The Shivan Velautham Foundation is building health and education facilities in Sri Lanka for the benefit of disabled children, their parents and carers. Children will be able to enjoy a wide range of supervised educational and therapeutic activities whilst their parents live nearby. The retreat will welcome disabled children from the local community as well as from further afield, both nationally and internationally, on a temporary or permanent basis.
In 1995, Soma Shivan Velautham was born prematurely after just 24 weeks in his mother’s womb. Weighing merely 1 ½ pounds (665 gr), Shivan developed cerebral palsy (Wikipedia article) due to a lack of oxygen during birth. He has autism and is blind as a result of a detached retina.
Today, Shivan attends Lindon Lodge School in Wimbledon where he studies maths, English literacy and arts. To assist his disabilities, the school provides Shivan with physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, speech and music therapy as well as swimming and mobility programmes. At home, he spends most of his time listening to music.
Ganesh Velautham is a London-based entrepreneur working in the real estate sector. Through his and his wife’s experience in raising Shivan, he understands the financial and everyday life challenges of raising a disabled child. As a result he has decided to dedicate his time in helping disabled children and providing the necessary support for parents through the creation of dedicated child-support facilities in his home country of Sri Lanka for the benefit of local children a well as families from the UK.
The Shivan Foundation was established in 2008 to form a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to oversee the creation and management of free-to-use health and educational retreats for use by disabled children and their parents.
It was decided to establish these facilities in Sri Lanka, where there is an acute lack of support for local families with disabled children due to the stigmatisation of people with disabilities, who are believed to have done something wrong in a previous life.
At the same time the clean and tranquil attributes of the Sri Lankan countryside offer a welcome retreat for families with disabled children from abroad. According to the Working Families charity, raising a disabled child in the United Kingdom costs three times as much as bringing up a non-disabled child and “half of families with a disabled child live in, or on the margins of, poverty”. Coupled with the time-consuming need for round-the-clock childcare, many disadvantaged families simply do not have the time or money to spend quality time with their children, yet alone afford going on holidays abroad.
The Foundation offers permanent accommodation for disabled children in Sri Lanka as well as temporary facilities for families with disabled children in the United Kingdom. Round-the-clock child support will be provided by experienced carers. Local transport, such as airport pickups or medical visits (if necessary) will be provided. Visitors from the United Kingdom will need to obtain funding for airline tickets. In some circumstances the Foundation may offer financial support for international travel or partner with other charities to bring free travel to the most disadvantaged families.
Priority for paid staff positions will be given to local people with disabilities.
The Foundation’s first centre for disabled children is currently being constructed in the Kandy district of Sri Lanka on 10 acres of rural land located several miles outside Kandy city and surrounded by a breathtaking 3000 ft hill range and unspoilt nature. The nearest airport is located 120km away at Colombo International, from where the Foundation provides free transfers.
A core 15000 sq. ft. building will house all health, educational and leisure facilities and provide suitable accommodation for disabled children with round-the-clock professional care and supervision. Facilities in the core building will include:
Surrounding the main building are several smaller chalets offering accommodation for accompanying family members, staff and volunteers. Completing the site are several acres of organic farm land and free-range animal enclosures, providing children with the opportunity to interact with nature, for example through horse riding or animal feeding and petting.
Initially, the main building will provide permanent accommodation for 10 disabled children. As more funding is secured, the Foundation hopes to expand the core building and build additional on-site cottages.
The Foundation will seek to increase the capacity at its Kandy site by expanding the core building and constructing additional chalets.
The Foundation is currently also searching for suitable land in other parts of Sri Lanka to build further health and education centres for disabled children.