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She strove to make the world a better place

Dr. Mary Srikanthi Handy

Dr. Mary Srikanthi Handy, had an unwavering commitment to the welfare of humanity. Born in 1935, she was the cherished daughter of Dr. George Rajanayagam Handy and Kanmanie Handy.

From an early age, Dr. Handy displayed a remarkable passion for making a difference in the lives of others. Her early years were marked by tireless efforts to organise fundraising events for various causes including the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering women through education and the eradication of racism.  Her dedication to the YWCA reflected her deep-rooted belief in equality and social justice.

Her academic journey began at Ladies’ College in Colombo, where she honed her intellectual prowess. She went on to the United Kingdom, where she earned her Master of Science (MSc) degree from the University of Bradford.

She ventured further, entering the University of Sussex in the UK, where, she embarked on ground-breaking research in the field of motor neurone disease, which earned her a well-deserved Ph.D. Her research contributions helped in advancing our understanding of this debilitating condition.

In the early 1990s, she faced a pivotal moment in her life. Her beloved father, the renowned cardiologist Dr. George Rajanayagam Handy, and President of the Sri Lanka Heart Association fell seriously ill and sadly passed away in 1995. It was her father’s legacy that inspired her to create the Dr. G. R. Handy Foundation in his honour. The Foundation went on to make many contributions to the healthcare landscape in Sri Lanka.

Among the Foundation’s notable initiatives was the donation of a state-of-the-art cardiology ward to the General Hospital in Colombo. Dr. Handy’s personal involvement was unmistakable, as she visited the ward daily to ensure its upkeep. She established the Dr. G. R. Handy Memorial Cardiology Unit at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital, bringing vital cardiac care to the Northern Province.

Her compassion for children led her to support the Children’s Heart Project and establish the Dr. G. R. Handy Memorial Trust Fund. The Fund’s primary focus was sponsoring surgeries for children suffering from Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), significantly reducing waiting times and easing the financial burden on families. Along with Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Y. K. M. Lahie, over 100 children received life-saving surgeries through this programme. Her commitment to staying at the forefront of medical advancement was unwavering, ensuring that treatment methods for ASD in Sri Lanka incorporated the latest breakthroughs and cutting-edge technology.

She also sponsored a paediatric heart disease ward at the Institute of Cardiology. The G. R. Handy Scholarship for Medicine, established in collaboration with the Incorporated Trustees of the Church of Ceylon, offered a lifeline to medical students grappling with the financial burdens of their education.

At St. John’s College in Jaffna, alongside the college library, which bears the name of her great-grandfather, she pioneered the establishment of a cutting-edge computer laboratory, the Library Internet Browsing Centre. The provision of scholarships for underprivileged yet academically gifted children at SJC, the development of a Senior School IT Lab, an agricultural improvement programme, and the introduction of an English Language Development Course at Tanniyuttu Mullaitivu, all of which significantly advanced the cause of education showed her dedication to uplifting and empowering communities through various educational avenues.

The Eagle Care Trust, a charitable organisation, emerged from the generous donations of the G. R. Handy Memorial Trust Fund, including a substantial contribution from one of Dr. Srikanthi’s church friends, the late John Roy Fussey. The Trust provides support to children facing various challenging medical conditions, including heart disease, renal issues, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, mental health issues, and other life-altering conditions. In 2017, Eagle Care Trust was officially registered as a charitable organization in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Srikanthi’s commitment to education saw the provision of scholarships to academically gifted children at St. John’s College; improved educational facilities; financial assistance to children with medical needs, and even the donation of bicycles to facilitate school transport. She believed in empowering future generations with practical skills that would benefit not only them but also their communities.

Her dedication to uplifting women, continued with her funding of social housing for widows in Jaffna. In collaboration with Zonta International, she built 16 houses in the village of Ariyalai, her father’s birthplace.

Dr. Srikanthi peacefully passed away in August 2023, leaving a legacy of compassion and generosity. She is survived by her son, Prof. Paul Rohan Mather, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. In her final years, despite failing health, her commitment to helping others never wavered. Her legacy endures through her generous bequest to a fund designed to assist disadvantaged children in receiving an education.

In a world often marked by self-interest, Dr. Srikanthi’s life serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring power of selflessness and the profound impact one person can have on the lives of so many others. Her tireless advocacy for the educational and medical rights of women, children, and the underprivileged lives on through the Eagle Care Trust and the various charitable funds she established. Her memory will be a beacon of hope and inspiration for those who strive to make the world a better place through acts of compassion and generosity.

