VACD Australia February 2021 Newsletter
February 28, 2021

“When we give alms with our hearts, we give well”

Dear friends, colleagues, supporters, and collaborative partners,

VACD Specialist Assistant Teaching Staff – Update:

We are delighted by the wisdom and initiative demonstrated by the VACD Sri Lanka leadership who together with our specialist teachers designed a detailed syllabus for our assistant teacher trainees, conducted a workshop at the VACD’s Sir Robert Clark centre in Bandarawela and held a written test followed by hands on practical training at our Dora Jeanne centre in Badulla. These trainees have now been assigned to our two VACD centres and to the proposed Welimada centre when established.

The initiative of the VACD Sri Lanka leadership has proven to be well-timed and admirable because our trainees are not yet in a position to receive their hands-on specialist training arranged by us for them at the Ayati Foundation ( in Ragama and the National Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy and other Developmental Disorders ( in Rajagiriya due to heightened uncertainties surrounding the prevailing pandemic in Sri Lanka.

Above: The VACD Bandarawela centre re-opened with new assistance teachers allocated to this centre. Below: Our children at the re-opening of the VACD Badulla centre

COVID19 Protocol:

The VACD Sri Lanka leadership team have introduced strict health and safety measures to comply with the Sri Lankan government and national health authority guidelines to ensure that all our children, staff and visitors adhere to proper COVID19 protocol, as seen in the photos below:

Profoundly sorrowful news:

It is with deep sorrow and a heavy heart that I share with you the extremely sad news that my dear friend Mr. Neil Fernando (25th May 1937 – 9th January 2021) passed away while on a visit to the United Kingdom.

Neil was a close friend of my younger brother, the late Tony Stephen (former General Manager – Fihalohi Holiday Resort, Maldives). It was Tony who introduced Neil to me when I made a stopover in Colombo during an official global tour in the late 90’s. Neil’s fledgling company Neil Marine (Pvt.) Ltd. ( was seeking support to expand their fiberglass boat building venture. I introduced Neil to the team at AusAID at the Australian High Commission in Colombo.

From humble beginnings around the Negombo Lagoon where Neil began his boat building enterprise over 50 years ago, Neil Fernando and Co (Pvt.) Ltd., which is part of the Penthouse Group of Companies, is today the leading fiberglass boat builder in South Asia building Fishing boats, Commercial and Cargo Boats, Passenger Ferries, Patrol & Surveillance Craft, Luxury Motor Yachts & Cruises and Luxury Motor Sailors based on techniques of past and modern-day boat manufacturing.

Neil was a loving, soft spoken, caring, gentle and humble person who never forgot his past, and never let success cloud his vision and desire to serve the less fortunate. Neil and his wife Manel have been supporters of our mission for children with congenital impairments. Yasmin my wife and I used to pay Neil a courtesy call whenever we visited Sri Lanka to work with our local colleagues and remained in close touch with him over the past years. We miss him terribly, pray that his soul may rest in peace and extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to his wife Manel, daughter Kumarie, son-in-law Shan, rest of the family and his loved ones.

VACD Training, Camps, Seminars and Workshops in 2021

We are delighted that Ms. Lasanthi Daskon (Lasanthi Daskon, Deputy Country Director, Sri Lanka | IFES) – Attorney at Law, Deputy Director The International Foundation for Electoral Systems – Sri Lanka, Visiting Lecturer Centre for Disability Research, Excellence & Practice at the University of Colombo and visiting Lecturer, Department of Disability Studies at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Kelaniya, has offered her expertise and time on a pro bono basis to conduct training for VACD children, parents and families and our Young VACD club members.

Lasanthi and her late husband, Mr. Senerath Attanayake ( have been great supporters and an inspiration to our mission over the past years.

The others who very generously have offered their time and services on pro-bono to our mission are:

Dr. Ranil Sugathadasa – Keynote speaker on Mindset, Motivation, Transformation, Peak Performance & Happiness, and Leadership & Management Coach.

