PERSONAL STORY 1
A couple of days ago I spoke to Mr. Ariyawansa (69), we got in touch through the Dutch ambassador from the Friendship Foundation. Mr. Ariyawansa works for the partner of this foundation DLFF (Dutch Lanka friendship foundation) he's project manager and senior psychological counsellor.
'Normally before covid-19 came to Sri Lanka, I did my normal daily work for DLFF. Most of the time I'm working at Sarana special school.' Sarana special school is a day-care for disabled children, there are 28 children they look after. The children are being picked up in the morning and dropped off in the afternoon. At Sarana special school they help special children to grow and help them become independent. Their vision is to have a country were special people can be just as participating as 'normal' people. Since corona popped up, they can't pick up the children anymore they have to stay home. For now he looks after the school, there's a principle and a kitchen lady. They prepare food bags which they bring to the children and their families. They do activities, not at the school but he now goes to their home, where he drops of the food packages and homework for the children.
'At home I started to think about my personal life, from my little hood to now, I looked at the past and thought how my life goes smoothly.' He learned in de process, and took a look at his spiritual development, mental, social, languages and abilities. He has explored all that he had achieved. But he wanted to improve his spiritual development, he started to read books and did some exercises he learned from masters. 'I explored that jezus christ, lord buddha, prophet mohammed, all religions, how they all had spiritual developed, they all did 9 days of completely silence. When any person can maintain the silence in the mind for a long time, wisdom comes. Like when you open the door wind comes, when you open the window sunlight comes.' He used some methods for improving the silence. In the evening he sat at the veranda looking at the environment, hearing the sound of the barking dog, observing the colourful evening sky, the wind touching his body and as darkness came he forgot about himself and silence came to his mind.
I asked him about the impact of COVID-19 on his country. He replied: 'actually, when there is a crisis there are two sides, the dangerous side and the opportunity'.
The dangerous side, is about the danger of the disease having no breath and some people even die. But there also is an opportunity for development, having the time to think about your own life like mr. Ariyawansa did himself. Also, the government gave a lot of opportunities to the people, to the farmers because they can continue doing their work, that's because rice is the most important food in Sri Lanka. There are also some people who started creating things, for instance a group of people made a new machine, it's a machine which blows very hot wind to destroy all the germs. This opened the eyes of the government, they gave 5000 roepies to the millions of people in Sri Lanka so they could get a two-month training, also they asked all the banks to stop taking the expanses. New jobs have been found and some people started a business to continue their livelihood.
Mr. Ariyawansa himself lives in Ampara district, this is a rural area. All the supermarkets, markets and subs are closed but all of the houses have a garden, where the people grow their own vegetables, so getting food is not a problem. But on the other hand getting medicines was a problem. So, the government now allowes going to the pharmacies, if you have a doctors prescription you can show the authorities. For getting education, since the schools also are closed, the parents continued some education at home.
Mr. Ariyawansa told me that the government established a committee, when they heard about corona. The president formed the committee, they lead the anti - corona campaign. In Sri Lanka there's free education and free health service. When someone has the feeling they have corona, the public health officers and police go to that home, they (PCR) test that person and if the person has corona he/she has to stay in home quarantine and there's a notice being placed outside of the house 'this is a quarantine home, don't come inside and don't go out'. If the case is more serious, they bring the infected person to a special hospital for the treatment. The government has established special hospitals where they can go. Also, the government has started a lot of quarantine centres, hotels were turned into quarantine centres this is possible because hotels are not being used since there is no tourism. Also, the government asked people to maintain the social 1.5 meter distance. They have stopped all the airplanes and ships to go out and come in, they only allowed transport of goods and the medical instrument transport.
When I asked what could go better concerning the governments coping strategy mr. Ariyawansa told me about a situation were a lot of navy people got infected.
The police, army, navy, people at the airport, they all do everything to control this. The navy people once went to a quarantine home. But the navy people didn't understand how this virus spreads out. Sometimes the navy people have to use their force, to control the people. That way some navy persons got infected with the corona - virus. When they went to the military headquarters, there are 4000 people, unfortunately without knowing those navy people infected other people from the navy. So up to this point 90 navy people are have Corona.
Still only 11 people in Sri Lanka past away caused by Corona, this is very little comparing to the rest of the world. Mr. Ariyawansa thinks this is the result of teamwork. 'The government used a little strategy, every time one person calls one other, they first hear a -how to control corona virus- message. So, everybody is being informed and is reminded how serious they have to take the corona - virus.'
When they bring the kids the nutrition bags, they also get their homework, then the next week DLFF picks up the homework. But they also gave the families a special coconut. The families were told to cut the coconut in pieces and ley dry in the burning sunlight, after 2 weeks the people from DLFF collect the coconuts and take them to the coconut mill in the area, there they make coconut oil of it. The next week they distribute the coconut oil to the homes. They see it as a sort of training to the children but also to the parents, so they see you can continue making coconut oil (for instance) in this period, because in each home there are coconut trees.
Mr. Ariyawansa told me that be in some houses there are people who never put water into small plants, but since corona they started to nurse their plants, and started to grow new the spices and other things. He said: 'In Sri Lanka a lot of industries are closed so, no carbon dioxide mixed to the air and no chemicals from the industries released into the rivers. The river water is so clear that it can be drank without cleaning. Those are the things happen automatically, the air has recovered automatically. I believe from time to time when the people are not caring the earth, the earth does things like this. Now, a lot of countries are protecting and taking care of their environment.' I personally think we can all learn from mr. Ariyawansas' wisdom and positivity. Use our time to think differently. Heal our self. And when the danger of corona passes, we all join together again, and create new ways to live in harmony and heal the earth fully.