DUBAI // More than 20 underprivileged children in a Sri Lankan town devastated by the 2004 tsunami have received school bags, books and stationery from a charitable organisation in the UAE.
The Overseas Pakistanis and Sri Lankans Society (OPSS) organised the gifts before school started recently in the city of Galle. The group was founded six months ago to bridge the two expatriate communities in the UAE.
"The children were really excited about getting the new green bags and the textbooks," said Mobisher Rabbani, the Pakistani president of OPSS who personally delivered the items. Plans are in place for more items to be sent to help children through the school year."It's been seven years since the tsunami and effects of that day on Galle are still visible," Mr Rabbani said. "That natural disaster and the many years of the civil war had a very bad impact on the people of this country, but things are slowly getting better. "More and more tourists are visiting now and things are starting to look up, but many people still need help."
The donations, paid for by Mr Rabbani, were made in association with the Volunteer in Sri Lanka Project, which aims to encourage tourists to take part in charity work when they visit the island.
Mr Rabbani said the donations were an opportunity to strengthen the ties between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. "It is a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase the deep friendship between Pakistanis and Sri Lankans," he said.
"We look forward to doing cultural events in the future to create more awareness as well."
Mr Rabbani thanked SriLankan Airlines, which provided discount airfares as a goodwill gesture.
Punu Thushara, a Sri Lankan expatriate and member of OPSS, said the role of the organisation was to build on existing relations and help people. "People still need help in Sri Lanka and I feel the OPSS is in a good position to help," Mr Thushara said.
The Sri Lankan ambassador to the UAE, Sarath Wijesinghe, said: "Pakistan is a true friend of Sri Lanka and the OPSS is doing a wonderful job to build on this strong relationship.
"These books and school supplies will make a huge difference to the lives of these children.
"The group is full of genuine people who are doing their best to bring the expatriates from Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the UAE together, and it is something we as an embassy fully support."