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Walking down aisle of success

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by Zanita Careem

Nelum is a self-motivated individual, marked by her single-minded quest for success and achievement.She is breaking stereotypes with her talent, and inspiring countless women. Nelum’s strong determination to be independent, influenced her to be an entrepreneur. A fashion icon, who makes statements in any outfit at any place.

Nelum Haththella is the founder and editor of “Brides Of Sri Lanka” magazine, the premier bridal and wedding magazine is Sri Lanka. A graduate of Edith Cowan University, Australia with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and IT, Nelum started exploring her many talents from a very young age.

As the daughter of film producer Florence Haththella, she acted in films and teledramas as a child and moved on to modeling for TV commercials. At the same time she also explored her writing skills and won Young Writer of the Year in 1995 for her poetry. Soon after graduating, she got married to Viraj Rajapakse, a pilot and moved to the Maldives, where she worked as a manager for an IT and software development firm.

05Upon returning to Sri Lanka for her confinement, she completed a Diploma in HR and soon after formed her publishing company and hence the birth of Brides Of Sri Lanka, HealthWise and Mangalyaa. She proved her excellent entrepreneurial skills she inherited from her mother when she won Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015, in the medium business category.

With such accolades, this inspiring lady is still continuing her explorations of talents and is now using her spare time to share her passion for food and travel via Food & Travel Escapades by Nel – a Youtube channel and social media blog. She uses this platform to share her exquisite recipes, food reviews, travel destinations with videos and photos.

How did your business come into being

I founded my company in December 2006 with the website www.bridesofsrilanka.com which was designed to bridge the gap between Wedding Planning and Technology. At the time, the use of the World Wide Web for planning a wedding was novel to Sri Lanka, but was widely embraced by young tech savvy couples. They found the features of my website to be time saving and extremely useful; especially the prospective brides and grooms living overseas. Then six month later, I decided to release a printed version of the website in a magazine form (Brides Of Sri Lanka magazine), which too became a favorite among brides and grooms. And ever since, we’ve been growing and now are proudly onboard Sri Lankan Airlines, is the media partner for reputed wedding expos in Sri Lanka and overseas and the two-time Gold Winner at the Sri Lanka Print Awards (2019 & 2020). We are also the only wedding magazine available for worldwide readership on all digital media platforms including Magzter, Online, Android & iOS Apps.

A few years ago, we also released Mangalyaa, a wedding magazine to satiate the Sinhala readership.

What has been the best and hardest thing about being an entrepreneur

There best things would be how I am able to create job opportunities to many and empower them with my expertise and knowledge, how am I able to aspire many youngsters to follow their dreams and venture into businesses and mostly importantly how I am able to be a part of the success story of my clients who are our advertisers.

The hardest thing would be to decide when to take a break, as you can get quite addicted to doing what you love.

Your passion and advise to young entrepreneurs

My passion is to be of help to others. My advice to young entrepreneurs is to start business with innovative ideas and products which makes you unique and indispensable. As a youngster, it is very easy to get carried away with what your heart believes in and overrule what your head tells you, but if you whole-heartedly believe in your business model, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Be persistent, resilient and take every hurdle as a learning experience. You are the only one standing your way to success!

Can woman have it all? Share your takes on this

Of course a woman can have it all! The biggest mistake most people make is think that being a woman is a disadvantage to becoming successful – on the contrary, women by nature are gifted with far more better characteristic such as endurance, resilience, tolerance, empathy and ability to multi-task, to name a few. Woman or man, having it all totally depends on how badly you want to have it all and what you are going to do about it.

