By Nirukshi de Lanerolle, Edited by Nadiya de Lanerolle
As the Emerge Bead Program Coordinator and Sarvodaya’s Donor Relations Manager it had always been my deepest desire to share the beauty of Christmas holidays with the lovely children I work with just as I share it with my loved ones.
For many of the young girls and boys, the concept of Santa Claus was an alien one, until a few days ago.
Finding a sponsor was by far the hardest part, someone with a heart big enough to share the essence of Christmas with those outside their family circle proved to be tedious, finally it was an individual who devoted her time to the teenagers of Masevena, Chandi Dias-Abeygoonawardena that introduced me to someone with a heart of gold – her mum Barbara Dias-Abeygoonawardena who resided in the US.
Not only did we become close friends over the last few months of hasty planning, she also fulfilled my hearts desire of bringing the holidays to Moratuwa.
The weeks before D-day were a flurry of activity, gifts for over 150 children needed to be bought and wrapped. Making the best of a budget, although I wanted to spend with abandon was a hard task, as I had to shop around, literally for the best bargains. With my daughter in tow, many a shopkeeper and sales person we recruited in busy malls to find us the identical piece of clothing in different sizes and often very often up to 25 pieces of the same style.
I wanted no expense spared, as I mulled over menus and decorations, often making numerous calls to find out what ingredients went in to the canapés and conferring with the matrons as to what the children would prefer.
The Christmas tree was at the pinnacle of my preparations, and my daughter with her creative flair, colour co-ordinated all the decoration from the tinsel to the baubles so that the Christmas tree would not only glitter but be stylish as well.
Normally getting Indrani Perera one of the leading singers of Sri Lanka to perform at a small gathering would be a daunting task, but thanks to Barbara’s connections, she and her band had promised to entertain the girls and boys that day with none other than Christmas carols.
Many late nights I had as I lugged bags full of clothes and toys to my car, and many a fit of panic I had when my paranoia lost a receipt (that was quickly found in the most obvious place). It was perhaps the day before the party that I was wiped out the most, as I burned the midnight oil wrapping 150 gifts, which I probably could have wrapped faster my daughter says if I wasn’t so slow, I prefer to call it methodical.
The day dawned somewhat gloomy, as my daughter dropped the bomb on me that she had to been called to work and couldn’t come with me to arrange the venue at Moratuwa.
Previously I had been at God’s Little Acre, with the girls of Masevena for day out and had realised the ‘acre’ was not so ‘little’ after all. This resulted in a quick decision to leave church early since it was a Sunday, so that I would have time to liase with the Hotel staff regarding food and drink, put up the Christmas tree and lay out the presents in some sensible order so that we would give them to Santa in some orderly fashion.
From 2 to 4.30 I ran around making the ‘Little Acre’ as festive as possible, making sure there were no hazards to the smaller children (we had to fence out the pool) and personally setting up the Christmas tree.
I had barely moment to myself as taxi drivers, (who had to pick up the children at various homes in and around Moratuwa) Matrons and Suwasetha staff called on my mobile with various queries.
Finally the little guests started to arrive and took in the feeling of Christmas I had recreated in the Hotel as I often do in my home. Babra who arrived in Sri Lanka on the 16th morning braving the heavy snowstorms in the US arrived along with her family and other guests. Indrani Perera was who really got things going with some of the classics and the girls cautiously took to the dance floor with some moves that I didn’t know they had! Soon the little ones joined in with some frantic movements and the cameras came out as those who had contributed to make everything possible captured the very first Christmas Sarvodaya Suwasetha had truly seen.
Then came Santa who was Barbara herself who had been Santa for the third time, joined the girls and the little ones and Mrs Neetha Ariyaratne – Hony Secretary Sarvodaya Suwasetha to dance.
The Food was amazing, said my daughter who had made surprise appearance after work and it truly was! My carefully balanced menu with emphasis on yummy food like Hotdogs and Friend Chicken Wings was a success as the children shunned the traditional patties and cutlets (which thankfully were made in very much smaller quantities at my instruction) as they tucked in.
The ice cream was a hit as always, as the matrons like the children all had second scoops, and the dancing still hadn’t ceased.
The gifts were also a hit, as the latest fashions were picked for the young mothers, and pretty pink dresses came out of the wrapping papers of the little girls.
The sunset and the frantic celebration mellowed in to a quieter gathering as one by one the sets of children set off to their homes.
The smaller the gathering the more fun the girls who were left behind seemed to have as they playfully chatted with the matrons and my daughter who laughed out loud as the Singing Teacher began to literally exercise by doing a impromptu power walk after the hearty meal.
For me despite the late nights and the often thoughtless sales people and despite budgetary constraints and the nitty grittys of planning such and event, the evening truly lived up to my expectations… now my Christmas is complete……