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A Journey of Compassion and Love

It was the year 2012. SAHANA was born following an article published in Gulf News on May 3 about a Sri Lankan mother of a ten month old baby being treated in the Burns Unit of Rashid Hospital, Dubai since April 21. This was a normal day for everyone else in UAE, but for all those who heard the news or read Gulf News it wasn’t the same. Many were devastated. This piece of news opened many discussions as to how Sri Lankans as a community can help ease the burden of our compatriots living in the UAE. Help came in many forms from a compassionate Sri Lankan Nurse attached to Rashid Hospital, a kindhearted volunteer from Valley of Love charity and sympathetic strangers.

The compassion and outpouring of love shown by many, especially the Sri Lankan community was outstanding. It is the need to help the needy and the lack of a unified Sri Lankan association that begged the question as to how we as a unified Sri Lankan community living in the UAE could ease the suffering and pain of our sisters and brothers living in UAE, especially those who are hospitalized and others who languish in prisons with no end in sight.

Although, there were many Sri Lankan associations within the community the objective of each of these associations differed from one another. With the unified goal of helping the less fortunate in mind, representatives from each association met to brainstorm ideas. Whilst the goal was shared by many, the initial outlook was bleak until a compassionate Sri Lankan Nurse shared her personal experience of being sick and alone in a foreign country. Many compatriots then and now share the same fate and lack emotional and financial support. Thus, started the journey of SAHANA on the 8th of June 2012.

SAHANA is the abbreviation that is commonly used to identify the Sri Lankan Welfare Association (SLWA), which commenced operations as a CDA licensed non-profit social club on the 10th of September 2015. SAHANA is proud to be the very first Sri Lankan Welfare association to obtain an approval from the CDA and on 04 of July 2015, SAHANA opened its office in Dubai and is led by compassionate and diverse volunteer group of Sri Lankans. Its core mission is to cultivate a sense of caring for the less fortunate Sri Lankans in UAE through kindness, respect and hope.

SAHANA with the aid of the Sri Lanka Consulate and the Embassy, spearheaded the expatriation of seriously ill, abandoned children, stranded expatriates and repatriation of mortal remains.

A boy left at the hospital by a mother unable to settle the hospital bill, two beautiful little girls abandoned by the parents and looked after by strangers and a paralyzed fitness trainee are few of the gut wrenching stories that formed part of this long and hard journey culminating in the formation of the Sri Lankan Welfare Association (SLWA) – SAHANA.

SAHANA derives its funds through various initiatives/projects be it Annual Musical Concerts, sale of annual and life membership subscriptions to SLWA and through sponsorships provided by well-wishers, sponsors.

On Friday 15th February, 2013, SAHANA hosted its very first live musical concert dubbed as “Master Sir” at the Rashid Hospital Medical Library Auditorium. One of the most renown Sri Lankan artists Visharada Neela Wickramasinghe donated her time and energy to make the concert a success. In addition to the annual musical concert SAHANA has also organized annual blood donation campaigns as part of its humanitarian efforts to save precious lives.

The Covid19 pandemic brought with it trying and unprecedent times, especially for welfare associations. To combat the destruction brought on by Covid, SAHANA, amidst numerous obstacles initiated and launched simultaneous projects to help the needy.

Some of the most significant projects undertaken by SAHANA during the pandemic in the year 2020 range from distribution of dry rations, food, medication, infant formula, helping pregnant mothers with hospital stays, other health services and repatriation, providing food and healthcare to displaced compatriots and assisting with shelter and repatriation of displaced Sri Lankans. Additionally, SAHANA aided with sourcing potential employment for compatriots who became unemployed because of redundancies/closure of organizations.

Today, SAHANA has assisted over 15,000 Sri Lankans. The core objective is to be a unified Sri Lankan expatriate community and to make every effort to support the less fortunate community members without any reservations, in an efficient and effective manner.

The diversity of the members and volunteers is the greatest strength of SAHANA. The generosity of the members, volunteers and sponsors and discount vendors have assisted SAHANA to successfully complete many community services projects.

SAHANA with its unwavering strength and confidence will continue its journey to help the less fortunate Sri Lankans in the UAE.