The feeling was surreal; I was face to face with a living legend, after many years since I first heard about him and his magnanimous work. This larger than life figure epitomizes the term cheerful giver as his life’s work revolves around giving.

“These boxes contain solar powered charges which will provide electricity for the very first time for 70 destitute families who live in the mountains of Hasalaka. Their lives are in constant jeopardy due to the wild elephants; and they trek rugged terrain once a week to gather supplies from the city. The plight of these families was brought to our notice when we were distributing school supplies as part of our many goodwill schemes,” revealed Kushil with reference to the many boxes which were piled near the entrance to the Colombo office.

Born to Give 

Another fact I noticed was the meticulously organized files and paraphernalia in his office, which he himself attributed to the learning he received as a boarder at Trinity College Kandy prior to shifting to Ananda College Colombo. “My formative years were at the TCK boarding and I recall the discipline and training obtained from the menial task of making the bed to others. The navy seals graduation video which went viral recently added to my philosophy that one should start the day by making the bed. The inspirational speech delivered by Admiral William H. Mcraven states that by doing so one has accomplished the first task of the day and if anything does not work out, at least you can go back to a bed which was made by you. Kumar Sangakkara an alumni of TCK humorously points out the fact that I obtained finesse whilst at TCK,” remarked Kushil laughinghly and I was compelled to agree as I too have soft spot for the best school of all. Surmise it to say, Kushil is a perfectionist to boot and that characteristic has helped him to maintain a clean track record in all his endeavours.  The years spent at  Ananda College taught me amazing qualities, good values and enabled me to perfect my natural tendency to empathize with people whilst working towards the betterment of the lives of the under-priviledged.

Reverting back to the subject of kindness, Kushil recalls being keenly aware of the disparity between himself and the youth of his village, “I hail from a rural hamlet in the deep south called Seenigama (literally meaning sugar village) and was born with the proverbial silver spoon in my mouth, which enabled my parents to grant me numerous opportunities such as enrolling me in renowned schools etc. But many of the villagers led a hand-to –mouth existence which curtailed their children from gaining the opportunities we were bestowed with. This created a pathos which grew to a burning desire to bridge the gap someday without any motives or agendas.”

Continuing his stroll down memory lane Kushil added, “I was not academically motivated and the only reason I stayed in school was for my passion for cricket and ultimately ended in the cricketing arena in SL. In addition I was an entrepreneur trading rice and sugar, and it was significant as I hailed from the sugar village (which in reality had nothing to do with sugar) but the lucrative business set the platform for my vision for the youth of my village. My involvement and role as the Secretary of SL cricket paved the way for our cricketing hero Muttiah Muralitharan to approach me with a proposition which I accepted with pleasure as I had to function as his Manager. He was the first SL cricketer to set such a pace.  

In 1999 I opened my ancestral home to various programs for the youth, women and children of our village. It functioned as a heartbeat and buzzing place afterschool and Murali himself offered his unstinted support. My aim was to illuminate the lives of the villagers and dispel the darkness by offering the basic facilities to uplift and empower their lives and provide a wealth of opportunities to choose from. From 1999-2004 the Foundation for Goodness was a structured hotspot for the promulgation for life skills in various forms and we got the village heads, the elders and existing village schools in involved in this program as it would ultimately reflect positively on the community .

One of the foremost co-founders since inception was Ashan Malalasekera who was instrumental in securing US Aid grant. Following Murali’s example, many other celebrity cricketers such as Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena and Russel Arnold got involved in the Foundation of Goodness.

I believe that action breeds action and giving in itself is an amazing characteristic and that enriches the life of the giver but the most valuable aspect of giving is the ability to give when one has limited resources. It inevitably rids you of selfishness.

 Another manner in which I was able to accrue funds was by bartering the villa to friends and acquaintances for no cost and affording them an opportunity to contribute towards the cause through a charity drop box. In addition, I ensured that each person who occupied the house received the newsletter, a tradition which has continued since the beginning and transparency was a key element of the foundation as donors have always been aware of how their funds have been utilized.

Waves of Compassion Overcame the Waves of Destruction  

On the fateful day the deadly Tsunami struck our little coastal village I had organized a programme for 100 kids and there were 30 kids present at the time. Murali was scheduled to be there and he is extremely punctual but that day he had other plans and was delayed. At around 9.33am there was some commotion as people began running amok screaming, “muhuda goda galanawa ( sea is coming ashore)’ and I ran towards the front of the property and beheld a horrific sight which is clearly etched in mind; that of an elderly lady being dragged by a wave.