What do think of women in sri lanka how do you think it can be better

I think of Sri Lankan women are extraordinary creatures – especially if you look at our history, we’ve had some remarkable women. We’ve had the first woman prime minister and president in the world; so we really can’t say women are oppressed or lack social representation in this country. If we stand our ground for what what we believe in, we are definitely heard. Sadly, however, I feel women in this country don’t maximize their potential due to various reasons. Most often they end their careers to prioritize family soon after marriage making them depend on their husbands for financial support. And funnily enough, most often it is women who encourage women to do this and make them feel that it is a woman’s duty to give up their dreams and careers for the family’s sake. The duty of maintaining the wellbeing of the family has to borne by both husband and wife, not wife alone. As long as we don’t change the mindset of people to treat a woman as an equal in marriage, we will not develop as a nation! We need to empower our daughters with education and financial independence. It is only then a woman can live with her head held high and never have the reason to feel inferior to any!

With so many magazines around what is that thing which separates your magazine from others

Novelty and the use of modern technologies from graphic design, pre-press to printing. Over the years I think we’ve mastered it to the point our printer won Gold twice consecutively at the Sri Lanka Print Awards for Brides Of Sri Lanka magazine in 2019 and 2020 in the magazine and periodicals category. We’ve always been trendsetters and kept ourselves far ahead of competition, because our challenge has always been to better ourselves from where we are.

Why a bridal magazine?

A wedding in Sri Lanka is a greatly celebrated milestone in one’s life. And I know the dilemmas I faced as a young bride when I was planning my own wedding many years ago. Wedding planning period is a very trying time for a young girl as she is new to the whole experience and is caught in a web of opinions of parents, relatives, friends and wedding professionals. I wanted the best information resource for such young brides where they are guided to choose the most unique ideas and best vendors to plan their most memorable day. And with our international exposure, I am able to showcase the great talents we have in Sri Lanka to the rest of the world, making our island nation the best wedding destination.

Your husband’s role in supporting you

Right after God, he’s my go-to for advice, support and help. Being the youngest of four, I was very strictly raised by my mother who was a young window. I always say I earned my freedom the day I got married. Viraj and I started our  courtship at a very young age and he’s become my best friend. He extremely supportive and believes in everything I do and that has given me the utmost freedom to do take up any challenge or risk without fear. It is very important to find a life partner who embarks on life’s journey, not in front of you or behind you, but right next to you, holding your hand along the way.

Courtesy: Outfits by Aslam Hussein of GeeBees Designer

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New Look Chagall

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Gerald Solomons is a veteran hairdresser and stylist, he not only loves doing hair, but loves relationship he builds with his clients. He honed his skills and passion to make clients look and feel glamorous. He prides himself on listening to his clients’ needs to create personalised and gorgeous hair colour and styles while always keeping the integrity of their hair his top priority.

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Breast cancer awareness; a simple needle test goes a long way in saving lives

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Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women across the globe. National cancer incidence data (Sri Lanka) has shown, a significant increase in the number of breast cancer patients. The peak incidence of breast cancer is between 50 – 58 years of age (can vary from country to country).

Risk factors:

1. Age – Peak incidence of breast cancer is between 50 – 58 years of age. The incidence of breast cancer decreases after 60 years. Breast cancer is uncommon in women less than 30 years of age.

2. Family history – Women who have a first-degree relative with breast carcinoma have a two to three times higher risk of getting t

he disease than that of the general population.

3. Genetic mutations – Germline mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are associated with an increased risk of having breast cancer.

4. Menstrual and reproductive history – Increased risk is correlated with early menarche (beginning of menstrual cycles), nulliparity, late age at first birth and late menopause.

5. Exogenous oestrogen – Exogenous oestrogen is considered as a risk factor of breast cancer.

6. Ionizing radiation – An increased risk of breast cancer has been documented with exposure to ionizing radiation.

7. Alcohol consumption

8. Cigarette smoking

9. Obesity

10. Lack of physical exercise

However, in most cases a definitive cause for breast cancer cannot be identified. It is important to know that you can get breast cancer without having any of the above mentioned risk factors. Why it happened and how it happened may not be clear at all times. Do not blame yourself, it is not due to your fault. It can happen to anyone… rich or poor, big or small, black or white. Do not let breast cancer destroy your life. If you come early the disease can be controlled. Be knowledgeable about the symptoms of breast cancer. If you feel something is not right, without taking it lightly resort to medical advice.