T. Chrishanthan

He identified our strengths and weaknesses and mentored us very well

 Chandra Kumara Waidyaratne

Chandra Kumara Waidyaratne was born in Galle, in 1936 as the eldest son of Ayurvedic physician Dharmasena Waidyaratne and Pesonona Premaratne. He had two younger siblings, Bandula and Pushpa.

He had his primary and secondary education at Mahinda College Galle and contributed to his alma mater as an outstanding chemistry teacher for many years culminating his services to the school as its principal.

Generations of Mahindians benefitted from the legendary teaching skills of Mr Waidyaratne, achieving success at the GCE Advanced Level examination in chemistry. He spared no pains to make us understand the subject and to motivate us as students. He had an excellent command of English and as a master of his subject, he knew to put across the subject matter in a simple understandable manner making it more interesting.  He had the skill of breaking up complex topics to bite size chunks to make us understand them better.

He taught by building on our pre-existing knowledge to make our learning material appear more familiar. At a time when overhead projections were unheard of, he was ever ready to use chalk and blackboard whenever he felt sketches and diagrams were helpful.

Mr Waidyaratne could pick students who were looking perplexed from their body language and he went an extra mile to make them understand the lesson. As much as finding students in difficulty he had the knack of identifying the more advanced learners and he often made use of them to teach others – which is now an accepted teaching/learning method known as peer learning. He identified our strengths and weaknesses and mentored us very well.

Mr Waidyaratne covered the chemistry syllabus ahead of time and thereafter made us answer past papers. He gave us feedback on our performance which we thought was very accurate. We could approach him to get further explanations about anything we could not understand, even after the class. These were times when we did not have any private tuition classes.

He was an excellent role model who inspired us and he often referred to his stellar students who were successful doctors or university dons to inspire us. His students have excelled as doctors, engineers, scientists and university academics all over Sri Lanka and in many countries across the world.

He was a simple man who walked to school from his place of residence about one kilometre away. He valued education much more than money. Mr Waidyaratne was a strict disciplinarian and his influence in this sphere was amply evident in the school when he was the principal of Mahinda College for a short period during the 1980s.

Mr Waidyaratne was married to late Swarnalatha Indatissa. He is survived by his three loving children Eisha, Haritha  and Champika; in-laws, Channa Yahathugoda and Ruwini Wickremaratne; grandchildren, Chethanika and Tisserika Yahathugoda, and Vihas Waidyaratne. May he attain the supreme bliss of nirvana.

Prof P. L. Ariyananda

He was never short of bright ideas

 Shanti Wijesundera

My good friend Shanti was too young to leave us.Although I have lived in New Zealand for over 34 years, the memories of Shanti linger on and on.

I came to know Shanti Wijesundera in early 1970 when he joined Glacio Ltd, a subsidiary of the Rowlands Group, as a young enthusiastic engineer. I was the Manager at Mofinco Ltd, the printing division of Rowlands. Shanti would come up to me and say ‘I want this colour, that design, – it should be attractive’ etc. He was very clever with bright ideas.

At that time F.R.Seevaratnam was the Glacio General Manager and Shanti came up with the idea of manufacturing Usha electric refrigerators instead of kerosene Glacio refrigerators. The Chairman and Directors of Rowlands Group T.Sri Ramanathan, K.W.G Athukorale, R.M Canakeratne and  I.M.Bathusha made him a Director after Mr. Seevaratnam migrated to Canada.

When I left the Rowlands Group and joined as Public Affairs Director of Taprobane magazine, Shanti approached me to help Rowlands to sell the printing machinery and I was able to help him out.

Later Shanti joined his family business known as Lake House Printers and Publishers. Even after joining Lake House he kept in touch with me calling me very often asking me about printing machinery. He wanted to get new machinery to improve the quality of printing. He was a very industrious enthusiastic person. I had  high respect for his ability to get along with people.

My sympathies go out to his wife and two children.

My friend – may you rest in peace.

Nagarajah Manoharan

A letter to Heaven

 Bryan Paul  Senanayake

It’s been 17 years since you left me

Yet, a day doesn’t go by

That I don’t think of you

And wish you by my side.

Time heals they say

Memories fade

But my thoughts of you are fresh

And alive, each and every day.

You know I love you.

And that will always stay

A bond unbroken

Through every passing day.

I know you’re happy in heaven

Even though we may seem apart

God has you in his keeping

I have you in my heart.

Your loving daughter,   Shima