A century of love, care and shelter | Sunday Observer

A century of love, care and shelter

26 March, 2023

The Sri Lankadhara Society Ltd., founded in 1922, one of the oldest voluntary humanitarian organisations in the country, has reached the milestone of a centenary, in its dedicated service to the disadvantaged and the deserving in Sri Lanka.

Founded by the late Dr. W.A. de Silva and his wife Catherine, initially with the noble intention of providing care and shelter to destitute and needy Buddhist girls and womenfolk during the colonial era, including training in productive skills needed for their future lives.

Subsequently the Society has expanded its humanitarian services, to establish a pre-school for underprivileged children and a day care for elders as well.

Dr. de Silva was a multifaceted personality, being a member of the legislative council for 16 years and Government Minister for 6 years, a government Veterinary surgeon, a practical Agriculturalist being a proprietor planter, well known philanthropist, Buddhist revivalist, editor publisher and owner of several newspapers, intellect with publications on Buddhism and the language, literature and culture of Sinhalese, in addition to being a patriot and a freedom fighter. His contribution to nationalist struggle during latter colonial era left an indelible impression on socio-political,religious and cultural life of the nation.

Meritorious deeds

Dr. W. A. de Silva’s meritorious deeds became a reality due to unstinted support he received from his devoted wife Catherine. This remarkable Lady, Muthuthanthrige Catherine de Silva, a daughter of Mudliyar Simon Fernando Sri Chandrasekera of Moratuwa, inherited a great fortune, which was disbursed generously on her husband’s noble crusade of serving his beloved nation, religion and its down trodden masses.

To perpetuate his vision of uplifting the down trodden and neglected womenfolk of his beloved nation, Dr. de Silva bequeathed a newly built mansion on several acres of prime land, with modern facilities situated at 95, W.A. Silva Mawatha, Wellawatta, Colombo 6. This mansion presently houses the Sri Lankadhara Society Ltd., an approved charity, being the first social service organisation established by the benevolent couple Dr. and Mrs. W.A. de Silva. The establishment of Sri Lankadhara Society itself is viewed as an extension of Dr. de Silva’s avowed mission to build a modern sovereign nation. As their first task they established the Sri Lankadhara Girls’ Home at their own expense.

The objectives of the Sri Lankadhara Society, as envisaged by the founders a century ago were:

Promotion of education amongst girls and women, provision of a home for destitute children, and maintaining of institutions for training girls and women in suitable industries.

The founder President of the Sri Lankadhara Society was De Silva herself and under her guidance a Women’s Training College was established at the premises in 1929, for those who have studied in Sinhala medium. A day school, then known as Wellawatte Buddhist Girls School was built on their property adjoining the Lankadhara Home, which was attended by the resident girls of Lankadhara Home, in addition to normal students. Past records indicate the school was managed by de Silva herself and cost of salaries of school teachers and Home-staff were borne by the Society until Government took over as an assisted school.

From the inception, Sri Lankadhara Society has been managed by an elected committee of women, purely on a voluntary basis, consisting the President, Vice President, Joint Secretaries, Joint Treasurers and Committee members. Since then, the Society under the guidance of successive committees has expanded its humanitarian services and has strived to emulate the ideals envisioned by the Founders. The services of the Society now encompass a Balika (Girls) Home, Infants’ Home, Senior Citizens Home and a Pre-school

The Elders Daycare Centre, which functioned from 1991, to provide rest and recreation for neighborhood communities, was discontinued on medical advice, with the commencement of the prevailing viral pandemic.

Helping the helpless

Residents of Balika Home and Infants’ Home are girls entrusted to the Sri Lankadhara Society either by the Department of Probation and Childcare Services or by Juvenile courts. There are 50 residents (Senior and junior girls) at present. These girls are mostly from unsettled homes, either being abandoned, orphaned, victimised and also children of drugs/alcohol addicts. Some parents have been unable to provide for their children due to extreme poverty or incurable illness. These children entrusted to the Society are extremely traumatised, have faced all manners of challenges and require special care and attention.

The Sri Lankadhara Society, ventured to open a pre-school and a day care center for children below 5 years, in 1980. Children both male and female are accommodated from underprivileged and non-affluent families from the neighborhood communities.

The allowance provided by the Government for the care of infants and girls is meagre in this era of accelerating consumer goods prices, which makes providing even basic necessities a difficult task.

To overcome this crisis, the Society has constantly sought and received donations in cash and kind from generous individuals, institutions, mercantile sector and social service-oriented organisations. The Society takes this opportunity to gratefully acknowledge all such generous benefactors who have supported this humanitarian venture from its inception.