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June 22, 2003

Deaf girls hear again

From: Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka - Jun 22, 2003

Long gone are the days when one reconciles oneself to a disability one is born with, taking it as part of one's Karma. Modern science is working its magic marvels to annihilate this attitude. The Sarvodaya 'Sawan Sahana Deaf Girls' Centre houses a number of such children whose parents had left them there under the impression that their disability is incurable. All they expect from it was that their unfortunate offsprings would be well looked after.

Sangeetha (15) and Renuka (13), inmates at the Centre were not only deaf but suffered from breathing difficulties that slowed down all their activities. They were only an audience to the singing and dancing girls of this school headed by Tineke de Silva, a Dutch lady (married to a Sri Lankan) who heads this institute. A medical examination revealed that they both had "a hole in their heart."

Mrs. de Silva did not stop with the medical check-up. The girls were taken to the Apollo hospital where the cardiologist (Dr. Sivakumar) informed them that they would be up and running about like any normal teenager once the necessary operations were done to cure them of the defect. But the operation would be very expensive, running to lakhs, she was told.

Mrs. de Silva did not stop here either. Both the girls were from very poor families in the Galle and Anuradhapura areas respectively. That they could finance such an operation was almost unthinkable. Undaunted, she went into action and raised the money in her own rich country, mobilizing the generosity of many of her acquaintances of the country still suffering from the 'sin' of having once colonised us.

The money thus raised and the endeavours of Dr. Sivakumar and Dr. Prasad Krishnan have now transformed the girls after a very successful operation into two lively girls. Today they do not limit themselves to watching others dancing and singing but themselves are eager participants.

To whom should hats be raised? To Tineke, the wonders of modern medical science or to the generosity of the much maligned whites living thousands of miles away?

Copyright 2001 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.