Irish cricketers’ charity visit “brought joy and great excitement” to children in South Sri Lanka
April 20th 2023 by Craig Easdown | International, Other
HIKKADUWA, Sri Lanka – Members of the Ireland Men’s cricket team spent an afternoon at The Manacare Foundation’s ‘Hopes and Dreams Village’ to meet, talk to and play cricket with children and families under the care of the charity facility.
The ‘Hopes and Dreams Village’ was set up in 2004 immediately after the Tsunami. Using funds raised, they were able to purchase the land and initial building materials to set up the Village through the Manacare Foundation in Tellawatte, Hikkaduwa, South Sri Lanka.
The Village features a:
• Montessori school (including English, drama and dance classes);
• Medical Centre (which includes facilities for quarterly dental provision);
• refuge to women who face troubling situations in their homes;
• special facility for sight-impaired adults and children; and
• therapy pool and a gym, which aid with the rehabilitation of children with physical disabilities including cerebral palsy and damaged limbs.
Further information on The Manacare Foundation and a donation page can be found at: www.themanacarefoundation.com.
Visiting the Village were Andrew Balbirnie, George Dockrell, James McCollum, Fionn Hand, Ben White and Team Manager Chris Siddell.
Mrs Joy Butler Markham, Chair and founder of the Manacare Foundation, said:
“Taking a break from preparations for their two Test matches against Sri Lanka, we were delighted that the players came over to Hopes and Dreams Village to meet with children, mothers, and people of all ages from the local area, volunteers and ex-pats. They shared stories and experiences and took part in an interactive session. The visit created huge excitement in the local area, people were delighted to see them.
“There was a great welcome put in place for their arrival, the Montessori children had bouquets for each team member, all the children sang the national anthem (they got the very long version!), and people of all ages in the village were there to meet them.
“The children were running around the place, showing off their cricket skills, so happy with the attention from these professional players. It brought joy and a sense of involvement that the players took time out to meet these children. This visit made the children feel special and, on their turf, they played cricket. They don’t have the money to go to matches so the fact the players came to see them was special. The children were beaming, and it was a visit they will long remember.”
After speaking with Mrs Markham and centre volunteers, the players took a tour of the Village and played cricket with the kids. Mrs Markham said:
“The players went out to the green area where they played cricket with the children, joined in on the play, spoke to children, and did drills - you could see the children were just delighted.
“After this, we gave them a tour of the village, showed them the garden, soap-making room, sewing room, rehabilitation and physiotherapy room, the classrooms and finally on the tour the Montessori children did some local dance for them and the cricket players presented them with little rucksacks.
“After this, they had food and drinks - local sweets, coconut milk, and Sri Lankan tea. They spoke to so many people, stood for loads of photos, and made so much time for all.”
The Village also runs netball and cricket teams and children activities during the school holidays. In the afternoon further education such as English, maths, geography, dance and Tamil is given to children post-Montessori which helps with furthering their education and hence more opportunities when they leave school – all provided free-of-charge.
Andrew Balbirnie, captain of Ireland Men, said:
“It was an eye-opening visit, but we were delighted with the warm welcome by the children, families and volunteers of the Village. Visits like this are always something we as a squad try to support, as the challenges and achievements of people who volunteer their time for good causes like these deserve recognition.
“While we could only spend an afternoon there, we very much enjoyed engaging with the children particularly, and playing some very ‘competitive’ cricket – but, equally, learning from Joy and the volunteers about the services they run certainly keeps you grounded, and we left the Village with a great level of respect for the dedication and commitment they display. Our best wishes to The Manacare Foundation team and our thanks for the opportunity to visit and learn more about their work.”
The visit was set up by Noelle Rohan, a volunteer at the Village originally from the village of Castlegregory, Co. Kerry. Noelle has taken a sabbatical from her job in Dublin to volunteer at the Village.