As we celebrate 10 years since the formation of our Association, it may be an opportune time to look back and reflect on the path that we have travelled during the first decade of our existence. Trials and tribulations that we faced on our journey together as Anandians living in Melbourne in trying to build an Association to foster fellowship and brotherhood and what we have achieved during this period are certainly worthy of remembering and recording before our memories of the past succumb to human frailties and fade into the ether.
Although the idea of forming an Association of Anandians in Victoria was mooted, from time to time, by a number of Anandians living in Melbourne, it did not become a reality until a group of young Anandians who were then studying in Melbourne as undergraduates took the initiative. The first ever formal gathering of Anandians living in Melbourne was held in 1993 at the Swinburne University of Technology to discuss how to form an Old Anandians Association in Victoria. Following this meeting a core group of young Anandians took the responsibility to form an Association.
This core group (Kapila Jayasuriya, Kaushal Wijayadharmadasa, Arosha Fernando, Charman Wickremanayake and Nandana Senaratne) organised the first ever formal get-together of Anandians living in Melbourne, a BBQ at Jells Park on 28 November 1993. Following the BBQ, the inaugural meeting of the Anandians was held on 6 March 1994 at the Swinburne University of Technology. The meeting was declared open by late Mr Chandra Jayawardene, most senior Anandian living in Melbourne at that time and Mr D. B. Kuruppu, much respected former teacher at Ananda.
At that meeting an Interim Committee was appointed under the Chairmanship of Dr Ranjith Hettiarachchi to draft a Constitution with a view to establishing an Old Boys Association of Anandians in Victoria. Kapila Jayasuriya functioned as the Secretary and Tissa Amarasekera took the leadership with drafting of the Constitution.
In keeping with the traditions of Ananda, the first activity organised by the Interim Committee was an Alms Giving to evoke blessings on the Founders of Ananda. The first Alms Giving organised by the Anandians in Victoria was held at the Buddhaloka Vihara in Malvern on Wesak Day 15th May 1994.
The Association was formally established at the first Annual General Meeting held on 18 March 1995, as a non-profit organisation for fostering friendship and fellowship among Anandians. Chandra Rampala and Tissa Amarasekera were elected as the inaugural President and the Secretary respectively. The inaugural Executive Committee developed a program for the year that had three main events: Alms Giving to mark the Founders’ Day, a Family Night and a Dinner Dance.
Founders’ Day Alms Giving
Since the Association was formed in 1994, we have held an Alms Giving every year during the month of November to evoke blessings on the Founders’ of Ananda College, past and present teachers and the Anandians who sacrificed their lives to defend the country and its people from terrorism.
The first ever Family Night will remain in our memory for a number of reasons. Firstly, it would be remembered as the event that laid the foundation for all the other events that we have organised since then. Secondly, we will remember it for the wrong reason of being very chaotic.
I do not think that we ever experienced a night as chaotic as our first Family Night. Now when we look back we can identify lack of planning as the main reason for the chaos. As most of the members of the Executive Committee did not know each other well, everyone was bit reluctant to take a lead role and organise things.
We had about 80 tickets sold before the event and had more than 100 people turning up at the door on that night. Being the first ever event that we organised we did not want to turn the people away and, as a result some of us were carrying tables and chairs for most of the night.
Large number of people who turned up at door created immense problems for our Caterer, Victor De Silva from Zodiac Catering. We had hoppers on that day and Victor had come prepared to serve up to a maximum of 100 to 120 persons. Ever smiling Victor did not get flustered about it and, in his usual calm manner, organised extra hopper batter and kept on baking hoppers until everyone was fed. In the meantime our President got worried that some may not have any food for dinner and organised Pizza from a near by Pizza Hut.
Although all of us were deadbeat by the time Family Night was finally finished, we were looking forward to do bigger and better things. One crucial lesson that we learned on that day was never to sell tickets at the door.
With the experience that we have gained from the Family Night we started organising our first ever Dinner Dance. We appropriately called it the Maroons Night as our College colours are Maroon and Gold. Our inaugural Dinner Dance was held at the Moorabbin Town Hall.
At the time of the first Dinner Dance, the Association’s bank balance was so low that we had to rely on our President Chandra Rampala’s credit card to make all advance payments. I could still remember the anxiety that we all experienced a week before the Dance. Our break even was 240 tickets and a week before the dance we had sold only 140 tickets. Our collective thoughts were “how are we going pay the bills that Rampala had accumulated on his credit card”.
However, 24 hours before the dance, a miracle happened and we had nearly 300 tickets sold. What really happened was our big hitters (in terms of their ability to sell tickets) like Danasiri Weerasinghe, Nanda Ranatunga (both past Presidents) and our current President Prasanna De Silva swung in to action and sold more than 125 tickets during the last week.
Next two years under the stewardship of President Danasiri Weerasinghe were years of consolidation. We built on the experience gained during the first year and made every effort to make our functions enjoyable and memorable. We strived hard to ensure that our guests had an enjoyable night with good music and the best dinner that we could afford. Even table arrangements, the type of music for each session, the program etc were all meticulously planned. As a rule, we always ploughed back every cent that we collected from the sale of tickets to the Dance to ensure that always our guests got true value for their money.
Another aspect of the Maroons Night that we are really proud of is the contribution that we have made to bring Sinhala music into the mainstream at such events. Until then no Sinhala music was played at events like Dinner Dances except for a token song or two, or few “Bailas” to lift the tempo of the dance floor. We have shown that Sinhala music can be played at formal Dances and people could do their dance steps such as Waltz, Cha-Cha-Cha, Jive or Rock & Roll to good Sinhala music.
