THE HISTORY OF THE SRI LANKA ARTILLERY SEVA VANITHA BRANCH
It was the year 1999, under the regime of Mrs.Dilhani Weerasuriya that the main Seva Vanitha Unit started branching out the main into sub units as ladies clubs of each regiment.
Under her guidance and advice the Sri Lanka Armys’ Artillery ladies club was formed. She served her tenure as president and handed over reigns to Mrs. Gnyana Balagalle the wife of the then Colonel Commandant.
During Mrs. Balagalle’s service as president, she introduced many projects that were carried out in the main Army Seva Vanitha Branch. The popular “Avurudu pola” in the Colombo Army grounds which everyone looked forward to was one among them. The ladies of the Artillery ladies club were introduced to the hospital project and the Military hospital Colombo was looked after by the Artillery Ladies Club.
When she assumed duties as the president of the Seva Vanitha Army Branch, she handed over the presidency to Mrs. Chintha Dias, followed by Mrs. Chryshanthi Gunawardena. Both of them contributed a dedicated service towards the welfare of the ladies club as well as to most war heroes of the regiment and contributed a certain amount of funds of the club towards the welfare projects of the main branch. Their service was immense. In fact, throughout the years from the inception till Mrs. Gunawardena handed over office to the next in line, she & Mrs. Mangala de Alwis, wife of late Lt Col. Nalin de Alwis managed all the administrative work with great devotion and concern and maintained high standards in the club. Mrs. De Alwis was able to give us aid from the Kobbekaduwa foundation.
The scholarship scheme had begun by then. It begun in a small way and collecting funds towards this needy cause was through kind donors. This was not possible always. There had to be a continuous cash flow for the welfare activities of the club, therefore with the help of Mrs. Champika Sudasinghe , Mrs. Gunawardena and the ladies, organized an Avurudu Pola popularly known as the “Kottawa Artillery Pola”. I must admit, it was mainly the hard work of Mrs. Sudasinghe.
All ladies worked hand in hand without pride & prejudice, towards this charitable organization. Apart from this, there were many ladies who contributed immensely by way of finding cash & kind contributions & donations. Selling book marks & caps was also a mode of increasing the fund. With the proceeds of these sales’ and the contributions the club was able to withstand the needs of the diseased and disabled soldiers’ house constructions, purchasing of limbs & sanitary fittings and improving the standards of billets.
On successful completion of her dedicated service towards Mother Lanka’s war heroes, Mrs. Gunawardena handed over her role as president to Mrs. Shevanthi Thennakoon. She had a clear vision of what her goals should be. In fact both Maj Gen & Mrs. Thennakoon planed to have a musical show or stage a play in order to strengthen the funds of the club. Unfortunately for us ill-fate struck her. She was barred between life & death and thank the good lord, which ever religion we believe in, the religious devotions that all made, not forgetting accurate medication, pulled her through to be able to stand on her feet. Her loving husband Maj Gen Sunil Thennakoon fought a crucial battle and made both Mrs. Thennakoon and their daughter come round.
This was not the only ill-fated accident we ladies shared; long afterwards one among our tribesmen Maj. Jagath Bamunuarachchi, left all his loved ones and breathed his last breath facing a crucial motor bike accident. His dear wife his childhood sweetheart, was left laying in the general hospital for a couple of months until she recovered fully. The unity of the ladies club was clearly evident. All the love & support was given by the members. At the time Mrs. Nilmini Bamunuarachchi was secretary of the club.
The necessity of a fund raiser was immense. Once Mrs. Thennakoon recovered in full, she invited us for tea to her residence in Kurunegala. It was rather a mini get-to-gather and a cheerful outing for us too. The meeting was a success. She decided on a variety show including segments of fashions too. After lunch we left Kurunegala with her blessings and I must say everyone was with high spirits. Honoring Mrs. Thennakoon’s request we held the show in December that year at the Karey College Auditorium. It had solo singing by some of our children, dance items by Mrs. Nilupa Kodituwakku, a fashion show with Designer wear sarees with the compliments of Saree Palace Panadura and to make the theme evident was a nativity play and Christmas Carols by the children of Gunner officers. Christmas is the time for loving & giving, caring & sharing and to make the theme of the evening evident the children of the Gunner Officers staged their talent by way of a Nativity play followed by all time favorite Christmas Carols. The proceeds of the show were utilized on the welfare of the soldiers that sacrificed their hand and limb over the Elam war.
The following year she handed down her duties to Mrs. Champika Wijesinghe. This was also a time where Presidents of the main Seva Vanitha changed and the term Ladies’ Club was changed to sub units of the main Army Seva Vanitha. Our club had a more formal wave and its name was changed as Artillery Seva Vanitha. The avenues of charity grew. Existing projects of the main branch were depending from the charities collected by its sub units. We always contributed and held a stall in the Annual Army Pola. We sold good rice for nominal rates. Rice was our main source of sale. This year it was different. We had a miscellaneous food stall. We served off the hearth to the plate Manioc yam with scraped coconut & Kattasambol. It was tantalizing and the Sri Lanken “Kanda leaf” took the place of the usual plate. There was a good sale of coconuts and farm fresh curd. Team spirit is what matters in an organization and that was obvious among the Artillery Ladies.
Apart from the annual Army Seva Vanitha Fare, Mrs. Wijesinghe and the ladies of the Arty Seva Vanitha organized sports meets for children of all ranks present. This was a fun full yet challenging event. We should be proud to say that it was the Gunners’ children that went live on air with Vidula Childrens Radio for the first time. This was organized to seek out what talents our children posses and it was indeed an honour to be identified as the first regiment of the Army that went live on air.
More opportunities were open by then. We had guest speakers that visited us once a fort night and spoke on Norms of living, Personal Grooming and Public Speech, Managerial and cost effective life styles, Introduction to Maslows Higherachical needs, Methods of Fenshui and to deviate occasionally were sponsored cookery demonstrations. After every lecture was over we had a session to socialize with the newly wedded couples welcoming the bride to the Seva Vanitha & the Gunner Tribe, which ended up by a delicious meal in the dining room of the Artillery Officers Mess.
Many more programmes were organized during this reign. Charity was served equally towards the scholarship fund and the war heroes. Most members of the organization worked devotedly towards drawing donors for the various projects the seva vanitha was engaged in. One such occurrence was staging the play “Tarzen the Baba”.
On successful completion of her tenure Mrs. Champika Wijesinghe penned off her duties to Mrs. Kanthi Balasuriya. With reins in her hand she set off several welfare projects to light the lives of those who have given their best to this nation.
The disabled billets of the 6th Regimental of Artillery was refurbished and handed over to the regiment .Her vision was to stage a medical evening for the up liftmen of the Artillery Seva Vanitha fund. While it was processing half way through she had to handed over to her successor, Mrs. Pushpa Liyanage.