Symptoms:

There is a wide range of symptoms that can vary from person to person

Breast lump (usually painless), hardness or thickening

Skin changes that include swelling, redness, pitting (skin of an orange), scaling or any other noticeable change

An increase in the size or change in the shape of the breast

Changes in the appearance of the nipple (s), peeling of skin over the nipple

Discharge from the nipple (other than milk)

Pain in any part of the breast

Lumps/ swelling in the arm pit

However, it is important to understand that early breast cancer may not show any of the above symptoms. You may not feel a lump at all. Only way to detect early cancer is by a screening method and currently the widely acknowledged approach has been screening mammography. By this screening method unsuspected lumps in asymptomatic women can be identified. Breast cancer screening using mammograms is a well- established program in the developed world. Women over 45-50 years of age are recommended for screening. The cut off age for screening can vary from country to country. If there is a strong family history of breast cancer (or any other significant risk factor) screening will be offered at an earlier age. Mammogram exposes the breasts to a small amount of radiation. Benefits of breast screening by mammogram are far too many. We do not have a national breast cancer screening programme yet, but it will come in to place in the near future.

There is a simple needle test (fine needle aspiration cytology technique) that can be done as a first line investigation for breast lumps. It is a minimally invasive procedure with hardly any complications. It is cost effective and the results can be obtained quickly. Needle test can give a clue as to the nature of the lump. Sometimes the needle test results can be inconclusive. In those instances, further investigations will be done to confirm the diagnosis.

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A plunge of three decades and more

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Sri Lanka Sub Aqua Club credited for producing some of country’s top divers, several of them internationally recognized today, turns 35

by Randima Attygalle

Piling the diving gear into their cars and filling the empty seats with fellow divers, the founder members of the Sri Lanka Sub Aqua Club (SLSAC) in its formative years would head south to Hikkaduwa or Galle. They would fill their cylinders with a compressor, cast their own lead weights from lead pipes bought in Panchikawatte and purchase second-hand equipment whenever they appeared in the market. As the Founder Chairman of the Club, veteran diver, Dr. Malik Fernando recollects more than three decades later, “those who were fortunate enough to travel abroad brought back accessories and sold them at cost and we even serviced our own regulators.”

The Sri Lanka Sub-Aqua Club was formed in 1985 by a group of diving enthusiasts led by the marine biologist, Dr. M.W.R.N de Silva (Dr. Ranjith de Silva). What was envisaged by the Club says Dr. Fernando was to train Sri Lankans in SCUBA diving for both recreation and more importantly, for scientific research. He was supported by Arjan Rajasuriya, presently the Coordinator, Coastal and Marine Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sri Lanka Country Office. The idea of the Club germinated in the mind of the founder, Dr. Ranjith de Silva following his establishment of the Coral Unit at the National Aquatic Resources and Research Agency (NARA). The core group consisted of a few British Sub Aqua (BSAC) qualified divers such as Dr. Fernando, himself and those who have been involved in various diving-related pursuits.

The SLSAC, modelled on the BSAC, had produced several internationally reputed divers along its 35-year journey. The SLSAC-certified divers are today recognized by many local recreational dive stations. “Although we sought to form a branch of the BSAC once we got established, the cost was prohibitive, thus we initiated our independent certification scheme,” notes its founder chairman. The Club’s training courses, Dr. Fernando recollects, were very popular and many divers were trained by senior members. “However, it was eventually recognised that the BSAC curriculum was too comprehensive, too time consuming and too detailed for beginners. With the popularisation of the compact PADI course that a number of us followed, the club curriculum was modified and simplified changing from a BSAC model to a PADI model, with much less theory and drills reduced to basic essentials. The instruction was still by club members, some of whom had BSAC qualification and experience in instructing in their original clubs. We were only able to give a club certification, but after we had established our credentials by producing well trained divers, that certification came to be recognised by some of the recreational dive stations.”

