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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1829

A senior broadcaster launches website to support disabled and disadvantaged youth in Sri Lanka

Sunil C. Perera in Sri Lanka

Colombo, 31 March, (Asiantribune.com): A senior broadcaster and a drama therapist Rohana Deva Perera launched his official website - www.thidoratheatre.org to assist local disabled and disadvantaged youth and to help them using Performing Arts as a therapeutic tool by respecting each and every individual and their contributions to the entirety while celebrating differences of all communities of Sri Lanka.Rohana Deva Perera was impressed by the strong links between drama and spirituality and the way that the performing arts can be used to touch people's souls. Rohana Deva Perera was impressed by the strong links between drama and spirituality and the way that the performing arts can be used to touch people's souls.

Speaking to media he explained the inception and concept of Thidora dates back to 1987, with its new phase, now being implemented.

The original name of the project was Natya Silpa Shalika, which was initiated by a popular and veteran dramatist late Dhamma Jagoda. After his demise, Rohana Deva [Chairman, Thidora] succeeded as the director of the Natya Silpa Shalika. During this period an enthusiastic foreigner, Wolfgang Stange, Founder of AMICI Dance Theatre Company, London, fancied this project, mainly due to the services rendered, and focused the project towards the disabled in Sri Lanka, for which he mooted finances through Interlink Trust, London.

It would be of significant interest to note that some of the achievements of the disabled youth through this project in various activities including dramas such as “Rosa Kele’, ‘Kekiri’ and ‘Procession comes, comes and goes.’ They were produced during weekly based theatre workshops in and around Colombo.

They also won a special award for a production based on ethnic conflict, “Palm and Coconut”, from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka. This project is the first ever integrated theatre introduced to the disabled in Sri Lanka. Participating youths’ keenness and enthusiasm of their parents during the project was boundless. We also utilized theatre arts as therapeutic tools to enhance their mental and physical abilities.

In 1998, Natya Silpa Shalika joined the Sunethra Bandaranaike Trust to form the Butterfly Theatre Company. Its first production “Butterflies Will Always Fly” was directed by Rohana Deva and Wolfgang Stange. In 1999, the duo successfully directed “Flowers Will Always Bloom” with performances in London, New Delhi and Brisbane, in addition to several shows in Sri Lanka.

Thereafter, the project was reorganized as Sunera Foundation with a view to spreading the techniques and methodology towards other parts of Sri Lanka. Rohana Deva was the live-wire of the Foundation and a key player performing several roles as the Creative Director and Consultant.

Thidora-Theatre Institute for Disability Oriented Research and Advocacy is established to make optimum use of resources and leading a mission towards the concentrated goals and objectives of the Mission.

When workshops are conducted in rural areas it is envisaged to make a viable survey of disabled and disadvantaged talents on various aspects for development through the project, be it dance, drama, puppetry, music or art. In that backdrop, hostel facilities would be an essential input to help them concentrate on their higher studies. Plans are afoot under Thidora to set up a mini theatre to conduct experimental activities along with hostel facilities to accommodate the disabled and disadvantaged. The mini-theatre and the hostel will be equipped with disable friendly modern facilities.

Parents of participants Ananda Siriwardana and Chithra Thebuwana [a member of the governing body of Thidora] have already donated a land and built a small auditorium for the initial work to achieve our goals.

To proceed with the aims and objectives of the Project with a future developmental sphere the numerous activities of ‘Thidora’, it is envisaged that donations and contributions from individuals and organizations keen in the rehabilitation of the innocent and the children of the God, a descent way of life.

THIDORA conducts on an on-going basis weekly workshops for Disabled and Disadvantaged and designing the teacher’s Manuel to work with Autistic Children.

The institution also formulated a set of Practical Techniques for the Members of the Committee and Designing the Teachers’ Manuel to work with Autistic Children in Government Schools. The Manuel is being designed by the National Institute of Education of the Ministry of Education.

It conducts training of Trainers Program for Teachers at the Ceylinco Sussex Autistic School. "We work as Resource Partner of “Eagle Samana” of Eagle Insurance to conduct awareness program for the care-takers of children with Special Needs, he said.

Coming from an area famous for its “kolam” and “kavi nadagam” forms of traditional folk theatre, Rohana was inspired by a love of drama from a very early age as a growing up child.

Rohana was impressed by the strong links between drama and spirituality and the way that the performing arts can be used to touch people's souls.

His passion for drama led him to study at Natya Shilpa Shalika, under theatre legend Dhamma Jagoda, and at the State Institute of Theatre Arts (SITA), where he received a Diploma in Drama. He later became the Director of Natya Shilpa Shalika.

Rohana received a Diploma in Special Education from the National Institute of Education, Sri Lanka. He has successfully completed an intensive workshop on Services for Children with Special Needs, Emphasis on Intellectual Disability & PPD-Autism at MCTC Training Centre, Israel.

Rohana's strengths initially was eminent in his early work in street theatre, which he learnt under Gamini Haththotuwagama. This later culminated in his work with Simon Nawagethwgama for UNICEF, where he used street theatre to spread public health messages to people living in shanties and slums in Colombo.

He is also an experienced Puppeteer and was a past Chairman of the Panel on Puppetry of the Arts Council of Sri Lanka. In 1987 he led a Puppetry Group from Sri Lanka to Amsterdam and latterly a Puppet Group to Pakistan in 2000.

In between theatre work, Rohana used his Diploma on Writer-ship & Communication from the University of Sri Jayawardenepura to good effect as a Creative Journalist and Broadcaster for the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.

Rohana's work took a big step forward when he first met Wolfgang Stange through his work with the German Cultural Institute. The two began to work on a series of collaborative workshops for young people with disabilities, implemented by the Natya Shilpa Shalika.

Rohana’s desire to extend his healing work right across the country led to him working with Sunethra Bandaranaike and forming Sunera Foundation. Rohana Deva has acted as Consultant to the Sunera in matters relating to mapping out its work plans, supervising and ensuring their successful implementation. With Wolfgang's emphasis on dance and Rohana's focus on drama, their collaboration laid the foundations for all of the work that went on in Sunera Foundation workshops.

After beginning to work with people with disabilities, Rohana was overwhelmed by the strength of their humanity and the genuine warmth of their response to dramatic techniques.

He has also conducted advanced workshops for teachers in Special Education in Sri Lanka as well as for leading organizations abroad, in the UK, Norway, Australia, Italy and Israel.

In 2005, Rohana was bestowed with the title ‘Kala Suri’ (Expert in Arts) by the Government of Sri Lanka for his tireless efforts to help young people, the disabled and the less fortunate to integrate into society through their performances in drama and theatre.

- Asian Tribune -

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