Thereafter, I ran towards the house and grabbed the children who were assembled and ran towards higher ground which was the temple. There were 150 deaths in our village and 08 bodies in the villa which was razed to the ground.  I listened to many heart-wrenching stories which included that of a mother who had to make the choice to let go of one child in order to save the other. Since our village was bordering Peraliya, we had the added grief of seeing the worst train disaster due to the tsunami in which 1500 perished.

 It was literally the worst of times but where the foundation was concerned it became a collection point for the outpouring of funds from all over the world and we were able to channel it into rebuilding the lives of the villagers. We received blessings in adversity and beauty from ashes as the standards of living and opportunities grew to unprecedented levels for the villagers. The wave literally changed the course for the foundation as we were able to transform my ancestral home which I had donated to a holistic rural development model inclusive of 30 empowerment activities. I have realized that one should never say no to any gift offered even if it seems ludicrous at the time. For instance, Aviva was ready to donate a dental clinic without the ability to sustain it and I had zero knowledge of operating one but accepted it without looking the gift horse in the mouth so to speak. Currently it has the only dental clinic in a village which has served over 20,000 people from 50 villages free of cost. This is the only such venture in the whole country. The foundation at Seenigama provides multi-faceted opportunities in education, life skills, good values initiatives and sports.

Our endeavor is recognized by the RMIT University in Melbourne Australia as the best post tsunami initiative among all affected countries. Sustaining it is no mean feat but we are proud to have built something tangible from scratch.

Our vision was to create something really beneficial for the rural communities and give them standards, systems, good governance, discipline and to run it all in an organized manner similar to a mini country within a country. Moreover, it is the flagship and functions as the model for 09 more community upliftment projects situated in various parts of the island.

I am very particular about retaining transparency in all transactions and walking the talk as one can get burned out if speech is not in tune with your actions,” said this amazing philanthropist who creates his own set of quotable quotes which can be followed on an app called ‘MIND SHAPER.’

“You can talk all you like to mesmerize audiences, but your actions have to be in tune with your speech”

“Since we have delivered as promised, our donors respect us. The aftermath of the tsunami was chaotic as donations flooded in from all parts of the world and yet we kept track of every cent and conveyed it to the donors systematically. It was a time when people were disposing of their lands mainly for fear of the ocean, so we were able to purchase more lands for the foundations and built a cricket ground through the generous funds received by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Surrey Cricket Club. We were also able to build 1000 houses in 25 villages and Murali bartered his image with a cement firm which enabled us to make our own cement blocks. It was a collective effort by many well- meaning individuals which created a spark and started a raging fire which has not been extinguished.  The villa which I gifted to the Foundation functions as an accommodation centre for trainers, donors and volunteers within the MCC (Lords) sponsored Centre of Excellence which provides many aspects of empowerment to disadvantaged rural kids, youth and women to over 80 villages in the Seenigama region similar to a mini government in action.

As a tsunami relief funding effort, Bryan Adams had auctioned his guitar and was willing to donate 150,000 pounds to post tsunami work to Thailand and us and he was incredulous about what we could do with 75,000 pounds (which was half of the total donation as the other half was for Thailand) and I proved to him that in this part of the world that sum could provide so much as we were able to purchase the adjacent land and build a 25m six lane pool , kiddies pool, volleyball and netball courts and outdoor cricket nets with his donation. For the 10th anniversary of the foundation he made a contribution on his own volition for the refurbishment of the pool. 

There are many success stories pertaining to the students who are part of our foundation. For instance, some of the girls who gained their computer knowledge at the foundation are now performing the back office operations for John Keells in Seenigama and through that 15 more of our students have undertaken the back office functions for an American client within the Centre of Excellence. Many of the girls own scooters and reside in the village as their quality of life has improved and they do not see the need to come to the city to secure jobs as they have become self-sufficient within the village. By providing a wide array of opportunities for the villagers, we have created a win/ win situation which proves the fact that we as a country need to harness the talents of the rural community in order to develop as a country. For many  Colombo seems like a country of its own due to the disparity in terms of infrastructure and other facilities and we need to take an iota of it to them so that they remain their villages and enhance their communities in order to develop as a country to become more prosperous.

Since we had served the South effectively, we moved to the North in 2011 and ensured 35,000 folk to rebuild their lives as a post-war effort. Kumar’s Bikes for Life campaign along with us generated 4,040 bikes and we host the annual cricketing encounter, ‘Murali Harmony Cup’ among other productive initiatives.

