VACD Australia Special Report October 2023
October 31, 2023

Dear friends, colleagues, supporters, and collaborative partners,

Greetings to you, your families, loved ones, and colleagues from all of us at VACD.

VACD Melbourne Chapter Launch: 

The VACD Australia Board of Directors agreed on a long-term sustainability and expansion strategy for our mission that also included both a medium and long-term leadership succession program. The formation of the VACD Melbourne chapter was one such initiative.

In order to implement our medium to long-term plans, we were delighted to enlist and assign key responsibilities to Ms Adrika Sri Bawan – Head of Marketing (extreme left), Ms Netaisha Harvey – Head of Inclusive Education & Partnerships (extreme right) and Ms Farrah Carim – Head of Finance (second from right) from Melbourne so that they could liaise closely with our VACD Australia Melbourne Director, Ms Gabriella Vascotto (second from left) on our wide-ranging programs and strategies. This group worked efficiently and tirelessly to establish our first ever VACD chapter in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state. 

The VACD Melbourne Chapter Function:

On Sunday 8th October, VACD’s newly established Melbourne based team hosted the Melbourne Chapter Launch & Lunch. A good number of guests attended this event and enjoyed a delicious chicken biriyani lunch, music, and dancing. This certainly will be the first of many such events to be held in Melbourne to generate local support and sponsorship to facilitate VACD’s numerous ongoing and future projects and programs to uplift children with congenital and developmental disabilities in Sri Lanka.

We thank Ms Laniza from Pillawoos Catering (Phone: +61 424 700 417) for the delicious food served at the function and Ms Nilmini and her team from Sapphire Creations (Event planners, party supplies and hire, Email: & Facebook: Sapphire Creations) for the lovely table décor. We deeply appreciate, thank, acknowledge, and wish to place on record that both Ms Laniza and Ms Nilmini offered special discounts to VACD for their services in order to support our mission for children with disabilities in Sri Lanka. 

Also, a special acknowledgment and thanks to the talented DJ Riz (Rizan – DJ Riz Entertainment, Melbourne – Facebook: Riz Rizan Djrizzdi) and to the young and super-talented vocalist /guitarist Rimaz Farouk, who entertained us with both trendy, popular and well-loved English songs skillfully interspersed with lively, popular, and up-tempo Sri Lankan songs throughout the event. Both Riz and Rimaz kept our guests singing and dancing throughout the afternoon. Thank you, dear Riz and Rimaz for your pro bono services, love, and support for our VACD children and our mission.

The amazing Salsa Society team led by Deon Boavida (Founder – Salsa Society School of Dance, 96 Enterprise Ave, Berwick, Vic 3806. Email:                         Website: Phone: +61 406 137 749) dazzled everybody with their outstanding demonstration of professional and skillful salsa dancing followed by a dancing lesson for many enthusiastic guests. All hips swaying and twirling young, not so young, and forever young at heart guests enjoyed an absolutely fabulous time during these sessions. The Salsa Society team volunteered their time and services to VACD and their sessions were certainly one of the main highlights of the day. Many thanks to Deon, Anitya, Merrily and Mark for their energy, generous giving spirit, supporting our mission and for making this event a fun and memorable one for all of us.

A big “Thank You” to our donors:

A shout out of tremendous appreciation to the organisations and individuals who donated raffle prizes for the event. Guests purchased a total of 600 tickets in an effort to secure one of the wonderful prizes on offer!

  • Thank you to Mr. Henry Fitch  CEO and Ms Anoushka Boralessa – Head of Business Development and Sustainability and the team at Teardrop Island ( who donated the prize of a 2-night stay for a couple at their luxurious boutique hotel Fort Bazaar in Galle Fort. The Teardrop group are collaborative partners of VACD and sponsors of our recently established Ambagasdowa centre.
  • Thank you to Mr. Sampath Siriwardena – General Manager and Ms. Gayani Perera – Marketing Promotions & PR Manager at Galadari Hotel Lotus Road Colombo who donated the prize of a 2-night stay for a couple at their 5-star luxury Galadari Hotel in Colombo. (
  • Thank you Mr. Hiran Cooray – Chairman Jetwing and Ms Zulaiha Mohideen at Jetwing Hotels Sri Lanka for donating the prize of a one-night stay for a couple at their luxurious Jetwing Lake Dambulla Hotel in Dambulla.(
  • Thank you to Mr. Deon Boavida – Founder – Salsa Society School of Dance in Berwick, Melbourne for donating a prize of free Salsa Dancing lessons at his studio. (
  • Thank you to Ms Gabriella Vascotto – Director VACD Australia & Visiting Consultant to VACD Centres in Sri Lanka for donating a Gold movie voucher.  

