Rev. Pangnasara and the Canadapura Orphanage

Kids excited to greet volunteers - and see the work get under way.

Kids excited to greet volunteers – and see the work get under way.

This is a special year for TRIP Canada. With our 12th team of volunteers preparing to head to Sri Lanka on April 15, we’d like to share the story of the project that we’re really excited about working on this year: helping finish construction of a hundred-room orphanage near Tanaglle, Sri Lanka, for kids who lost their families in the devastation of the 2004 tsunami.

The story of this orphanage actually has Canadian roots, which is how we got involved. In 1997, Rev. Pangnasara, a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk living in Brampton, Ontario, established the Canada Sri Lanka Life Development Centre (CSLDC).

Rev. W. Pannasara - Canadapura's Founder.

Rev. W. Pannasara – Canadapura’s Founder.

A native of Walasmulla, Sri Lanka, Rev. Pangnasara taught at a school there, and then traveled throughout Asia and Europe as a Buddhist missionary before coming to Canada and deciding to call it home. Along with leading the Buddhist community of the Brampton area he is currently a teacher at Erindale Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario. One day, while he was back visiting Sri Lanka on a holiday, he had an experience that changed the course of his life and inspired him to come back home and start the CSLDC.

“While holidaying in Sri Lanka,” he said, “one day I saw a blind girl who was about 8 years old and had no father, but was living with a paralyzed mother in a mud house. She couldn’t go to school due to stricken poverty. I felt that I could help her by sending money from Canada for her education. With that idea in mind, I decided to create a scholarship fund to help children, when I returned to Canada.”

Back in Canada, Rev. Pangnasara worked hard to gather community support and raise money to help send needy Sri Lankan children to school. His efforts have paid off: from their dedication since 1997, there are currently 360 students receiving support from the CSLDC.

The 2004 tsunami was devastating to the people of Sri Lanka, but it only heightened Rev. Pangnasara’s commitment to his home country – he established an orphanage for the children who were victims of the tsunami, and with assistance coming from Canadian donors, he decided to call the home “Canadapura Children’s Village”. Canadapura means “Canadian Town”, a homage to the donors who helped make it happen.

2005 - Early photo of rescued children at Montessori School.

2005 – Early photo of rescued children at Montessori School

“Giving a helping hand with compassion to a child to stand up on his or her own two feet is not easy,” Rev. Pangnasara said, “but it gives enormous happiness that can last you a lifetime.”

There are currently 25 children (11 boys and 14 girls) at the orphanage, and it’s managed by an on-site staff. The children attend a nearby public school that is funded by the government. There are still, however, space issues at the orphanage – poverty continues to be a problem in this region, and many single-parent families struggle properly to care for their children. Some children are in very vulnerable conditions, and need support for day to day living and continued education. Some are placed at the orphanage through court orders for a variety of reasons, ranging from child protection to inadequate living conditions. Also, when the children turn 16, the government requires that boys and girls cannot live in the same building, putting further pressure on the orphanage.

Canadapura is committed to giving a home to these children, and the CSLDC is planning more long-term projects to improve the living conditions of extremely poor children in Sri Lanka. The first of which is an extension to the Canadapura Children’s Village by building a new two-storey orphanage – and that’s where TRIP Canada comes in.

Construction at the orphanage has stalled due to a lack of funding. With the support of our generous donors and volunteers, TRIP Canada has decided to complete the construction of the orphanage, so children have adequate housing and access to education.

This is just part of what Rev. Pangnarasa’s foundation has planned – it’s a big project, but we’re proud to be working with such a passionate, hardworking supporter of Sri Lanka, who works tirelessly to build a better future for children who need shelter and an opportunity for education and a better life.

When Team 12 gets to Tangalle in under a week, they will be working hard on expanding the orphanage so it can house more children. After we complete this phase of construction, the orphanage will be able to expand from 25 to 60 children. They are creating a life changing opportunity for 35 children – be sure to track the progress by checking out our photos and updates!

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