The SLSAC was also one of the chief catalysts in driving the now well-established Maritime Archaelogy Unit (MAU) in Galle, and the contribution made by the Club members towards its expansion is notable. Recovery of several porcelain and glass artefacts by them from the shipwrecks lying in Galle spurred this initiative, says Dr. Fernando. Further, th

e club has also contributed to maritime archaeology and preservation of artefacts by contributing to the establishment of a shipwreck database and actively lobbying against shipwreck salvaging, especially of ancient shipwrecks.

A medical doctor, Fernando attributes his ‘physician gene’ to his illustrious father, Dr. Cyril Fernando and his penchant for nature to his artistic mother. An adventurous family, they would seize every opportunity to travel out of Colombo fuelling the budding physician-cum diver son’s exploring spirits. Taking to water at the age of seven, young Malik’s imagination was fired by the National Geographic Magazine. With a pair of flippers and a second-hand mask he would head towards Mount Lavinia and recollect his earliest experience of Hikkaduwa as “going deep down into an aquarium.” Further inspired by the celebrated diver Rodney Jonklaas, a family acquaintance as well, the freshly graduated doctor would spend more time diving than passing his higher exams in the UK!

“Today the greater accent is on tuition and passing exams with little emphasis on sports and even if children do engage in sports, it is largely for competition. Sadly the value of sports as a leisure activity and a health gain is largely undermined today,” observes Dr. Fernando who urges school authorities to take more interest in water-sports. “Learning to swim and dive is only means to an end. Not only can a person discover new places but he/she can also become a partner is conservation,” says the expert diver who has walked the talk. Encouraging the budding swimmers and divers to become partners of the marine eco-system true to the mandate of the Club, Dr. Fernando urges them to rally around it in a bid to produce ‘responsible’ divers with scientific insights.

“Diving enables connectivity with the entire eco-system from which we are sadly very detached right now. It provides one of the best windows to the polluted environment, for which man is responsible,” reflects Wishwamithra Kadurugamuwa, present President of the Club. The monthly ‘sharing of knowledge’ exercise initiated by the Club facilitates this process, he adds. The experience and stories of the experienced divers shared on this platform inspire the younger members, he says. “For us, diving is much more than sight-seeing, it is about moulding divers who would perceive things scientifically,” says Kadurugamuwa who is a corporate lawyer .

The ‘Citizen Science Project’ which was launched by the Club early this year in collaboration with the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is a progressive move which provides the divers a portal to document their dives. The exercise is envisaged to be a vehicle of future research and a facilitator in conservation. “The end purpose of this endeavour is to have a record after each dive as to where the reefs are dying, the extent of the damage, how can they be salvaged etc. To record all this, divers need to perceive through a scientific lens for which training is provided by experts,” said Kadurugamuwa.

The opportunities within the marine eco-system which lay before an island nation such as ours are enormous, yet hardly tapped, he noted. He cites water sports and newer tourism products such as shipwreck tourism in this regard. “Sadly there is not much attention paid to the marine environment in the magnitude it ought to happen,” adding that entangled fishing nets, empty plastic bottles and yoghurt cups floating besides the coral reefs do not support the idyllic picture any underwater explorer would want to see. The Club’s intervention to clean fishing nets entangled on coral reefs and lobbying for legislation against unethical fishing practices are moves towards realizing a sustainable marine environment.

Dynamite fishing and spear-fishing are very destructive forms of fishing and whilst there is active legislation prohibiting dynamite fishing, it is practiced widely and the club has played a very active role in reporting infractions to authorities leading to curtail of such activity. In addition the club was instrumental in bringing about legislation to prohibit spear-fishing in Sri Lanka – again a very destructive practice as spear fishermen in SCUBA gear have caused localized extinction of key species.

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