The first ever family trip took place during the first year of our existence in 1996. The Executive Committee organised a one-day trip to Danasiri Weerasinghe’s farm house in Gippsland. Danasiri and his late wife Chatra hosted us to a fabulous lunch. We hired a bus for the day trip and the Committee members and their families had a very enjoyable day. During the bus trip some of our members had the opportunity of listening to the story of “the elephant and his friend the monkey” rendered in verse by our current President Prasanna. Like good old school days those who were seated in the back rows of the bus kept all those in the bus entertained.
In 2001, we revived the family trip again, and this time organised a 3-day trip to a place outside Melbourne for our members and their families. During the Easter vacation, 35 members and their families joined the trip to Mansfield. We stayed at a large farm house catering for groups. In spite of some of us experiencing mice running over our feet, all of us who went on the trip had a tremendous time, and we were already looking forward to our next trip. Vijitha Amarasekera was there to provide music for dancing in the evening and some of our budding singers were given the opportunity to exercise their vocal cords.
Since then, Easter trip has become an annual event and thanks to the efforts of the Committee the trip got bigger and better. 90 members, their families and friends joined this year’s trip to Lake Eppalock near Bendigo.
Danasiri Weerasinghe Trophy
In 2002 we added another item to our events calendar: a cricket match between our Association and the Old Boys of Richmond/Mahinda for a Trophy appropriately named after Dansiri Weerasinghe. The trophy was named after our past President to acknowledge his achievements in cricket having captained Ananda and Sri Lanka (before Sri Lanka achieved test status). He also served as the Chairman of the National Selection Committee for cricket and a long term cricket coach at Ananda.
Ran Swara Dhara
In 2004, the Executive Committee was involved in the biggest event organised by the Association since it was formed. The Association organised a musical extravaganza involving leading male and female vocalists and musicians from Sri Lanka at the Melbourne Concert Hall. This was the first time that Sri Lankan singers and musicians have performed at the prestigious venue - Melbourne Concert Hall.
New additions to our annual events calendar
In 2005 we added two new activities to our events calendar. The first event was participation in Clean up Australia day activities. Few of our members together with their family members participated in Clean up Australia day activities at Jells Park in Wheelers Hill. All the participants had a very enjoyable time whilst participating in this important event for betterment of our adopted country.
The second new event was a Trivia Night. Although only 100 people participated in the Trivia Night all the participants thoroughly enjoyed the evening and almost every participant is now looking forward to next year’s Trivia Night.
Helping the College
Funds generated from the fund-raising activities undertaken by the Association have been used for funding activities such as provision of scholarships to deserving students at Ananda and to help Sri Lankan charities engaged in providing services to orphans and victims of the recent Tsunami disaster.
In 1997 our Association sponsored 2 cricketers from Ananda to come to Melbourne to play cricket to gain international experience. For a number of years, we provided two scholarships a year for two deserving students at Ananda.
We fondly remember one particular donation that we have been making every year during the past few years. This donation reflects the values that were ingrained in us during our days at Ananda more than any other donation that we have made. During the past few years we have made contributions with much affection and gratitude to the Past Teachers Association of Ananda.
Last year we also made a donation to the Kularatne Hall redevelopment fund.
Bone Marrow project
Accepting an invitation from the Bone Marrow Donor Institute (BMDI) of Victoria, to help boost the number of persons of Sri Lankan origin on the Bone Marrow Donor Registry, our Association took the initiative to add more donors to the Registry. This is a Sri Lankan community project facilitated by our Association in cooperation with other Sri Lankan Associations, Groups, Religious Institutions, Media, Doctors and families of leukaemia patients.
On behalf of our Association, Rukman Wimalasuriya has taken the lead role in this campaign and organised many “Information sessions” and “Mobile Donor Registration” sessions in cooperation with other Sri Lankan Associations, the BMDI and the Blood Bank. To-date our efforts have resulted in 242 names being added to the BMDI registry.
Working together with other school associations
We joined hands with past students associations of other Sri Lanka schools on two occasions. In 2000 when the war against terrorism was going on, several school associations, including ours, joined hands together to organise a fund raising event. $10,000 raised from this event was donated to the Anuradhapura Base Hospital.
Again when the biggest natural disaster in the history of Sri Lanka hit the country on 26 December 2004, Sri Lankan schools associations joined hands again to organise an event to raise funds for Tsunami victims. This event raised $12,500 and the money was sent to the Dharmavijaya Foundation in Sri Lanka to be utilised to help Tsunami victims.
Helping Buddhist temples in Victoria
Our members have participated in a number of Food Fairs organised by Buddhist temples in Melbourne to raise funds. We have also organised “working bees” to clean up temple premises.
Camaraderie and fellowship
The biggest achievement of the Association during the past 10 years is the camaraderie and the fellowship that it has fostered amongst many generations of Anandians living in Victoria. Not only has the Association fostered friendship amongst Anandians but has also helped to bring the families of Anandians together.
I can personally vouch that I would have never had the opportunity to meet with so many Anandians of different age groups without the Association. When I think of the friends that I made through the Association during the past 10 years, I know very well that I am indebted forever to those who had the wisdom and the courage a decade ago to form an Association of Anandians living in Victoria.
I am confident that the friendship and fellowship that we achieved during the first 10 years of our existence as an Association will form the bedrock on which our future is going to be built by many generations of Anandians who have yet to become members of this vibrant and wonderful Association.
Copyright © 2001 OAAV. All rights reserved.