Ms. Lakmini Balasuriya – Clinical Audiologist at Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya & Ayati Centre Ragama

Dr. Tiraj Mendis – Consultant Paediatrician at Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka and Base Hospital Diyatalawa

Dr. Chaminda Liyanage – Consultant Paediatrician at Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka and Base Hospital Welimada

Mr. Kevin George – Head of Cloud & Automation at ANJN Group

Mrs. Gaya Hapuarachchi – Public, Business, Human Resources and Management Training, International Human Resources, Advanced Promotional Practice & Marketing and Technical & Electronics Engineering

Dr. Gopi Kumar – Founder & Chairman Cerebral Palsy Lanka Foundation & Head of Rehabilitation Services at MJF Charitable Foundation.

Mr. Asoka Walpitagama – Partner – IKAD Consultancy & Corporate Trainer – ICT and soft skills.

We deeply appreciate and value the bro-bono services extended to us by these experts and aim to hold seminars, workshops, clinics and camps for our children, their families and our young VACD club members covering a variety of valuable and relevant themes. These workshops will be tailored to meet our rehabilitation, leadership, motivation, skills, and vocational training objectives.

Other key upcoming Projects & Programs for 2021:

Encourage, support, facilitate and train VACD families in small scale agriculture, poultry & bee keeping and animal husbandry.

The introduction of Early Childhood/Supported Playgroup Programs at our VACD centres by our VACD Australia Director Ms. Gabriella Ann Vascotto – Bachelor Special Education, Visiting Consultant to VACD Sri Lanka, Learning Consultant Autism/Behavior and Supported Playgroup Project Consultant for Catholic Education in Melbourne, Australia.

Our ongoing programs that need your continued support:

Educational Assistance Program (EAP): A$ 25 or equivalent amount per month that will be credited directly to the account of a VACD child (or a sibling) who is from a financially distressed family and displays academic potential. The beneficiary child’s educational expenses will be met with this allowance, ensuring that he/she will persevere with his/her education and be in a better position to provide assistance to the family in the future. This is a very closely monitored and administered program.

Family Assistance Program (FAP): A$ 25 or equivalent amount per month that will be credited directly to the account of a VACD child’s parent who is challenged with financial stress. We introduced this program because of the plight of quite a few of our VACD families from rural subsistence farming or low-skilled temporary work-related backgrounds whose income have been hit extremely hard due to the pandemic. This is a very closely monitored and administered program.

Tax deductible donations can be made to VACD Australia in following ways:

Via the VACD webpage: where you can make regular or ad hoc donations via your credit card, PayPal, electronic transfers, or a direct deposit.

Via Good Company: (Workplace giving) where you can make regular or ad hoc pre-tax donations that will be matched by your participating employer.

Via the VACD Australia Bank account: (cash, cheque, or online electronic/ direct deposits)

Name of account: Volunteers to Assist Children with Disabilities Limited Bank: Commonwealth Bank of Australia Branch: Cnr of Liverpool & Castlereagh Streets, Sydney NSW 2000 Account No: 1130 2156 BSB: 062-016

Donations in Sri Lanka rupees can be made via the VACD Sri Lanka bank account as follows:

Name of account: Volunteers to Assist Children with Disabilities Private Limited Bank: Seylan Bank Branch: 240 Badulla Road, Bandarawela, Sri Lanka Account No: 046035439722001

A big “Thank You” to all of you…

Your generosity and the commitment, dynamism and dedication of our teams have enabled us to achieve our objectives for children with disabilities and their families since we began our journey on 27th December 2011. We remain deeply appreciative of the support all of you have given us to sustain our mission and accomplish a lot for our children and their families over the past years.

We welcome you to be partners with us on this benevolent journey!

Please continue to support us in our efforts to uplift the lives of children who need your love, support and assistance, and reach out to us at: or visit us at: Please share this newsletter with your family, friends, loved ones and colleagues so that together we can make a difference in the lives of children with disabilities, one by one!!!

Many thanks, best wishes and warm regards…. Felix

Felix Stephen

Chairman of the Board of Directors – VACD Ltd. Sydney – Australia –

Member of the Advisory Board – VACD USA –

Member of the Advisory Board – VACD Sri Lanka

Senior Associate – Cognoscenti Group – Sydney – Australia-

Consultant – Investment Committee – Lonsec – Sydney – Australia –

Member of Investment Committee – Arrive Wealth Management – Brisbane – Australia –

Consultant – Global Financial Market Investment Research & Investment Strategy

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