|A Day of Hope - the AFLAC Students Day
That Sunday then will see more than the usual traffic coming to Moratuwa. The trains will hold students despite it being a weekend, the bus drivers may be surprised by the extra heads seated behind them on the dawn run to Moratuwa from Matara, Minuwangoda and Maturata. The early birds of Moratuwella will most likely discuss the unusual convergence of students at the gates of the our Lady of Victories Convent at breakfast time. They may ask each other what common thread runs between these students gathered at the gates so eagerly; what possible connection could exist between a tall, wiry, athletic boy of about sixteen and the impossibly thin and anxious looking twenty something almost man standing towards the back of the crowd. Can the giggly little schoolgirl standing with her mother be going to the same place as these two others?
The answer is yes. Their common thread is twofold: poverty and conscientiousness. Each one of these three and the dozens of others who will be milling around the gates that morning is reeling from the relentless assault of poverty while striving for excellence academically. How does a boy almost blinded by years of uncorrected sight with no shoes or confidence achieve a four A result in A-levels and head off to Medical School? What inspires the daughter of a quarry labourer from Nuwara Kalaviya to study for her O-levels by candlelight and aim to enter university? Perhaps they are inherently courageous or exceptionally bold. Maybe they possess superhuman determination or extraordinary intelligence. While it is doubtless that these are the strengths of character that have propelled them towards achieving their ambitions in the midst of such varied but equally difficult circumstances, there may be yet one more commonality between them that gives the final nudge necessary to achieve their aspirations. Lets call that commonality Hope.
Hope comes to them through the hands of 193 volunteer education coordinators and 300 sponsors from as near as Colombo and as far as Florida, bound together by the Education program run by AFLAC International (the Association for Lighting a Candle). Currently there are 338 students being sponsored through the AFLAC Education Program by sponsors located in every continent. The volunteers and sponsors involved with AFLAC are as multifarious as their locations; some are young, others are aged, some are wealthy, others not so, some are Lankan and others quite convincingly not. Yet their collective kindness, either in parting with their hard earned dollars or dirhams, or in parting with their even more valuable time and efforts, makes it possible for these students to further their education and leave behind a life of impoverishment for the betterment not only of themselves, but their families and ultimately, our communities.
So lets dispel the curiosity and confirm that on the 19th of January 2003 AFLAC is hosting a Students Day at the our Lady of Victories Convent and is expecting a turnout of almost 210 current students, 20 past-students, and 150 student coordinators and participants. The days program will include motivational lectures by past students and AFLAC volunteers, leadership activities and entertainment, interspersed between breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Students travelling from particularly long distances, such as those coming from Monaragala and Keikawala will travel to Moratuwa the previous day and stay overnight in Moratuwa in the homes of volunteers.
The purpose of the days program is not to glorify the organisation or to display the poverty of the students. It is simply to assure the students of the continued support of the organisation not only for their education, but also to secure fruitful and stable employment through which they can hoist themselves from the pits of poverty that at one time seemed almost impossible to scale.
So here is something to think about: would you like to be a part of that network of support? Do you have a spare day on your hands, some empty hours, or even an occasional weekend? Do you think you would like to make a difference to the life of a poor child living in a hut in the Katubedde slums, a tiny village near Anuradhapura or by the driest road along Hambantota? If so, please know your time and efforts are needed; by AFLAC and by the countless, nameless faces desperate for an act of kindness.
Please contact the AFLAC office at 11/3 Dharmaratne Avenue, Rawathawatte Moratuwa (tel: 642526) or email the President of AFLAC at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
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