The cricket legend’s Bikes For Life (BFL) initiative takes a tuneful turn with the De Lanerolle Brothers joining hands
By Smriti Daniel
For the smiling children clustered around him, the chance to meet cricketer Kumar Sangakkara must have been a bigger thrill than receiving the bikes he had brought them as gifts. However, in the months to come, these bikes will make a significant difference in their lives. For many of these children this will be their primary mode of transport to school – and Kumar hopes – to a better life.
A bicycle from a cricketing hero: A shy schoolgirl in the North is all smiles as Kumar Sangakkara gives her a brand new bike
“The people in those areas are facing a new, more certain future with a lot of bravery and enthusiasm,” the cricketing legend told The Sunday Times in an email. “They have immense talent and potential in all spheres of life and we are mainly looking to empower them to be able to pursue their dreams.”�
Kumar’s Bikes For Life (BFL) initiative has already donated 1,400 bikes at an estimated cost of Rs. 14.4 million to schoolchildren living in the rural areas surrounding Kilinochchi, Mankulam and Mullaitivu. Costing around, Rs.10,800 each, the bikes are expected to be put to work helping family members travel to job sites and to transport their food or perhaps even their goods to local markets. When asked how many he would like to donate, Kumar says simply: “as many bikes as possible.”
Joining him on his latest round of fundraising will be the singing duo the De Lanerolle Brothers, Rohan and Ishan. Their charity of choice is the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind (CSDB) run by the Diocese of Colombo. CSDB’s three residential schools in Ratmalana and Jaffna provide education and vocational training to approximately 700 hearing and sight impaired children, completely free of charge.
For their concert at Water’s Edge, the men will divide up the work with the De Lanerolles performing and Kumar talking to the audience about his work in the North and East of the island. Guests have been promised the opportunity to mingle with the stars and take photographs together. Of his decision to club his fundraising activities with those of the De Lanerolles Kumar says they share a strong friendship and that his children and Ishan’s daughter even go to the same playschool, which adds to the bond. “I have been a fan of the brothers and have admired their music for a long time�I always like working with good people to support a good cause.”
Though he considers the bicycles an essential part of his charity work, Kumar says the real heart of the project remains the Foundation of Goodness. “The foundation and its work along with the founder Kushil Gunasekera and its first trustee Muralidharan touches the lives of over 20,000 people annually all over Sri Lanka,” he explains. After the successful Murali Harmony Cup, Kumar says they are now looking at collecting funds for the Mankulam Empowerment and Learning Centre through which they hope to provide better educational and sporting facilities for children in northern Sri Lanka.
The children who benefit make it all worthwhile. “The most rewarding part of this has been meeting the children in those areas and seeing the zest for life they have and the talent that they possess,” says Kumar.
In the meantime, fans are hoping that 2013 will end on a better note for Kumar than 2012 did.
In December last year, he soared past the 10,000 run mark, cementing his place among the sport’s iconic batsmen, only to have to withdraw from the tour of Australia on account of a fractured finger. He appears to be taking it philosophically though: “Injury is part and parcel of playing sport. It’s a matter of accepting it and getting on with recovery.
I was very pleased to have achieved the 10,000 run mark at the speed I did.” What does he hope the coming year will bring? “2013 is about doing what I do better,” he says.
The concert will be on February 5 at the Water’s Edge main ballroom from 7 p.m. onwards. Tickets for the show are available at Park Street Mews, Commons and Waters Edge, priced at Rs. 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 5000.