One of the most important precepts in the Aspirations Education approach is empowering communities to develop themselves. In Ampara there is no shortage of locals motivated to work to overcoming disadvantage and address need. Meet Mr KJ Wijetunga, patient advocate, award winning community organizer and Chairman of the Hospital Management Committee, Provincial Hospital, Inginiyagala, an Ampara project.
Born in 1954 in Kegalle district, Mr Wijetunga had one elder brother but lost both his parents at the age of 16. Both brothers had to finish up their studies, and travel to Ampara district 250 km away to find work. In 1971 Mr Wijetunga managed to find a job at a retail shop as a helping hand in Inginiyagala, receiving a wage of Rs. 5/- per day. He spent the nights in the shop itself as he was homeless. He worked at this shop for several years and was save his small wage to build a hut to live in on encroached land in nearby jungles. Later, he got married to a village woman from Inginiyagala and had five girls and one boy.
With the escalation of internal conflict in the North and East, there was high demand for blood for war casualties for both military personal and civilians. Worried about the lack of blood in nearby hospitals for surgeries, Wijetunga regularly donated blood to surrounding hospitals. Wijetunga thought it was his prime duty to donate blood to save a life. As well as giving blood frequently, he started organizing small blood donation campaigns in villages to collect blood required for the emergency surgeries. He enlisted the support from the hospital authorities for this purpose. Wijetunga formed a blood donation society at Pahalalanda village in 1983 with the assistance of Damana Divisional Secretariat. His main challenge was to convince community members to donate blood as most of their circumstances left them below the poverty line and lacking in proper nourishment.
His blood donor society was recognized by both the Colombo National Blood Bank and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health. To date Wijetunga has formed 32 blood donor societies in Ampara district and he contunes to conduct mobile blood donor campaigns’ when and where necessary. A strong blood donor campaigner in Ampara district, he was able to establish the “Eastern Provincial Blood Bank” at Ampara District Hospital. He is also Chairman of Hospital Management Committee, Provincial Hospital, Inginiyagala. Wijetunga has received number of national awards for his extraordinary commitments in this field.