Feb 03, Colombo: The Earl Prince Edward and Countess of Wessex visited the School for the Deaf and Blind in Ratmalana on Saturday as part of their visit to Sri Lanka to take part in the celebration of Sri Lanka's 70th anniversary of Independence.
During the visit The Earl and Countess met students from the School, as well as children from the Rehabilitation Centre for the Communication Impaired (RCCI) and differently-abled girls from the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association (SLGGA), all of whom are participants in The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award scheme.
The Royals were shown around the school by The Duke of Edinburgh Award's Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Miss Sue Walker, with the Principal of the School for the Blind Mr. Desmond Perera, National Director for the National Youth Award Division Mr. Tissa Samarasinghe, and the Emerging Leader of the Asia Pacific Region for The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Ms. Tharindra Arumapperuma. They also met the President of the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association, Professor Anoja Fernando.
On their tour of the school, Their Royal Highnesses spoke with the children, and were able to admire the arts and crafts they had produced using the skills they learned as part of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award programme. The Earl and Countess were presented with the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association Friendship Badge and Centenary Badge respectively. The Countess joined the Girl Guides in preparing Sri Lankan coconut rotis, while The Earl took part in a painting session with students. Afterwards, Their Royal Highnesses watched performances by some of the children, which included a medley of songs, a traditional drumming display and a dance performance.
The event showcased how The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award helps differently-abled young people transform their lives to contribute fully in society.
Following the performances, Emerging Leader of the Asia Pacific Region for The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award, Tharindra Arumapperuma thanked Their Royal Highnesses for their visit to the school.
"Today's event was a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase the talents of these differently-abled children in our society. The Award scheme has made us realize that all children can go beyond the limits expected of them, and to develop their potential, The Award is open to all young people between 14 years old and 24, regardless of their background and circumstances. We hope today's event will encourage event more Sri Lankans from every background to take part," Arumapperuma said.
A Duke of Edinburgh's Award recipient from the school for the Blind said: "It was great to have been able to display various skills which I developed through the award scheme in front of The Earl and the Countess of Wessex. It was a joyous occasion for all of us."
Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Ms. Sue Walker said: "The Award transforms individuals, communities and societies around the world, helping young people to exceed expectations. It allows their achievements to be recognized consistently worldwide through a unique international accreditation. It is about personal development and individual challenge."
The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award is a global, non-formal education framework which challenges young people to discover their potential and celebrate their achievements. It operates in more than 130 countries and territories around the world, helping to inspire over 1.3 million young people every year. It is the world's leading youth achievement Award, available to all young people aged 14-24, regardless of their background, culture, physical ability, skills and interests.
In Sri Lanka the award is known as The National Youth Award and delivered through the National Youth Service Council.