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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Thursday, November 17, 2005

PhD with guts

yapapolitics : Message: Pahalagedara Jayathilaka was born in 1975 in the remote village of Devahuwa near Dambulla, Sri Lanka. His father Appuhamy died of cancer when Jayathilaka was 10. His mother Dingiriamma earned about Rs. 4000 (40 US dollars) a month cultivating vegetables to feed her eight children.

Jayathilaka is crippled. He crawled on all fours till he was 10 years old and then someone donated a wheel chair. That's when he first started schooling in 1986. No school wanted a cripple crawling on all fours. 'Why educate him? He is a cripple' that is what Dingiriamma heard when she tried to enroll Jayathilaka in a village school.

The so named 'cripple' strode ahead to get the first place in the O/L exam in his educational zone of Galewala (Galewela), and raced further to secure the first place again in the Matale district for the A/L exam.

With Rs. 1000 (10 us dollars) in hand Jayathilaka came to the Moratuwa University to read a Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1998. He passed out as top student in his field with a Super First Class Honours Degree. He has now received a full scholarship to read a PhD at the National University of Singapore in January 2006 which is a leading university in Asia.

How does a crippled boy in crutches from an obscure village walk into Moratuwa University with one thousand rupees and walk away as the top student? Why does he then join AFLAC, the organisation that helped him and become an AFLAC coordinator for another poor student in the
university who has no arms? Why does Jayathilaka then go from village to village with AFLAC and give speeches to little children inspiring them to struggle and study and example them with his 'nothing' to 'everything' story.
This is not talk the talk; it is much more. It is crawl the walk withempty pockets and crutches with nothing but pure raw courage. It doesnot stop there, Jayathilaka gets his medals and looks back on thepath he trudged relentlessly and goes back to help. That itself is afairy tale, of the crippled boy and his armless protoge.This is rare greatness. Jayathilaka should be honoured and emulated.If not for anything, at least for the wonderful footprints he leaveson the sand for others to follow. It is not only footprints, thereare crutch marks too.
Capt Elmo Jayawardena


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