We sadly mourn the passing today of our good friend, colleague and ChildFund partner in Sri Lanka of over 15 years, Mr Bernard Piragash.
Bernard has been a driving force behind our work in Sri Lanka for the last 15 years. ChildFund New Zealand partnered with a community-based organisation in Batticaloa, now named AU Lanka (through our ChildFund Sri Lanka family), in 2006 to support the local children, young people and their families to thrive, with a formal partnership signed in 2011.
Bernard formed friendships with anyone he met, brought people together in a special way, supported young people into employment and cared for all his staff and communities completely. His love for his dear wife Roshini and his daughter Leana, was so clear and he spoke about them always with one of his broadest smiles.
There was nothing he would not give a try, no one he wouldn’t support, and no challenge seemed too big for this amazing man, who through his years supported so very many people to a better future.
Highlights of Bernard's legacy include work around protecting the internally displaced children in Batticaloa during the conflict years; responding to the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, which hit Batticaloa hard; supporting youth through training, up-skilling and connecting into further education and quality jobs: supporting families affected by devastating floods over many years, (Batticaloa is prone to both floods and drought); spearheading a micro-finance project, which saw over 3,000 households (predominantly female headed) receive and pay back a loan to improve their livelihoods, amalgamating in a locally owned micro finance organisation named Kiwifund; supporting an innovative approach to teaching and learning called the ATLAS programme, which benefited many teachers and students across Batticaloa and beyond and improved access to technology, quality education, career guidance, protection services, safe water and sanitation, and quality health care for thousands of children in Batticaloa. There is so much more, these are just a few key achievements.
Bernard's impact was huge for so very many people, and he will be remembered as a dedicated and wonderful advocate for his community, family and all people he touched.
As a member of the ChildFund family, he always listened to the voices of children, youth and their families when deciding the best approach. He supported his team and strove for improvements always to the way things were done. We are so proud to have known Bernard and us, his New Zealand whānau of ChildFund staff, board and supporters, will remember the legacy he leaves and commit to continuing in his giant footsteps.
Rest well Bernard, our friend. We will miss you dearly.
By ChildFund Senior Technical Advisor Sally Angelson and on behalf of all of ChildFund New Zealand's staff, board and supporters.