His anecdotes were dotted with profound sayings such as, “charity creates a sense of divinity” and that is on point. Serving humanity is the best feeling as it clears the mind and is devoid of competition. It garners so much bliss and it is important to do it altruistically. It is imperative to focus on being generous, forgiving and values such as kindness, compassion, patience, tolerance, humility , gratitude and more as it elevates you to a better level and removes all the impurities of the soul,” claimed this awe-inspiring individual.

He confessed that he did his ordinary level examination thrice for the sole purpose of playing cricket but never applied to a job instead he was always given a break by many people. I perceive it as a blessing from above as people have recognized the true value of this amazing individual.

Sustainable Goodwill Efforts

Since our penchant to do good has opened many doors, we wish to create sustainable efforts to keep this afloat, which is the reason for promoting initiatives to generate own budget . These methods are followed through the many small industries and exports of spices in grinder bottles, Business and Knowledge process outsourcing, Community Aid Tourism, Dive for Good, Merchandise branding and the list goes on. At present we contribute to 35% of the budget and it is our aim to be 100% self-sufficient by 2020. Currently we welcome around 2500 tourists, 60 foreign cricket teams, various school children from all parts of the world and  over 150 volunteers who visit the foundation for reasons such as community aid, tourism tours, fund raising programs, social service and philanthropy studies. We have about 05 girls who have qualified as electricians among 4000 who have graduated through our many women entrepreneurship programs. We also have many scholarship programs and receive a significant number of emails with suggestions and requests adding value to our many spheres of interests.  Through our long standing project we are striving to reach a target to build 25 model village heartbeat centers, which is bound to stir the talent and skills of the respective villages. Committed to improving the lives of people in rural Sri Lankan communities, the Foundation of Goodness touches over 35,000 people in 200 plus Villages Island wide, annually via 30 empowerment activity centers free of cost.

“Doing the best for everyone makes you experience the best for yourself !” This is a personal quote by Kushil Gunasekera , who adds that he perceive it as a blessing for having developed the good qualities of a human being, a resource that is available to all of us free of cost. He is a living testimony to the message he portrays in the simple yet divine act of giving and giving cheerfully.

The feeling was surreal; I was face to face with a living legend, after many years since I first heard about him and his magnanimous work. This larger than life figure epitomizes the term cheerful giver as his life’s work revolves around giving.

“These boxes contain solar powered charges which will provide electricity for the very first time for 70 destitute families who live in the mountains of Hasalaka. Their lives are in constant jeopardy due to the wild elephants; and they trek rugged terrain once a week to gather supplies from the city. The plight of these families was brought to our notice when we were distributing school supplies as part of our many goodwill schemes,” revealed Kushil with reference to the many boxes which were piled near the entrance to the Colombo office.

Born to Give

Another fact I noticed was the meticulously organized files and paraphernalia in his office, which he himself attributed to the learning he received as a boarder at Trinity College Kandy prior to shifting to Ananda College Colombo. “My formative years were at the TCK boarding and I recall the discipline and training obtained from the menial task of making the bed to others. The navy seals graduation video which went viral recently added to my philosophy that one should start the day by making the bed. The inspirational speech delivered by Admiral William H. Mcraven states that by doing so one has accomplished the first task of the day and if anything does not work out, at least you can go back to a bed which was made by you. Kumar Sangakkara an alumni of TCK humorously points out the fact that I obtained finesse whilst at TCK,” remarked Kushil laughinghly and I was compelled to agree as I too have soft spot for the best school of all. Surmise it to say, Kushil is a perfectionist to boot and that characteristic has helped him to maintain a clean track record in all his endeavours.  The years spent at  Ananda College taught me amazing qualities, good values and enabled me to perfect my natural tendency to empathize with people whilst working towards the betterment of the lives of the under-priviledged.

Reverting back to the subject of kindness, Kushil recalls being keenly aware of the disparity between himself and the youth of his village, “I hail from a rural hamlet in the deep south called Seenigama (literally meaning sugar village) and was born with the proverbial silver spoon in my mouth, which enabled my parents to grant me numerous opportunities such as enrolling me in renowned schools etc. But many of the villagers led a hand-to –mouth existence which curtailed their children from gaining the opportunities we were bestowed with. This created a pathos which grew to a burning desire to bridge the gap someday without any motives or agendas.”

