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Timeline: Oru Paanai

How it all started and how it has evolved

May 2008 : Oru Paanai was launched by a group of UK resident Tamil doctors at an inaugural committee meeting held in Rugby, West Midlands in response to an appeal from the heads of rural schools in the Wanni district, who had highlighted the difficulties they were experiencing in providing a midday meal to the children in their care. Oru Paanai’s role at that stage was to supplement the rice meal provided by the World Food Program, a UN agency, by meeting the costs involved in making the meals more palatable and appealing to the children. A small number of schools were given this help at the start, but the numbers grew very rapidly when word got around on the grapevine about Oru Paanai.

June 2009 : The first fund raising event for Oru Paanai was an evening of Carnatic music staged by a group of very talented UK born young musicians at the Winston Churchill Hall in Ruislip. It was a tremendous success and it was this event which gave the OP committee the confidence to take on more and more schools onto their programme.

Fundraising - cycleAugust 2009 : Prof. Ram Swaminathan, a founder member of OP, along with his son Ramesh, undertook a gruelling bicycle ride across the Pennines to raise funds for OP. This was to prove the first of many activities undertaken by Prof. Swami over the next nine years, including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, riding from John o’ Groats to Lands End, riding from Auckland to Christchurch and back. His last epic bicycle ride in support of OP, was a trans American venture, starting from the Pacific Coast in July and covering 11 states and finishing in York Town in Virginia in September 2018.

Dec 2009 : OP registered as a recognised charity by UK Charity Commissioners, which enabled us to receive Gift Aid refunds from HMRC.

Jan 2010 : OP Sri Lanka formed under the leadership of Mr. Somasundaram Skandakumar. Generous contributions were made to OP SL by Sri Lankans of all ethnicities resulting in a substantial fund, which has continued to grow over the years.  

October 2010 : The younger members of OP, led by Abi Subanandan, Vidya Kanthi and Indu Smith staged a spectacular ball,  ‘Chandeliers and Silk ‘, in Paddington, London. A scintillating evening of musical acts was enjoyed by a large and appreciative audience.

Nov 2010 : The number of children benefitting from the OP programme increases to 13,000 per school day.

Jan 2011 : OP SL officially registered with the Ministry of Justice, Sri Lanka by Gazette notification.

Feb 2012 :OP Canberra branch formed by Mr. Chelva Kumaranayagam. Since then, they have been contributing to OP SL regularly on a 6 monthly basis.

May 2012 :OP Education initiated to provide remedial classes in the north and east. We made contributions to Mahadeva Padippaham in the north and RHYTHM in the east. More recently, OP has been providing support to educational events in the east, including science exhibitions and remedial classes in maths and science.

Aug 2012 : OP Kaithady formed under the umbrella of OP, led by Drs. Ranjit Thambirajah, Tony Sirimanne and DeutramThambapillai. OP Kaithady provided audiology support to the Nuffield School for the Deaf and Blind in Kaithady, Jaffna, which included fitting hearing aids and training the staff of the Nuffield School. The culmination of their activities was to raise funds by staging a dinner dance in London in October 2019.

July 2013: One Child Foundation, another charity based in the UK and ably led by Mr.Mano Manuelpillai, takes on the provision of midday meals to some of the island schools in Jaffna, thus sharing the task with OP. One Child Foundation went on to take over the provision of the meals to all the schools in the islands eventually.

Dec 2013 : The OP Feeding programme has grown exponentially in the 5 years of its existence and at this stage was supporting the provision of lunch time meals to 43,000 children in 311 schools in the north.

Aug 2014 : OP undertakes to support the Sathu Maa programme for some of the islands around the Jaffna peninsula. This programme, run by the Medical Officer of Health for the area, provides nutritious meals to malnourished children of pre school age.

Wells - Oct 2020August 2015 : Oru Paanai Water for Wanni launched as a pilot project. Over £20,000 was raised in a short time, thanks to generous donations made by a large number of individuals, who saw this as a project meeting a vital need for the people who had been resettled in the Wanni. As the pilot project was a success, and had provided a life line for the recipients, OP decided to incorporate the Wells programme as an integral objective in its activities.

Dec 2017 : The World Food Program (WFP), which had hitherto provided the bulk of the funding for the midday meal program, ended its involvement in Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka then took over the responsibility of providing the midday meals as it does in the rest of the country. OP continued to support the midday meal program till April 2018, when OP ended its role in helping the schools.

June 2018 : OP, having identified another group in need of urgent support, namely the destitute elderly who received only minimal financial help from the government, decided to launch an annathanam / dry rations programme, whereby 30-50 carefully chosen needy elders in each centre would be provided a cooked meal on a monthly basis. When they attended this annathanam, they would also be given dry rations - rice, wheat flour, rice flour, dhal, chick peas, sugar and milk powder - to last the 4 weeks before the next annathanam. Initially, the annathanam centres were based in Udayar Kattu and Puthukudiyiruppu, and when they proved successful, more centres were added. From 100 elders who were supported initially, the number supported was increased to 500 by the end of 2019. The annathanams also provided the elderly, most of whom led lonely lives, an opportunity to meet and interact with others in a similar plight.

October 2019 : OP Kaithady undertook a fund raising initiative, supported by the UK Hearing Conservation Council, to raise funds to purchase a van for the use of the children in the Nuffield School for the Deaf and Blind. This fund raising initiative was organised as a tribute to the memory of Mr. Pathman Ratnesar, who had rendered yeoman service to audiology services in the UK and Sri Lanka. A substantial sum of money was raised by staging a lunch / dance event, which was augmented by generous donations from well wishers in the UK as well as abroad. The van which was purchased from this initiative was presented to the Nuffield School in August 2020.

Elderly - Oct 2020Feb 2020 : The annathanam/ dry rations program was extended to include 2 remote villages in Kiran and Vavunathivu  in the Batticaloa district, providing support to 100 elders.

March 2020 : The dry rations programme and the annathanams halted temporarily due to imposition of curfew by the GoSL, following the Covid epidemic. The dry rations program was resumed when the curfew was eased after 6 weeks.

April 2020 : OP extended a helping hand to those affected economically by the Covid epidemic by providing dry rations to some of the needy in the Haputale district, as well as in Jaffna, the latter through a group of medical students from the Jaffna Hospital.

June 2020 : The dry rations distribution was initiated in two up country tea plantation areas, Nanu Oya and Belihul Oya, which were in need of urgent help, by opening 2 distribution centres to help 100 more elders.

July 2020 : All the annathanams also resumed after an interval of 4 months. The annathanams and the dry rations distribution continue apace in the north as well as the east and the plantation areas.

Oru Paanai - feeding the hungry in Sri Lanka
Charity no: 1136376

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