Origins to Now: The Mahadeva Story

Naomi Booth :: Friday 26th November 2021 :: This Story

In my last blog I wrote about the importance of being educated. This week I am going to talk about a project that has educated me about the core values of humanity through the Mahadeva story and its founder Mr Rasanayagam.

The Beginning

In 2011 Ocean Stars received a request for funding to buy clothes for children at a children's home in Kilinochchi, northern Sri Lanka. This is where the story begins. In 2012 some of our volunteers visited the children's home for the first time and they spoke about the unique atmosphere they had encountered and the inspirational Founder of the home Mr Rasanayagam who set up the home, Mahadeva Achchirama Children Home in 1996. It had to be closed down soon after due to the ethnic conflict. The Home opened again in 2010.

Picture: /files/blog/440/w288/img-0269.jpgThe Founder Mr Rasanayagam

Mr Rasanayagam had worked as a Government Agent during the war and had seen first-hand the suffering of the children and the trauma of families being separated and living in displaced camps. Through his contacts, he obtained a plot of land and started his dream of offering a secure, safe home for the displaced children of the war.

I first met Mr Rasanayagam in 2013. He was a quiet, soft-spoken, gentle person dressed in the traditional white Sri Lanka Tamil Verdi and a white shirt. He radiated love and compassion and was deeply respected by those around him. He was and continues to be my Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi. In creating Mahadeva children's home he had created a piece of heaven on earth.

 

Picture: /files/blog/440/w288/img-0245.jpgMahadeva Achchirama Children Home

There were over 400 children when I first visited the home which had four compounds on different sites. At the main compound was the girls home for children from baby to 13 years of age. On another, there were the older girls aged 13-18. On another site was the boys' home for boys aged 2-18. The overwhelming atmosphere in each of these homes was one of love, agape. The children having lived through war were given a space to heal, to have someone listen to their stories and be offered genuine and unconditional love.

I visited Mahadeva children's home with my 80-year-old mother in 2013. Mr Rasanayagam, my mum, and I visited the younger girls home. The children all ran out to meet us and immediately wanted us to come and see their dorms. They wanted to show us their bed and the little locker in which they kept all their life possessions. We sat on the beds and the children were chatting to my mum and me in Tamil - a language that neither of us spoke as we are of Sinhalese origin. The universal power of love was the language that linked us together. I watched as the children looked out for each other, combed each other's beautiful long black hair, chatted together and were asking us questions. A baby had arrived at this home a week before. Her mother has been unable to look after her and she had been abandoned at the local temple. But here was this baby loved more than I thought was possible, she was surrounded by sisters and mothers and would be saturated with love that her own mother was unable to provide for her. We were in a dorm with over 100 children. Mr Rasanayagam asked the children to sing us a song. Suddenly the space was filled with the voices of children singing and clapping. The volume and passion of the singing was uplifting, and I found myself drifting in my head to a spiritual and heavenly place.

 

Picture: /files/blog/440/w288/dsc-4227.jpgOcean Stars and Mahadeva

Over the years through Ocean Stars, we have taken several volunteers to Mahadeva, and they all come away richer in their hearts for what they find and experience there. The home aims to be self-sustaining and they grow their own crops and have their own farm. The kitchen is a hub where meals are cooked for everyone at Mahadeva. The staff are always smiling and welcoming.

Now in 2021 Ocean Stars continues to work closely with Mahadeva. The pandemic has meant that we have not been able to visit but our support continues. Over the years Ocean Stars has provided the preschool linked with Mahadeva a new playground, a kitchen, a study room, as well as providing resources for the preschools. Ocean Stars also provides a monthly donation towards the expenses of the children at Mahadeva.

I feel very humbled that through Ocean Stars I came to know, Mr Rasanayagam, the children, and the staff of Mahadeva. Though I feel sad that we have not been able to visit them in person our work with them continues and they continue to very much at the heart of Ocean Stars empowering children through education.

Mr Rasanayagam passed away on 2nd of November 2018. The foundations that he put down mean that his legacy lives on. There is a management committee that manages the home on a day-to-day basis. Ocean Stars continues to work with Mr Rasanayagam's son Sasi, who is also a member of the management board. 

 

Picture: /files/blog/440/w288/img-1358.jpgThe Future

Moving forwards the home plans to have a care plan for each child when they leave Mahadeva at the age of 18 years. They want to prepare the children to use their time at Mahadeva to learn life skills that will help them live independently as global citizens. Along with Ocean Stars, the mission of Mahadeva is to empower the children in their care through education and a well-balanced holistic life to become global ambassadors.

Dilanee Bunter

23.11.21