CHAMILA PATHIRANA

“We need to inspire our youth to help them realize that life is not about entertainment for the sake of selfish satisfaction, but about finding happiness and contentment through helping others.”

Community service was a big part of Chamila Pathirana’s childhood. He spent most of his time organizing annual community events, fund raising for charity, planting trees and many other endeavours, when most other youth his age were engaged in personal pursuits.

In 2006, he founded the Gautama Daruwo Arya Foundation (GDAF), taking the advice of an elder. Recalling the incident, he says “an older gentleman speaking with us after one of our community initiatives, commended us for our effort and told us that as we grew older, we would pursue other interests and face many personal challenges which would take us away from the charitable work we were doing. His advice to us was to start a foundation, which would help us continue our work into the future.”

But it wasn’t until 2016, when a massive drought in the North Central Province took GDAF to Welikada, that Chamila found his true calling. Ravaged by drought, the already impoverished community of Welikanda was on the brink of a catastrophe when Chamila and his friends drove two water bowsers to the area. He says the team struggled to distribute water from village to village, unable to bear the impact of the arid weather. Chamila was brought to tears seeing that the people of Welikada had to face these harsh conditions daily and what made it worse was seeing little children stand in line with tiny pots and cups to collect the water they brought.

This was when a young single mother of two, living in a dilapidated mud hut with a thatched roof, pleaded with him to help her build a small shelter to protect the children from the elements. With rains forecasted in the months to come, she was worried that what little remained of the house would be washed away. This was to be the first of over 50 houses Chamila has helped build for the community.

A public servant attached to the Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs, Chamila says he felt he needed to be closer to the community to continue his work and requested for a transfer to the Divisional Secretariat in the area. “It was a decision I had to make alone, as my family and friends all advised me against getting this transfer.”

Chamila credits a group of likeminded friends close to him for their support to help the community in Welikanda and believes they will continue to do so in the foreseeable future as well. His efforts are now focused on uplifting the community, helping with self-employment opportunities, vocational training, farming and even supporting children with their educational needs.

Being a father himself, Chamila feels his mission, through his work, is to inspire more people to help those in need, especially the youth of Sri Lanka. “We need to inspire our youth to realize that life is not about having fun and entertaining ourselves, but about finding happiness and contentment in helping others.” Chamila says he wants to continue helping impoverished communities, help regrow forests and guide the youth to pursue community service.“We need to inspire our youth to help them realize that life is not about entertainment for the sake of selfish satisfaction, but about finding happiness and contentment through helping others.”