The world should help Gammedda serve forgotten people


I have visited many remote areas and even recorded special programmes with Sirasa Gammedda, the News 1st initiative to help the forgotten people of Sri Lanka.

I studied development journalism in New Delhi sometime back, but it was here that I saw real development journalism being practised. People from all walks of life complain, today, that both the government and the Opposition including the so-called Joint Opposition have failed to solve the issues concerning the poor masses and that they have been forgotten. Politicians of Sri Lanka are only concerned about amassing wealth sufficient for several generations to come while living in the lap of luxury.

What do ordinary citizens of this country need? Clean drinking water, small community centres, classrooms and toilets for schools, fences to protect them from wild elephants, small bus shelters, proper roads, repairs to culverts and houses to live in. These are very simple and basic things in life. Their requests are small. Many of them haven't seen Colombo. I remember in Kalawanchikudi in the Batticaloa District, where we recorded a Gammedda programme. Several villagers said that no politician had visited them since the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, DS Senanayaka. Isn't it tragic? However, a group of News 1st Journalists did visit them, listened to their tales of woe and took meaningful steps to ameliorate their suffering.

I went to Laggala, Thabbowa , Rambewa, Pannala, Matara and Kalutara. In Kalutara all they needed was water and Gammedda provided it with clean drinking water. In Rambewa, Montessori children wanted a proper roof over their heads. News 1st Gammedda provided that with the support of a kind-hearted donor. In Pannala, villagers wanted a culvert built. News 1st provided it with the help of MAS Industries. Take the case of the Methodist Primary School in Radampola Road in Matara, where students are extremely bright and win Grade Five Scholarships, competing with the rest of the country. The primary school even produced an all island winner. They don’t have proper toilet facilities. Only the will of the teachers, parents and students keep them going.

When the little boy, the all island Grade Five scholarship winner came to News 1st studios in Colombo to share his success story, Chevaan Daniel, who is spearheading Gammedda with the News 1st team, on the instructions of Chairman of the Capital Maharaja group, R. Rajamahendran who has decided to make his contributions towards humanity, asked how he could help the little child.

The selfless little boy had told Chevaan, "I don’t need any help. Please help construct a wall around my school to save my fellow students from falling and injuring. It will cost Rs. 800,000. News 1st Team laid the foundation for it recently. It’s a government school!

Sirasa journalists couldn't look away when little kids told them "Mama, Nenda, please help us" That is how Gammedda was born. They went beyond their call of duty and showed what could be done.

News 1st Team does not organise seminars in five star hotels or travel overseas to find solutions to the problems of the poor. That is what most NGOs and even INGOs do. I once worked with two INGOs and walked out in disgust. They even cashed in on the tsunami disaster and upgraded their luxury offices and bought state-of-the-art vehicles.

Such things do not happen when journalists get together to help the poor. The Colombo-based diplomatic community can play a vital role in improving the living conditions of the rural Sri Lankans through a programme like Gammedda.

PS: We thank the University of Peradeniya for working with the group of journalists and identifying the problems faced by the poor people of Sri Lanka.

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