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February 21st , 2021. Colombo Sri Lanka: AYATI, Sri Lanka’s first national centre for children with disabilities recently celebrated one year of operations.  With over 6,000 children registered at the Centre from all over the country, the facility is making an impact on the lives of these children enabling them to have a more meaningful life. The Centre also conducts training programs for undergraduates, community pediatricians, parents, caregivers and teachers whilst providing telehealth services to families struggling with COVID19 related travel restrictions.  The AYATI Centre is open to serve all Sri Lankans across the country and provide services free of charge.

Disability has been recognized as a national issue and it is estimated that as many as one in five children could suffer from some form of disability, either mental or physical. If identified early, with continuous intervention, significant improvements can be achieved, enabling such children to achieve their fullest potential. This national need resulted in the formation of a unique Public-Private Partnership, launched in 2016, and intended to provide a sustainable solution. The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya provided land in Ragama and professional clinical support, while Hemas Holdings and MAS Holdings, two leading conglomerates spearheaded the setting up of the AYATI Centre, as key donors. The Sri Lanka Army supported this magnanimous initiative by providing their services free of charge to construct the Centre in a short span of 13 months. Rotary joined hands with the provision of audiology equipment and the ‘Roshan Wijerama Family Foundation’ stepped in to support the facility as a third key donor. Ayati is now on a journey to become a  ‘Centre of Excellence’ in Asia.

The AYATI Centre provides multi-disciplinary clinical operations throughout the week. The areas covered extend to all disabilities (physical and mental) with screening and interventions by medical specialists in Paediatrics, Neurology or Psychiatry, Speech & Language Therapists, Audiologists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Educational Psychologists. The Centre has a state-of-the-art Audiology unit, Sri Lanka’s first sensory room, a multi-disciplinary training centre, and research and development facilities, in addition to other clinical support services. The clinics are conducted by highly qualified professional experts attached to the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya. Prior appointments are essential to ensure the delivery of standards that the Centre expects to offer. Appointments can be obtained by calling 011 5960050 between 9 am and 5pm on weekdays.

At a simple event held at the Centre to celebrate its 1st anniversary, Prof. Nilanthi de Silva, Chairperson of the AYATI Trust and Vice Chancellor of the University of Kelaniya noted that although first year had been difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinical and operational teams at AYATI rose to the challenge, and worked hard to bring best in class services to serve those children who are most in need. She thanked all the partners of AYATI for their continued support in building and operationalizing the Centre.

Speaking at the same event, Abbas Esufally, Trustee of AYATI Trust and Director of Hemas Holdings said, “We at Hemas are committed to ensure that AYATI achieves its goals and continues to serve the children of our country. As a part of our Group’s journey of bringing ‘healthful living’ to the nation, and ensuring no child is left behind, we will be creating a movement that empowers children with Down Syndrome and their families to fight the stigma associated with it, and  assist in providing supported employment for these children to become productive members of society. We also plan to make the Speech & Language Therapeutic wing to become the best in class at the Ayati centre”.  

Ajay Amalean, Trustee of AYATI Trust and Director of MAS Holdings said: “As a key donor of this initiative, we at MAS are keen to focus on audiology. We will provide maximum attention to the audiology unit of the Centre.  We are committed to make the services offered to reach world class standards. Through this we hope to give necessary support to all children who have a hearing impairment in Sri Lanka. As we are on a journey of becoming a Centre of Excellence, a clearly crafted plan is now being articulated so that every single person associated with the project would have clarity on what we  have to do, and will have access to world class systems and processes, enabling the delivery of an outstanding service.
 
Prof Samanmali Sumanasena, Professor in Paediatric Disabilities and Consultant Paediatrician, shared a few case studies and highlighted the impact AYATI had made on these children, whilst  Shiromi Masakorala, Executive Director, Ayati Trust, recalled the journey capturing the milestones since inception till the Centre became functional.  Tusitha Kumarakulasingam, Management Consultant to  the Trust, elaborated on the complex processes now in place to ensure the best service is offered, and how the vision of becoming a Centre of Excellence is to be achieved.

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