As he took part in training sessions with the children at the project, Sir Ian recalled the events of five years ago. He said: “Like everyone else, I watched with horror the Tsunami Disaster on TV. I wanted to come and see for myself, but nothing prepared me for what I found. I had been to Galle before when I was covering cricket and stayed at a house just along the beach – it wasn’t there any more. I can still recall the clock on the old Test ground in Galle frozen at ‘9.25am’ on December 26.
“Once the immediate relief effort was over, it was clear to me that sport could play an important part in giving people a sense of hope. At my suggestion Laureus decided to fund a sports coordinator for five villages around Peraliya and Seenigama to channel the energies of the children into competition, and to take their minds off their difficult living conditions.
“The Seenigama Sport for Life project now involves boys and girls, aged from six upwards, taking part in inter-village sports leagues with matches and training sessions. Sport as we know can foster togetherness and team spirit, and today, coming back, I have seen for myself the fruit of those endeavours and it’s heart-warming and very, very emotional,” added Sir Ian.
Having specially flown to Sri Lanka from South Africa, where he is commentating for Sky TV on the England cricket tour, Sir Ian took part in a cricket coaching session, then presented the prizes at an Under 13 match between Seenigama Sri Wimala Buddhi and Sri Sumangala College.
He also met members of the Seenigama Under 15 team who won the Super 8 - KAF International Youth Cricket Carnival in Kuala Lumpur last month. Sir Ian said: “This was a remarkable triumph. These rural lads from humble backgrounds obtained a passport for the first time, took a plane journey and competed internationally. Most had never even visited the Sri Lanka capital of Colombo. This is something that you could never have imagined happening five years ago. A real sign of progress.”
Kushil Gunasekera, founder and trustee of the Foundation of Goodness, who is also manager of Sri Lankan spin bowler and world record wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan, said: “We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation for their generosity and kindness over the last three years. With their support our children and youth have surpassed all expectations, on and off the sports field. These rural disadvantaged children and youth are able to hone their talent and excel thanks to the facilities and opportunities provided for them, which could never have been imagined before the tsunami and is today a testimony to the compassion of those all over the world who were moved to make a difference." Also in Seenigama to support Sir Ian was Sri Lankan cricketing icon Chaminda Vaas.
Sir Ian Botham also met 12-year-old Sriyan Chamod Dilshan, winner of the Laureus Sport for Good – IWC drawing competition 2009. His drawing, entitled ‘‘Team Spirit’ with four young people holding hands in a circle has now become the motif for the exclusive engraving on the back of a limited special edition Portuguese Chrono-Automatic, made of stainless steel and with a dial in the unmistakeable Laureus blue. Part of the proceeds from sales will go to Laureus supported projects such as the one in Sri Lanka.
World renowned Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen is a Global Partner of Laureus and has supported the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation since 2005. In 2006 it launched its first special edition watch in aid of the Foundation. Many hundreds of children from Laureus-supported projects around the world took part in this year’s competition and there was a wonderful diversity of creativity right across the colourful entry. Sir Ian presented Sriyan with a prize from IWC and a donation was also made to Foundation for Goodness.
Sir Ian Botham is one of the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, a unique association of 46 of the greatest living sporting legends. The Academy members volunteer their time to act as global ambassadors for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation by using their influence to highlight the plight of disadvantaged children and supporting humanitarian projects around the world.
The mission of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation is to utilise the power of sport to address social challenges through a global programme of sports related community development initiatives, using sport as a tool for social change. The Foundation supports almost 70 projects worldwide and since its inception Laureus has raised €20 million for projects which have helped to improve the lives of one million young people.
Laureus is a universal movement that celebrates the power of sport to bring people together as a force for good. Laureus is composed of three core elements - the Laureus World Sports Academy, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Laureus World Sports Awards - which collectively celebrate sporting excellence and harness the power of sport to promote social change.
* The Patron of Laureus is Nelson Mandela. At the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, President Mandela said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair.” This has become the philosophy of Laureus; the driving force behind its work.