There has been a lot of sad and bad news coming out of Sri Lanka recently. So we are pleased to report, support and promote an amazing initiative by our local Sri Lankan community, which is assisting poor children, families and villagers in Sri Lanka. An initiative which is bringing light into dark places and making a real difference for many people.
Anduren Eliyata, Sri Lankan for Darkness to Light, is a program which provides solar powered lights to economically handicapped families in Sri Lanka. Operated as a registered non-profit charity, the program exists entirely on donations with all administration costs borne by the Committee Members, many of whom are Macarthur locals.
Darkness to Light, is the brainchild of Chandra and Marie Fernando, a Macquarie Fields couple in their 70s who identified a need and undertook to do something practical about it.
Since it started in 2014, the program has provided well over a thousand portable solar light units to exceptionally poor villagers across Sri Lanka. The units deliver basic lighting which not only create a much safer environment but provide lighting so the children can do their homework at night. Enabling students to learn, advance their education and improve their lives. Basics that in Australia we take for granted but in this underprivileged part of our world, it is luxury.
Currently, the most common source of lighting in these villages is kerosene lamps. Not only does this involve the cost to purchase the kerosene, money that these villagers can’t really afford, it is also very dangerous. The lamps can catch on fire and they emit dangerous fumes. It has been reported that 3-4 children die every year in Sri Lanka from kerosene oil accidents or house fires, but the number could be much greater.
Darkness to Light now provides a basic solar package which includes three lights, a solar panel, storage batteries and cables. When fully charged, the lights produce 10 hours of illumination and have a 10 year life span.
“These solar lights not only emit a bright clean light, they do not have any hydrocarbon fumes so they are both environmentally-friendly and safe to use,” Chandra Fernando said.
Chandra explains that the solar packages are given to the families, free of charge.
“This saves them from having to buy kerosene so they can use their money for essentials,” Chandra said, “Some of these families can’t even afford to buy food at least twice a day, so this is a great relief for them.”
Each package costs only $50 and the committee relies completely on donations to fund the program. They cover their own expenses so for a tax-deductible donation of $50, you could be instrumental in transforming and saving lives.
Sparking the Light
Chandra is an extremely humble man and when we asked him to tell us more of his story, he was reluctant.
“I should not be ‘monkey praising its own tail’ story,” he insisted.
But we believe that knowing more about the people behind the project will provide you with greater insight into the need and give you confidence that every one of the 50 dollars you donate per light, will be spent on the actual solar packages, not on admin and other expenses.
Chandra was inspired by a story in the ‘Lakbima’ Newspaper about a girl who had passed her HSC exam as the best in her Sri Lankan Province and sixth across the island and she had been studying under a kerosene bottle lamp.
“When I read the article in 2014, I was inspired to do something about it,” Chandra relates. “Marie and I were so impressed yet saddened that she had been studying under a bottle lamp.”
Chandra related closely to the scenario as similar to his own childhood in Sri Lanka.
Born in 1943, Chandra lived in a very poor village in Sri Lanka, lost his father at just 1 year old and was raised by his mid-wife mother in a house with a floor made of cow-dung.
“I did not have electricity in my home, until I was 20 years, and used to study under the bottle lamp.”
As the student in the newspaper story, Chandra also studied hard and made excellent grades despite being discriminated against due to his poor background.
“After leaving school I joined as an Apprentice to a Boat Yard, a Russian Engineer recommended me to the Management and after scoring high on IQ tests I was a junior manager in the company’s textile factory,” Chandra explains.
Later in life Chandra started his own company but suffered issues due to rebel problems and the family migrated to Australia in 1989.
“When I read the student’s story, it immediately resonated with me and I suggested to our Church minister that we give solar powered lights to these families and so the charity was started in 2014”
The plan was to have coin collecting tills to fundraise amongst friends. But the Rev Sisters of Schoenstatt Mulgoa, requested they hold a food stall and take the entire collection for the Charity. The food was all donated so the entire proceeds funded the first 51 Solar Packages.
Five years on and over 1250 Solar Packages have been distributed with another 250 units in Colombo awaiting a peaceful environment to proceed to rural areas.
Harnessing People Power
To raise the funds, the committee use a popular Sri Lankan way of fundraising – selling rice parcels.
Each year the Sri Lankan Community in Campbelltown/ Macarthur, led by Mr Sujeewa Liyanage sell rice parcels on Father’s Day. In 2017 they sold 580 rice parcels, and in 2018, 800.
The Darkness to Light Charity has grown steadily and now has fundraising and representation in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth and have expanded their fundraising to include appeals to businesses.
“We operate from our home, all our people are volunteers so with no overheads, the maximum money can be utilised to purchase Solar Packages,” Chandra said. “But we need more donations to handle the requests we are receiving.”
Chandra has written hundreds of letters to businesses across Australia and refuses to be discouraged by the poor response.
“It is better to write and fail, rather than not writing, is my policy,” Chandra said.
After seeing a copy of Smarter Macarthur in his Ophthalmologist’s office, he contacted us and after hearing his inspirational story, we enthusiastically offered our support to spread the word.
Imagine the change you can make in the lives of 1, 5, 10 children. Directly, positively and immediately with every dollar going towards bringing light into their lives.
You get a great return for your, let’s say, $250 sponsorship:-
- Turning on the light with 5 Solar Light Packages given to 5 needy families
- Tax deduction
- Thank You photo of sponsored kids holding banner with your business logo “Thank You TO YOUR BUSINESS” to promote your generous spirit to your customers
- When possible, a ‘Thank You Video Message’ from the children saying “thank you to your business”
- Free 2 year inclusion in Smarter Directory online
- for your Company, valued at $198!
Contact the magazine to discuss your sponsorship deal, and we’ll help Chandra promote you all around Macarthur and beyond!