Continuing his stroll down memory lane Kushil added, “I was not academically motivated and the only reason I stayed in school was for my passion for cricket and ultimately ended in the cricketing arena in SL. In addition I was an entrepreneur trading rice and sugar, and it was significant as I hailed from the sugar village (which in reality had nothing to do with sugar) but the lucrative business set the platform for my vision for the youth of my village. My involvement and role as the Secretary of SL cricket paved the way for our cricketing hero Muttiah Muralitharan to approach me with a proposition which I accepted with pleasure as I had to function as his Manager. He was the first SL cricketer to set such a pace.  

In 1999 I opened my ancestral home to various programs for the youth, women and children of our village. It functioned as a heartbeat and buzzing place afterschool and Murali himself offered his unstinted support. My aim was to illuminate the lives of the villagers and dispel the darkness by offering the basic facilities to uplift and empower their lives and provide a wealth of opportunities to choose from. From 1999-2004 the Foundation for Goodness was a structured hotspot for the promulgation for life skills in various forms and we got the village heads, the elders and existing village schools in involved in this program as it would ultimately reflect positively on the community .

One of the foremost co-founders since inception was Ashan Malalasekera who was instrumental in securing US Aid grant. Following Murali’s example, many other celebrity cricketers such as Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena and Russel Arnold got involved in the Foundation of Goodness.

I believe that action breeds action and giving in itself is an amazing characteristic and that enriches the life of the giver but the most valuable aspect of giving is the ability to give when one has limited resources. It inevitably rids you of selfishness.

 Another manner in which I was able to accrue funds was by bartering the villa to friends and acquaintances for no cost and affording them an opportunity to contribute towards the cause through a charity drop box. In addition, I ensured that each person who occupied the house received the newsletter, a tradition which has continued since the beginning and transparency was a key element of the foundation as donors have always been aware of how their funds have been utilized.

Waves of Compassion Overcame the Waves of Destruction  

On the fateful day the deadly Tsunami struck our little coastal village I had organized a programme for 100 kids and there were 30 kids present at the time. Murali was scheduled to be there and he is extremely punctual but that day he had other plans and was delayed. At around 9.33am there was some commotion as people began running amok screaming, “muhuda goda galanawa ( sea is coming ashore)’ and I ran towards the front of the property and beheld a horrific sight which is clearly etched in mind; that of an elderly lady being dragged by a wave.

Thereafter, I ran towards the house and grabbed the children who were assembled and ran towards higher ground which was the temple. There were 150 deaths in our village and 08 bodies in the villa which was razed to the ground.  I listened to many heart-wrenching stories which included that of a mother who had to make the choice to let go of one child in order to save the other. Since our village was bordering Peraliya, we had the added grief of seeing the worst train disaster due to the tsunami in which 1500 perished.

 It was literally the worst of times but where the foundation was concerned it became a collection point for the outpouring of funds from all over the world and we were able to channel it into rebuilding the lives of the villagers. We received blessings in adversity and beauty from ashes as the standards of living and opportunities grew to unprecedented levels for the villagers. The wave literally changed the course for the foundation as we were able to transform my ancestral home which I had donated to a holistic rural development model inclusive of 30 empowerment activities. I have realized that one should never say no to any gift offered even if it seems ludicrous at the time. For instance, Aviva was ready to donate a dental clinic without the ability to sustain it and I had zero knowledge of operating one but accepted it without looking the gift horse in the mouth so to speak. Currently it has the only dental clinic in a village which has served over 20,000 people from 50 villages free of cost. This is the only such venture in the whole country. The foundation at Seenigama provides multi-faceted opportunities in education, life skills, good values initiatives and sports.

Our endeavor is recognized by the RMIT University in Melbourne Australia as the best post tsunami initiative among all affected countries. Sustaining it is no mean feat but we are proud to have built something tangible from scratch.

Our vision was to create something really beneficial for the rural communities and give them standards, systems, good governance, discipline and to run it all in an organized manner similar to a mini country within a country. Moreover, it is the flagship and functions as the model for 09 more community upliftment projects situated in various parts of the island.

I am very particular about retaining transparency in all transactions and walking the talk as one can get burned out if speech is not in tune with your actions,” said this amazing philanthropist who creates his own set of quotable quotes which can be followed on an app called ‘MIND SHAPER.’