A big “Thank you” to all our guests, donors and team:

  • A very special “Thank you” to all you guests who attended this function and supported us by your presence and also to colleagues, guests, family, and friends who helped us to accomplish essential house-keeping chores to prepare and then rearrange the venue. 
  • Thank you to all our VACD supporters who made donations to our mission on account of this function despite not being able to make it.
  • A special and “Big Thank you” to our VACD Melbourne chapter team for devoting so much of your time, skills, and talents over the past months to ensure that this event would be a success. You have proved to us that you are dedicated, have a passion for your mission, plenty of energy, amazing skills, a great social network, and the right disposition to be distinguished future leaders of our mission with a natural gift to create opportunities for a positive future for our VACD children with disabilities and their families for whom we are the only hope.
  • I reserve a “Big & Special thank you” to Mr. Giles Gunesekera Secretary VACD Australia, and to sponsors of our VACD Badulla centre Mr. Greg Fendler – Deputy Chairman VACD Australia and Mrs. Jenny Fendler, who despite their official and family commitments travelled from Sydney, flew into Melbourne to arrive early at the venue, helped us prepare the venue for the function, worked tirelessly in the kitchen, and then rearranged the premises before rushing back to catch their flights back to Sydney.  , 
  • A special “Thank you” to those guests who kindly and magnanimously lent a hand unasked, and to Mrs. Yasmin Stephen- Administration & Communications Secretary – VACD Australia for doing not too noticeable but critical behind-the-scene planning, coordination, record keeping and frequent team communication in the lead up to this function and on the scene planning, communication, and coordination with the team and helpers at the venue and the function.

Multidimensional Poverty and the bidirectional link to persons with Disabilities in Sri Lanka:

(Sources: Disability and Rehabilitation Journal – December 2013 – “Disability Studies in Sri Lanka: Priorities for action”,  “Multidimensional Poverty in Sri Lanka” & “Poverty Indicators”– Department of Census and Statistics – Ministry of Economic Policies and Plan Implementation – Sri Lanka and Ministry of Policy Planning Economic Affairs, Child Youth and Cultural Affairs – Sri Lanka (

Note: A Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) creates a comprehensive picture of poverty. It reveals who the poor are and how and why they are poor by focusing on a set of interlinked deprivations that poor people experience.

  • Likewise, the use of a Child MPI in Sri Lanka suggests that more than four out of every ten children under the age of five are multidimensionally poor.
  • One third (33.4%) of children aged 0-4 years old are multidimensionally poor and are either underweight or stunted.
  • One sixth (16.4%) of children aged 0-4 years old are multidimensionally poor and deprived in early childhood development.
  • Nearly half of children 0-11 months and 4 years old are poor, mainly due to undernutrition, and, for children who are 4 years old, not being in preschool.
  • A “Poverty Headcount Index” is commonly used to measure poverty but it does not take into account the depth and severity of the poverty that exists in Sri Lanka.
  • Disabilities and Developmental issues are bidirectionally linked to poverty.
  • Early detection of congenital disabilities and development disorders in children in rural and impoverished parts of the country needs to be performed relatively urgently and treated with appropriate rehabilitation and remedial responses to reduce prevailing and future stresses and strains this places on them and their families. 
  • Reducing household poverty, providing vocational training and income generating opportunities to parents and siblings of children with disabilities, vocational training, life skills and special skills training for disabled children are some of the measures that can be implemented to assist this segment in society so that they can integrate, be accepted within their own local communities and the country at large as equals so as to mitigate some of these prevailing challenges encountered by them.
  • As per the Household Income and Expenditure Survey of 2019, the incidence of multidimensional poverty by district places the Badulla district 24th out of 25 districts. 
  • VACD presently has three rehabilitation centres located in the Badulla district of the Uva province caring for children with congenital disabilities and developmental disorders.

VACD’s Team, Projects, Programs & Newsletters:

Please visit our VACD Webpages for details of our team, projects, programs, and newsletters. 

Multiple donation options to support our mission:

The following hyperlink will enable you to find all donation options available to you on our webpage: 

Donations to VACD Australia by Australian Taxpayers are tax deductible.

Multicurrency Benevity Causes Portal for International Donations:

International donors who wish to support our mission can do so through the Benevity Causes portal via the hyperlink below for all your multi-currency donation options:

A big “Thank You” to all of you…

Our journey is bound to be long and challenging. The official and unofficial number of children and families who need our support are sizeable. We look forward to your continued generosity, active support for our undertaking and you being partners with us in this most fulfilling and worthwhile 12+ years journey that we traverse together.

Please visit us at:  and reach out to us at: should you choose to support our mission. Please share this newsletter with your network! Together we certainly can make a difference in the lives of children with disabilities, one by one!!!

Many thanks, best wishes, and warmest regards…. Felix

Felix Stephen

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

Member of the Advisory Board – VACD Sri Lanka

Member of the Advisory Board – Two Leaves Foundation Sri Lanka

Senior Associate – Cognoscenti Group – Sydney – Australia- 

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