided to return to Sri Lanka to set up the foundation. The construction of the first facility for Shivan Foundation began in 2011 in Kandy and the Centre was opened to the public in 2013. Located in the town of Teldeniya, the Centre now offers permanent accommodation for about 70 children, and provides professional care, along with Ayurveda treatment and learning. The Centre provides Siddha Ayurveda treatment including the ‘Panchakarma’ such as ‘Shirodhara’, ‘Shirovasthi’, and ‘Kativasthi’. In addition to these treatments children are also provided with music therapy, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy.
From its humble beginnings, the foundation has expanded over the years and now includes seven similar centres in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Oruthota, Panwila, Trincomalee and Ukuwela. Ganesh has managed to secure the voluntary services of doctors who travel all the way from Jaffna every two weeks to prescribe treatment for children who visit the Centre. Teachers and volunteers who assist at the Centre come from different backgrounds and represent all ethnicities.
Together, these centres have treated over 500 children with special needs irrespective of their religion, ethnicity or background. In addition to providing treatment free of charge for low income families, Ganesh also provides them with an additional allowance.
While the Foundation is funded with the support of many well-wishers, Ganesh generously allocates a large sum of his own income for the maintenance of the Centre. There are countless testimonies of children being sent abroad for surgeries funded by the Foundation.
Ganesh stands as a man of courage who not only challenged his destiny but also the destiny of many others. Finding strength and inspiration in the challenge that came his way, his initiative continues to touch the lives of countless children with special needs who often lack specialised care.

Volunteerism is deep-rooted in Sri Lankan culture. Community-based organisations are formed in villages to address issues within the community. These societies are often driven by a leader in the village, elected by the people. Chandrasiri is one such individual.
He began volunteering in his village in Pohorabawa as far back as 1961. Inspired by his father who was also a community volunteer, Chandrasiri was elected President of the village society by the people at a young age. Since then he has been elected repeatedly and continues to lead the organisation in his village today.
Chandrasiri spearheads work in many fields including education, community development and rural development. When the school in the village was on the verge of being closed down, he took the initiative to refurbish it by providing financial aid. As the government established a weaving mill in the land donated by Chandrasiri, many of the unemployed youth in the community found meaningful employment. Further, he persuaded his father to donate land to establish the cooperative society building which has benefitted the villagers for decades.
Many young girls and boys have been empowered and equipped with additional skills owing to an IT education programme initiated by Chandrasiri. He has also supported the paving of roads within the village which has greatly improved access around the village. He continues to assist children from low income families with scholarships for education and provides financial aid to expectant mothers who are unable to support themselves.
Chandrasiri has been a leader for the people of his village in many ways. He has been the strength and encouragement behind civil activism. Under his leadership and guidance, and through the collective efforts of the villagers they were able to prevent the Iron Wood (Naa) tree from being destroyed in the Parakaduwa area. It was later declared as a protected tree. He formed the Young and Rural Citizen Coexistence Collective of Pohorabawa which has flourished into a successful group of community members that support the development of the village
As a community leader, Chandrasiri has shown the world the true spirit of volunteerism. He is a role model in the village that everyone looks up to. Selfless and committed, he remains invested in the endeavour of serving humanity.

Born to a family of fisher folk, Fr Thisera grew up along the western coast of the country. Growing up as a child, he witnessed first-hand the effects of alcohol and substance abuse in the community. A large number of victims were breadwinners of their families. Each day was a struggle for these families and a threat to the future generations.
Having completed his education at the seminary, Fr Thisera committed himself to changing the lives of those affected by alcohol and substance abuse. He began weekly peer group meetings on abstinence that bring together adults and youth who are struggling to overcome substance use, and their families. The meetings provide the much-needed refuge for individuals to speak up. It is also a space where they receive encouragement and support. Fr Thisera also directs victims and their families towards counselling and medical support and continues to monitor their progress to reduce the risk of relapsing.
In a community where victims and families of substance abuse are severely shunned and marginalised, Fr Thisera gave them hope, a chance to rebuild their lives and to restore their dignity. Due to his relentless efforts, many individuals, who were previously substance users, have been able to rebuild their families, excel at their workplace and lead successful lives. They are also able to inspire other substance users to breakaway from addiction.
Most importantly, these peer groups have created a positive social trend that accepts and respects people who have recovered from substance abuse and focus on creating a substance-free society.
Over one hundred adults and youth across the areas of Wennapuwa, Chilaw, Negombo and Kalpitiya have been able to overcome substance addiction through the selfless service of Fr Thisera.
While supporting victims of substance abuse has been an integral part of Fr Thisera’s work, there are countless other initiatives that he has pioneered in the community, including raising funds to build houses for low income families, providing free medicine to the needy and building water supplies that have created access to clean water to over a thousand families.
Fr Thisera’s passion and commitment to make a difference in society remain as steadfast as the faith he proclaims. In communities that have complex social challenges, he has united people for a common cause. Selfless and inspiring, Fr Thisera remains a role model in the community that he serves.

