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23 September 2009

The Lanka Challenge 2009 might be over, but the charity work has just begun

By Gypsy

The AirAsia Gypsy Queens spent another four marvelous days in beautiful Sri Lanka once the Lanka Challenge was over last Monday. During that time we managed to squeeze in the obligatory sightseeing, sun bathing by the massive Cinnamon Grand pool and souvenir shopping. Purchases we made included some sensationally beautiful sarongs, brand new books that were extremely cheap, notebooks with paper made out of elephant dung and we found some cute little threewheeler key rings that we could not resist. Again, we proudly contributed to the local economy, put it that way :)

On the 15th of September we were picked up by our newly made friends, Roshan and Hiran, from Colombo Capital City Rotary Club. Roshan told us he had tried to arrange for a threewheeler to be rented for the day so he could be taken around town courtesy of the Gypsy Queens. Unfortunately the idea fell through, even though we would proudly have done so. Roshan and Hiran had arranged for us to visit a newly established organisation named Aawas International in Kalutara, approximately 1 hour south of Colombo. Aruna Samarawickrama, founder and chairman of the organisation, started the company after seeing a close friend to his family loose two fully functional legs in the war. He developed a desire to help his friend, and all other people that have lost limbs in the war or to diabetes for example, by developing, manufacturing and fitting these people with an innovative fully flexible prosthetic limb.


In a couple of years Aruna has designed everything from the factory and its surroundings including a ward where all recipients come to stay until they are 100% happy with the new limb and physically and mentally rehabilitated.

It was a day full of impressions to take in and we are very grateful to Aruna and his team and naturally to Roshan and Hiran for taking their time out of the office to show us around. We got to visit the ward and the limbs recipients currently visiting the ward to get fitted and shared a great moment with these brave people. In showing respect to these people we did not take many photos in the ward.

In the evening we were treated to dinner at Seafood Cove at Mount Livinia Hotel resort by a friend to Em’s family. We enjoyed great seafood as we sat right on the beach (no need to be jealous, it started raining after a while). The seafood was of the best quality any of us have ever experienced and we strongly recommend it. In the end of the day, flying AirAsia gives you more whoopee for your rupee and that can easily justify at least one lobster dinner!

Thursday was our last day in this amazing destination and after running around doing last minute errands Supem, another one of our newly made Rotary friends, kindly invited us to visit the local Jaipur limbs factory with an adjoining hostel. Supem picked us up and it turned out the workshop was only around the corner from our hotel. It was an experience that cannot be put down in words. We were greeted by a lady who took us around the factory and introduced us to the workers, some of whom are recipients of limbs themselves. We were introduced to the different varieties of limbs created in the workshop and the usage of these.

We concluded our tour by visiting the people waiting for a limb to be fitted. We came across a family who had lost their two daughters in a bomb blast and they were visiting to have their seventeen year old son fitted with prosthetic limbs for both his lost arms. A girl from the same village was in the same ward as she had just been given back the ability to walk with a prosthetic leg. It is impossible to translate the emotions we felt as we visited these people, and yet again it would not be right of us to post photos of these people online. It is remarkable however, how these people always welcome you with the brightest of smiles and a sparkle of hope in their eyes. Needless to say, we left that afternoon with an even stronger need to be able to assist. We have taken the memories and the photos back to Australia and we cannot wait to meet with the Mermaid Beach Rotary Club here on the Gold Coast to get this project off the ground. Hopefully we can come back to you with some great news in the not too distant future. If you would like to be part and contribute in any way, please contact us.

Early Friday morning dawned upon us way too early and we were off to the Colombo airport. Once we arrived at the LCCT in Kuala Lumpur we set off to meet with our colleagues at the AirAsia HQ. Flora took us around the office and introduced us to some of the team, and we can tell you one thing – these guys never stop. They do some remarkable work up there and we are so pleased to have had their support throughout this exploratory journey. As a token of our appreciation we decided to handover the ‘Go Green’ award we received on conclusion of the Lanka Challenge to the team. Again, thank you Flora, Emilia, Derek and the team for all your efforts and work in assisting along the way. You have been true champions and on behalf of all travel afficionados out there – thank you for giving us the opportunity to make our dreams come true more often, and over and over again!

The last few hours before departure for the Gold Coast we spent in the LCC Terminal. We managed to yet again burn some ringgit and enjoy the benefits of the currency before it was too late. Once we boarded our flight to the Gold Coast that evening we had almost forgotten that we had been given VIP treatment with seats in the Premium Economy section. On a full flight, this was a blessing more than welcomed by two absolutely buggered Gypsy Queens. However, with seats that comfortable no one can stay awake and a even sleeping queens drool – not a pretty sight :)

Once back in Australia Abbie’s mum greeted us with flowers which we very much appreciated. The surprises did not end there! She had put together a really nice poster saying ‘Welcome home Gypsy Queens, and a collage of photos and AirAsia branding (!). Once we had fitted our luggage into the boot we headed up the highway and stopped in to enjoy a good cup of coffee at one of our favourite local cafe’s Zarraffa’s.

So, that is the end – at least for this time. Large Minority let us know the event will be on in South Africa towards the end of April, 2010 and the Lanka Challenge will return for 15 days this time in September next year. All we can do now is crossing fingers and toes and hope that AirAsia decides to fly to South Africa between now and then ;)

Lastly, having reached close to 3000 readers of each and every blog post since we started about a month ago we would like to extend a warm thank you to all of the readers that have followed us. It has been a sincere pleasure to share our adventure with you and we hope it has made you keen to travel and experience this amazing country that always welcome you with a smile. Hopefully we will see some of you on the spicy island of Sri Lanka in 2010 as the Gypsy Queens certainly intend to be there in some shape or form.

Over and out… for now

AirAsia Gypsy Queens