Getting together for a cause

Getting together for a cause
Sahana team joined CDA for Iftar at the Khan Saheb Labour Camp in Jebel Ali.

With the motto of 'Help us to help you', the Sri Lankan Welfare Association has become the heartthrob of the Lankan community in the UAE



by

Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri

Published: Thu 31 May 2018, 11:56 AM

Sahana, the Sri Lankan Welfare Association, is gradually becoming the voice of the expatriate Lankans in the UAE. It has made its mark and risen to new heights just within a span of few years. Its intention to serve the needy and less-privileged Sri Lankans in the UAE has made it an indispensable entity in the community, and is showered  with praise. Through a number of its initiatives, such as musical programmes for fund-raising, and similar ventures, it has reached out all across the UAE, and is duly acknowledged back home. 
Sahana is a registered entity with the Community Development Authority (CDA), Dubai, which recognises it as a 'non-profit social club'. Presently, Sahana has more than 500 members, and its budget and expenses are consciously run on donations and a nominal membership fee of Dh120 per annum/per member. Life membership is offered for Dh5,000. Moreover, Sahana is lucky enough to enjoy the support of a large number of volunteers and well-wishers, and philanthropists, who have come forward to realise the aims of Sahana as a helping hand for the roughly 250,000 Lankan community in the UAE.
Upul Gamage, President of Sri Lankan Welfare Association, says, "The best favour that one could do for the association is to become a member and help further its objectives." Sahana comprises of eight board members, subsequent core committees and sub-committees to look after a plethora of issues brought into its notice as welfare requests, occasionally. The organisation also has an 'internal auditor', and the membership is open to all Lankan expatriates with a valid UAE residence visa. Bona fide members are eligible to contest as office-bearers as per norms of CDA regulations. This is why Upul says, "Sahana is synonymous with 'care and protect', and wants to act as the 'eyes and ears of Sri Lankans in the UAE."
Since its inception in 2012, Sri Lankan Welfare Association's focus had been on looking after ailing persons who are unable to foot their medical bills, taking care of accommodation for needy compatriots, helping Lankans go back home who are in distress and stranded, counselling prisoners with legal and financial aid, and last but not the least, flying home the mortal remains. Visiting labour camps, taking care of lego-medical issues, and coordinating with the Sri Lankan consulate and the embassy for arranging out-passes, and arranging for school fee as scholarship for the needy are on Sahana's work list.  
Upul, a banker by profession, says the diplomatic channels in the UAE, as well as the Sri Lankan Airlines, have always been forthcoming in addressing their concerns on a priority basis. Likewise, Sahana has come up with a blueprint of aid assistance to the needy community members who turn jobless, and are otherwise in dire straits. 
"The funds that we have are used for the welfare and well-being of deserving people, and a sub-committee ensures its prompt and rightful execution," Upul remarked. Similarly, he said sub-committees are mandated to "accept, evaluate, propose and support" the pleas of needy at their doorstep, and professionals and volunteers drawn from respective fields look after the process in a considerate manner. 
Sahana, Upul confides, is open to suggestions and organises workshops, medical camps and lectures for expatriates, and widely acts as a facilitator to empower Lankan expatriates. Sahana is also mindful of its responsibilities towards the host country, the UAE, and undertakes a number of initiatives by participating in community services such as cleaning campaigns, blood donations and participating in UAE National Day events. This sense of 'Giving' synergises the spirit of compassion for the Lankan community in the UAE.
Upul, who is busy these days in restructuring the organisation as per the new laws of the CDA, as one of the Honorary Board Members should be a UAE citizen, told Khaleej Times, "Our intention is to support the community members without any reservations, and we look forward to broaden our services in all walks of life."
- mehkri@khaleejtimes.com

Upul Gamage, President of the Sri Lankan Welfare Association
Upul Gamage, President of the Sri Lankan Welfare Association
Board and Core Committee Members
Board and Core Committee Members

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