By Dr. Jagath Herath
It was late 2005 where I had the opportunity to join routine gatherings of Old Scouts of Dharmaraja College. Although I have been a member of their association, I have never been fascinated by what they were doing routine but not very elegant and colorful events some day outings were all about.
In one such meeting held at a famous hideout over a chilled beer the associates were arguing themselves as they needed a radical change in their vision and mission. There the inception of “something” (today known to the world as RISGO) that we are going to plan for Dharmaraja Scout Centenary 2013.
To my surprise most of these members represented so called young generation but there were a few old-old scouts who were always behind these youngsters to patronize them. By this time I was a regular and active member of Old Rajans Scout Association (ORSA).
Right from this era Suminda (Vithanaarachchi) was the engine, both pulling at the front and pushing from the behind. An exclusive seven year plan was developed and presented to the ORSA, the Principal and all other stakeholders. And it was well taken.
I must be honest to write that by the year 2006, ORSA owe large sums of money to some individuals. This is brought up, adequately discussed and challenge was taken up by “S.S.” (Gunawardena) himself. From then onwards regular fundraising events came into light and Victor’s “Sa”, bought us the fortune with a record net profit with good amount of rupees. In overnight our association is cleared of its debts. And for the first time in the long history, ORSA fixed deposited some money. Slowly but steadily the association’s annual circulation of funds went beyond Rs. 2 Million by the year 2011/12.
Year 2008 posed us the immediate anniversary ahead us: “The 95th Scout Anniversary of the Dharmaraja College”. Every one of us who were red blooded at that time wanted an exclusive novel event. That was how RANSAI 2008 was planned and held to the fullest satisfaction of the scout community of Sri Lanka. As expected and mentioned the RANSAI’s concept was novel; a limited number of selected scouts, leadership training and adventure activity based camp at national standard scale with some foreign scouts. In fact the RANSAI 2008 was a nationwide attraction and it was praised by everyone who took part in it.
After a momentarily deep and relieving breath ORSA embarked on the biggest challenge of the lifetime. The unforgettable scout centenary anniversary of Dharmaraja: Mataraarachchi Sir triggered the first seeds “hundred international flags for the hundred years of scouting”. Here what I mentioned started shaping up: A name, theme, a Logo, Mascot, song, letterheads, envelops, files, etc., etc was planned and finalized gradually and painstakingly. The projected expenditure budget was a mammoth Rs. 30 Million. Wow!, RISGO centennial 2013 is thus born and started breeding.
In the said 7-year plan there were a few other things apart from raising funds for RISGO.
The Lake View Park International Scout Centre which is probably the one and only of its kind in the island also probably one of the most beautiful scout centres of the world, not only that the founder Load Baden Powell twice visited sacred land belong to us urgently needed to be developed to international standards. Though ORSA undertook this massive task and Principal Mr. Keerthiratna shouldered and blessed us. One main project a year is the plan. And today we are all proud to see a well-planned, built and maintained Lake View Park. Our thanks go to care-taker Rathnayake for his tiresome work.
We old scouts are dreamers. Yet, we are organized and powerful enough to make these dreams come true. Along its ups and downs and ofcourse the guidance of legendary leaders such as Saram brothers, Dolapihilla, Bandara Weerasekara, A.P. Gunarathna, first Kandy Dharamaraja Scout Group (for that matter the oldest functioning scout group in the island) needed some upliftments. Although ORSA has its limits, we tried our best in formulating annual program, employing a program manager, empowering assistant scout leaders (who are the cream of scouting after their President’s Award), appointing a Vice President for scout development and so on. Like in a war we won some and we lost some!
I can still remember Saminda’s (Basnayake) return to ORSA from abroad in 2010, here to say some had doubts but he became an attractive leader, negotiator, point of contact to many senior members, conciliator and dear good brother and a friend over the next couple of years. He only brought up the need and proposed the members welfare plan, until such time ORSA was doing minimal to its member’s welfare.
A few other concepts brought forward today remains the very important foundation for the future of ORSA such as regular new membership campaign, grooming a 2nd line of leadership and empowering them, a massive and never in the history kind of image building campaign through print media, electronic and cyber media. Thanks to Melpitiya, Wariyagoda and Somathilaka.
Goodwill turns the way
With all these, ORSA is much powerful, experienced and ambitious to see its ultimate dream, RISGO Centennial 2013. We developed a full organizing team and a structure which started meeting regularly, established two offices and planning, discussing and re planning every possible detail. Soon we realized that unless we have partnership with some powerful organizations we will fail. As Gunarathna and Bandara Sirs always say “if we work for goodwill, things will come our way”, Hon Eric Weerawardena MP volunteered to help. The mammoth dream project of RISGO seems possible and practical as “Tharunyata Hetak” officially joined hands with us as an event partner and as Hon. Namal Rajapaksa MP and His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa blessed the project.
RISGO will leave many things in the history. Firstly and formostly, the maximum number of global participants (number of countries) , the unique sponsorship program where each participating country will offer a full sponsorship for one scout, the massive amount of funds that is being raised and expend and probably the only international scout gathering which is being organized by non NSO!
At the receiving end of the RISGO, cub scouts, girl guides, girls in scouting, scouts, Rovers and Leaders are yet to enjoy what we have been planning all these long years. Apart from the gorgeous ceremonies and functions, participants will be exposed to a novel scouting experience with large number of activities which will test them to receive some unforgettable rewards in their scout life.
So we are ready to take Dharmaraja’s prestige and the scout movement’s popularity to the world. RISGO is not just another happening! It is every scout’s dream and challenge and the destiny of all who craved for it!
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