“You can talk all you like to mesmerize audiences, but your actions have to be in tune with your speech”

“Since we have delivered as promised, our donors respect us. The aftermath of the tsunami was chaotic as donations flooded in from all parts of the world and yet we kept track of every cent and conveyed it to the donors systematically. It was a time when people were disposing of their lands mainly for fear of the ocean, so we were able to purchase more lands for the foundations and built a cricket ground through the generous funds received by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Surrey Cricket Club. We were also able to build 1000 houses in 25 villages and Murali bartered his image with a cement firm which enabled us to make our own cement blocks. It was a collective effort by many well- meaning individuals which created a spark and started a raging fire which has not been extinguished.  The villa which I gifted to the Foundation functions as an accommodation centre for trainers, donors and volunteers within the MCC (Lords) sponsored Centre of Excellence which provides many aspects of empowerment to disadvantaged rural kids, youth and women to over 80 villages in the Seenigama region similar to a mini government in action.

As a tsunami relief funding effort, Bryan Adams had auctioned his guitar and was willing to donate 150,000 pounds to post tsunami work to Thailand and us and he was incredulous about what we could do with 75,000 pounds (which was half of the total donation as the other half was for Thailand) and I proved to him that in this part of the world that sum could provide so much as we were able to purchase the adjacent land and build a 25m six lane pool , kiddies pool, volleyball and netball courts and outdoor cricket nets with his donation. For the 10th anniversary of the foundation he made a contribution on his own volition for the refurbishment of the pool. 

There are many success stories pertaining to the students who are part of our foundation. For instance, some of the girls who gained their computer knowledge at the foundation are now performing the back office operations for John Keells in Seenigama and through that 15 more of our students have undertaken the back office functions for an American client within the Centre of Excellence. Many of the girls own scooters and reside in the village as their quality of life has improved and they do not see the need to come to the city to secure jobs as they have become self-sufficient within the village. By providing a wide array of opportunities for the villagers, we have created a win/ win situation which proves the fact that we as a country need to harness the talents of the rural community in order to develop as a country. For many  Colombo seems like a country of its own due to the disparity in terms of infrastructure and other facilities and we need to take an iota of it to them so that they remain their villages and enhance their communities in order to develop as a country to become more prosperous.

Since we had served the South effectively, we moved to the North in 2011 and ensured 35,000 folk to rebuild their lives as a post-war effort. Kumar’s Bikes for Life campaign along with us generated 4,040 bikes and we host the annual cricketing encounter, ‘Murali Harmony Cup’ among other productive initiatives.

His anecdotes were dotted with profound sayings such as, “charity creates a sense of divinity” and that is on point. Serving humanity is the best feeling as it clears the mind and is devoid of competition. It garners so much bliss and it is important to do it altruistically. It is imperative to focus on being generous, forgiving and values such as kindness, compassion, patience, tolerance, humility , gratitude and more as it elevates you to a better level and removes all the impurities of the soul,” claimed this awe-inspiring individual.

He confessed that he did his ordinary level examination thrice for the sole purpose of playing cricket but never applied to a job instead he was always given a break by many people. I perceive it as a blessing from above as people have recognized the true value of this amazing individual.

Sustainable Goodwill Efforts

Since our penchant to do good has opened many doors, we wish to create sustainable efforts to keep this afloat, which is the reason for promoting initiatives to generate own budget . These methods are followed through the many small industries and exports of spices in grinder bottles, Business and Knowledge process outsourcing, Community Aid Tourism, Dive for Good, Merchandise branding and the list goes on. At present we contribute to 35% of the budget and it is our aim to be 100% self-sufficient by 2020. Currently we welcome around 2500 tourists, 60 foreign cricket teams, various school children from all parts of the world and  over 150 volunteers who visit the foundation for reasons such as community aid, tourism tours, fund raising programs, social service and philanthropy studies. We have about 05 girls who have qualified as electricians among 4000 who have graduated through our many women entrepreneurship programs. We also have many scholarship programs and receive a significant number of emails with suggestions and requests adding value to our many spheres of interests.  Through our long standing project we are striving to reach a target to build 25 model village heartbeat centers, which is bound to stir the talent and skills of the respective villages. Committed to improving the lives of people in rural Sri Lankan communities, the Foundation of Goodness touches over 35,000 people in 200 plus Villages Island wide, annually via 30 empowerment activity centers free of cost.

“Doing the best for everyone makes you experience the best for yourself !” This is a personal quote by Kushil Gunasekera , who adds that he perceive it as a blessing for having developed the good qualities of a human being, a resource that is available to all of us free of cost. He is a living testimony to the message he portrays in the simple yet divine act of giving and giving cheerfully.

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About Rochelle Gunaratne

I believe that everyone has a story to tell and in turn, I love listening to those stories, attempting to paint a picture to my readers with my words. I may not be an artist or painter, but I believe words can create powerful images in ones mind and it is how we share our stories with others.
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