March 18, 2016

Increasing Access to Emergency Services in Sri Lanka


Chamara talking to a group of students during a training session
During his Fulbright Visiting Scholar program on Emergency Medical Services and Disaster Management in Portland, Oregon, Chamara Ekanayaka had the opportunity to participate in programs that taught him how communities can come together to find solutions to pressing problems. Since his return to Sri Lanka, he has become an active alumni member who leads by example and continues to volunteer his time, knowledge, and resources to communities, NGOs, and government institutions that are in need of his expertise and assistance.
In 2013, Chamara applied for and won the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) competition to share the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) concept in his own community. His “CERT-Youth” project has provided professional training on disaster and emergency response techniques to 676 youth from 11 districts in Sri Lanka and has encouraged the youth to volunteer to increase the resilience of their rural communities. Sixty of the CERT-Youth volunteers were also trained as trainers, which allowed them to conduct programs in their respective communities. Chamara continues to receive requests for CERT-Youth trainings and has expanded the program by sharing the curriculum to other countries.  
Chamara is actively engaged in many other community service programs and his projects have spanned across the country. He used the knowledge gained during his exchange program to develop and expand national training modules and curriculum on disaster management across Sri Lanka. In 2015, he developed the National Training Module for the Sri Lanka Comprehensive Disaster Management Program, a national Cabinet approved program on disaster risk management that will train community volunteers on pre-hospital care and safe patient transportation. In the same year, he collaborated with alumnus Dr. Novil Wijesekara to establish a volunteer organization called the Community Resilience Center. As its Honorary Executive Director, Chamara and his fellow alumni work to increase community resilience in Sri Lanka by sharing knowledge and engaging other professionals to volunteer and serve in local communities. In November and December of 2015, Chamara and seven other volunteers walked across Sri Lanka to raise funds for the Ministry of Health to build a Mobile Eye Unit that would provide impoverished populations of the country with access to free cataract surgeries. In 17 days, he walked over 300 kilometers from the east to the west coast to meet that objective.


Young trainees practice emergency first responder techniques under the guidance of one of Chamara's colleagues
Currently, Chamara is supporting the Training and Awareness Unit of the National Disaster Management Center of Sri Lanka to develop a national training curriculum for school and youth disaster management volunteers. Chamara also works as the Program Director for ‘So Others May See Inc.,’ a U.S.-based charity program that provides vision care for low-income populations in Sri Lanka. In October 2016, he is planning on undertaking the ‘Trail Program,’ a walk from Point Pedro—the northernmost point of Sri Lanka, to Devundara, the southernmost point of the country, in order to raise funds to build a cancer hospital.