Born with a hearing impairment, Kasun faced tremendous hardships as a child. With support from his family and friends, he learnt to read and write in Sinhala and English which enabled him not only to converse fluently in sign language and lip read but also to excel in his studies.
In spite of the support Kasun received, he remained aware of the challenges that young children with hearing impairments face on a daily basis and was determined to do what he could to help them.
In 2009, Kasun attended the ‘Duskin Leadership Training for Person with Disabilities’ in Japan which equipped him with new skills in technology, leadership and project management. His ability to converse in foreign sign languages such as Japanese allowed him to communicate and network with deaf communities abroad. Through such experiences he was able to obtain assistance for volunteering endeavours in Sri Lanka.
Kasun founded the “Sumaga Ruhunu Circle of Deaf” in 2012, and has worked diligently to empower others like him through the organisation. He has distributed hearing aid and volunteered as a teacher at the Rohana Special School in Matara. In 2013, he teamed up with Marks and Spencer to provide vocational training for young people with hearing impairments. As a result of this initiative 125 youth have been trained and 88 of them have been employed in reputed companies.
In 2013, Kasun embarked on a journey to empower those with hearing impairments to visualise what they couldn’t hear. He set up ‘Ahanna’ (listen), a production house which initially began recording religious sermons into sign language videos. Moving from audio to text, the production house converted Sinhala text books used by children from grades 1-5 into sign language videos. These videos are being distributed free of charge.
Kasun’s effort to bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf community was made fruitful by his invention ‘Sithengi’ – an Automatic Sign Language Translator. This revolutionary invention allows sign language gestures to be translated into alphabets. Kasun was recognised for these initiatives when he was awarded the first place in the fields of ‘Teaching Aid’ and ‘Making Disable Independent’ at the ‘Sahasak Nimavum’ National Inventions Exhibition in 2012 and 2014.
In a society where those with disabilities are marginalised, Kasun has found the passion and drive to make a difference. His work spans across the country touching the lives of hundreds, from children in Jaffna to the youth in Matara.
Drawing satisfaction solely from the need to serve humanity, Kasun has provided individuals with hearing impairment an opportunity to lead a normal life within the community. Above all, he has empowered them with respect and dignity.
‘Navajeeva’ means giving ‘new life’, and for Kumarini the Centre she set up 29 years ago has given her and many others a new lease of life. Her husband, a doctor by profession, was passionate about helping those with disabilities. However his untimely death, was a major setback in Kumarini’s life.
Supported by her family and friends, Kumarini started off the Navajeevana Rehabilitation Centre in Tangalle with three volunteers, opening the doors of her home to children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. She found it difficult to identify people with mental and physical disabilities, while the lack of trained therapists created a vacuum in providing a sustainable system for regular care.
Instead of bringing down therapists from Colombo, Kumarini believed that investing in the people of the area would sustain this initiative in the long run. With the help of other villagers who supported the activities of the centre, Kumarini selected a few youth in the area and equipped them with the necessary skills and training to serve those who walk in through the doors of the centre.
Through her tireless efforts and hard work Kumarini received sufficient donors and funds to the Centre allowing it to build its own prosthetics and orthotics workshop and a fully equipped physiotherapy and audiology testing facilities. Its highly trained staff and availability of facilities makes the Centre a one-stop resource centre for people with disabilities. Further, the Centre trained rehabilitees to work in their workshops and employed them as staff.
While the Centre grew in size and strengthened its impact, Kumarini soon realised that rehabilitation was the first of many hurdles faced by children with various physical, neurological and developmental disabilities. As they require special learning facilities, these children were unable to attend mainstream schools which was an impediment to their education.
To address this gap, the Centre established two special education classes. Today, there are four special education schools supported by the Centre, which are located in different parts of the province. Specially trained teachers work in these schools and provide a holistic basic education that includes not only academics but aesthetics as well. Children attending these schools are later integrated into the mainstream schools in the area.
The dedicated staff at the Centre have helped to uplift the lives of over 42,000 individuals with disabilities. In addition, the Centre has provided employment opportunities to over 50 people from the area, while Kumarini has also inspired over 700 youth in the community to volunteer to help those in need. Not only is Kumarini a spirited volunteer, her commitment to serve the community is remarkable.

