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“It’s a kind of magic”

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The Superhero of safe water sets her sights upon Poonakary

Shaan Corea is a woman with a mission. Like a human torpedo she wills her way to deliver on her one and only target: safe water for all who live in a desolate war-torn area in the North of Sri Lanka.

This is her story and it reads like the lyrics by rock superheroes Queen: “One dream, one soul, one prize, one goal, one golden glance of what should be.”

It’s a kind of magic. One woman. One mission. Shaan has single-handedly moved mountains of apathy and inequity to deliver the most basic of needs: water to the children and people of Poonakary, at the cost of a mere 9 US dollars per child.

Shaan is the founder of Re-Awakening Lanka/ Appé Lanka, which was started in 2015. Her goal is to empower the 25,500 people of Poonakary, a forgotten division of the Kilinochchi District in Northern Sri Lanka and epicentre of the 30-year conflict that ended in 2009. 

“The people in Ponnaveli had undrinkable water” says Shaan about the situation in the first of 19 Grama Niladhari Divisions of Poonakary to become water secure thanks to her tireless work. The 2,000 people depended on bowsers to bring water to the villages daily. This was not always possible, due to poor road infrastructure and weather conditions. There was also no drinking water available to the 6,420 students attending school in Poonakary.

Shaan believed that the government would sooner or later solve the water issue in Poonakary but she was adamant that the issue needed to be solved immediately. Thus, since 2017 she has undertaken the task of making it happen, starting with giving safe drinking water to the schools in Poonakary. In August 2019 Shaan finished installing Reverse Osmosis Water Purification systems in 21 of the 24 schools in Poonakary. In addition, one of the biggest schools in the Division is getting drinkable water next week.

“People in Sri Lanka were shocked when they realized that there were areas like Poonakary that did not have access to safe water. The whole secret of Appé Lanka’s success is that people realised that they could give more than just their money, that they could give their talents, their resources or their know-how so that nobody goes thirsty. Once people believed in the cause, they wanted to join in and solve the problem quickly. Children broke their piggy banks… musicians sang… artists painted… celebrity chefs cooked… to ensure that the children in Poonakary have safe water all the time”, says Shaan about the reception and success of her project. 

The project continued and was miraculously completed during the current pandemic. “During Covid, it was difficult for the team to go to Ponnaveli, but because we have trained the local people including a Field Officer from one of the villages, Seladurai Rajendran, they were able to manage and maintain the system on their own”, says Shaan about what allowed her project to continue during the pandemic.

“The moment we give them safe water, families are able to successfully cultivate their home gardens, making them self-reliant”, says Shaan about the positive effects that have come about due to their access to clean water.

Ponnaveli is a coastal town, thus the main source of protein is the fish they catch but they have to travel far to purchase the fruits and vegetables they need. The added vegetables from their home gardens will balance their diets and will no doubt make a difference to their health and nutrition.” Shaan also excitedly recounts how on a recent trip to Poonakary, young children invited her to have a meal with them with all the vegetables they had grown in their new home gardens.

“Ponnaveli is the first Grama Niladhari division in Poonakary to get safe water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and tending of home gardens. This is a case study, and since it is successful, we are going to be working in the Grama Niladhari divisions of Kiranchi and Mulankavil. The plan is to give them all safe drinking water,” Shaan says about her plans for the future.

“It is very nice-tasting water Madam”, and “Very good project, thank you Appé Lanka Water Madam”, the children of Poonakary tell Shaan as they hold her hand and share glasses of this beautiful water with her.

To paraphrase the well-known expression: “The Cape fits. Shaan wears it.”



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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