Dementia is a collective term used to describe over a hundred physical brain disorders, and one of the most common types of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. The lack of awareness and understanding amongst persons living with dementia and their families is an issue that needs to be addressed in Sri Lanka.
In 1999, Lorraine embarked on a long and challenging journey to raise awareness and combat the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Having experienced the effects of the disease by caring for a family member, Lorraine put her heart and soul into being a full-time volunteer, to educate people about the disease and assist those who suffer from it.
Along with her then husband, Lorraine went on to establish the Lanka Alzheimer’s Foundation (LAF). Initially caring for guests at their own residence, she worked painstakingly to raise funds for a permanent Centre. For a period of two to three months a year, Lorraine and her volunteers would stand outside supermarkets and other popular locations, raising awareness and inviting generous donors to support their cause.
Throughout all these efforts, her main goal was to create greater awareness among people about Alzheimer’s. Ten years since the initiation of the foundation, her commitment and hard work culminated in the establishment of the LAF Service and Information Centre on World Alzheimer’s Day 21 September 2011.
The Centre offers a variety of services ranging from creating awareness and eradicating stigma, providing memory screening assessments, caregiver support groups, an activity centre providing therapeutic activities for persons living with dementia and respite for the carer as well.
Lorraine pays great attention when gathering her volunteers who can dedicate their time for work at the Foundation and runs the Centre as a professional entity, recording every donation received. She is conscious of the fact that LAF is accountable to their well-wishers and donors.
Families of the visitors value the direct effect that Lorraine and her team have on their well-being. The activities and interactions that LAF provides keep guests occupied and content, and in some instances contributes to stalling the progress of the disease.
Ever present and ready to offer support to anyone who steps into LAF, Lorraine is an inspiration not only to her staff but to everyone who has interacted with her at the Centre.
Lorraine is driven by an unwavering passion and commitment to fulfill a promise she made 16 years ago. Coupled with her vision and devoted spirit to the cause, she has built an institution from the ground up, that has uplifted the lives of those with dementia and their families.

Nishadha is a final year undergraduate of the University of Sabaragamuwa. Specialising in Statistics, her ambition was to become a lecturer. However her life goals were to change with the inception of her organisation - ‘Voice for People Community Foundation’.
In 2015, Nishadha set up the foundation among her circle of friends to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. The foundation carries out its work through five broad areas; ‘Saviya’ (Strength) where children are provided educational opportunities through scholarships to complete their secondary education; ‘Helping Hand’ which makes donations for orphanages, elders’ homes and school libraries; ‘Sarasavi-Saviya’ (Strength for Higher Education) through which seminars are conducts for advanced level students; ‘Gamata Saviya’ (Strengthening Villages) looks at uplifting the lives of people by providing health and economic support; and ‘Kreedawata Saviya’ (Sports Programme) which scouts for talent from the rural schools and provides them with guidance to excel in their chosen sports.
While material support in the form of stationery supplies for children in the rural areas remains a necessity, Nishadha has focused on providing teaching support which is an aspect that is often overlooked. In one of the school’s where Nishadha and her team of volunteers work, students of the grade 5 scholarship examination have performed exceptionally well.
Nishadha raises awareness and finds prospective donors for these projects through the Facebook group of the organisation. Updates on the projects and funds are regularly posted on the group which ensures a link between the organisation and its donors and supporters.
In a relatively short period of time, Nishadha and her team have created an impact in the areas that they function. Schools and families in the areas of their work have greatly benefitted from these activities. She has provided the drive and leadership to this passionate and committed group of individuals that are selflessly investing their time and energy to empower and uplift the lives of people across the country.

Fr Paul was the youngest in a family of five siblings. A student of St. Michael’s College Batticaloa, he was ordained as a priest in 1969. He excelled at sports and academics, and went on to pursue higher studies in career guidance, education and psychology.
The people in the east have constantly endured hardship. They have survived through three decades of military conflict, the Tsunami which destroyed the town’s infrastructure and poverty which has affected the wellbeing of the people. Fr Paul served the people of Batticaloa amidst these obstacles through a variety of community related programmes.
A trained counsellor, Fr Paul offers community-based counselling to people of all ages. Setting up a professional counselling centre where 32 skilled counsellors are employed, he believes that dedication and encouragement can help a person overcome their challenges.
Fr Paul has committed himself to providing better surroundings for children and youth. Driven by the need to provide a secure place for children orphaned by war, he established six children’s homes; three each for boys and girls. These children are also provided with quality education. As a result, some of the students have won scholarships and entered state schools and universities.
He also set up the ’Butterfly Peace Garden’, a counselling centre where children of all ethnicities gather to work on arts and crafts, which impacts their emotional stability and development. He also coordinates the activities at ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’, a residential vocational training centre for both male and female ex-combatants. The Centre offers courses such as sewing and welding, paving the way for these youth to explore new employment opportunities.
‘Dream Catcher’ is another entity established by Fr Paul that provides training on counselling to teachers and NGO workers. Training is provided by Fr Paul and other skilled international psychotherapists. He personally ensures that the disabled and the widows are included in these activities which leads to their empowerment.
In an effort to effectively reach out to the grassroots level, Fr Paul also organises street dramas that deal with issues such as suicide, alcoholism, child abuse and domestic violence.
Fr Paul has inspired generations to overcome obstacles that have held back their community. His compassion has healed those who have been battered by war and poverty. He has taught, empowered, consoled, and uplifted the lives of the young and old, irrespective of their race or ethnicity, spreading love and the spirit of humanity.

Supporting partners 

United Nations Volunteers Sri Lanka © 2018