Great strength for little children:
With First Lady ShiranthiRajapakse
By Ranee Mohamed
Three powerful people from the United States of America are here in Sri Lanka to change the lives of the poor, unfortunate and the underprivileged. Their focus is on little lives affected by the tsunami. Powerful, in terms of changing lives, the trio who touched lives is headed by Jeff Goonewardena, a Sri Lankan who has not only realized the American dream for himself but has taken a step forward and made dreams of the Sri Lankan poor come true. "We live in San Diego, U.S.A. where Jeff Goonewardena lives and he brought us here," said American author Steve Viglione.
Bringing to Sri Lanka, Steve Viglione of I am books has changed the lives of Sri Lankan children in towns such as Matugama, Dodangoda, Kelaniya, Kandy, Dambulla, Maharagama, Sigiriya and the districts of Matale, Kalutara, and Nuwara Eliya. Books will also be sent to Ratnapura and Badulla. "The goal is to take the books to children everywhere in Sri Lanka and I AM is determined to get one million books to Sri Lankan children," said Goonewardena.
Author Steve Viglione was accompanied by his wife Dr. Marilyn Powers. With a doctorate in religion and psychology, Dr. Powers, with her solid Montessori training, acquired 20 years ago in the UK is tailor-made to be among the little children. Dr. Marilyn Powers is the Vice President of the U.S based I AM Foundation. Sri Lankan children, affected by the tsunami, the war and also lifelong poverty crowded around the trio for their gifts of books, a parcel of stationery, some soft drinks and a generous touch of love.
"This book is different because it is in three languages. In Sri Lanka the book is published in English, with Sinhala and Tamil also on the same page," explained this, one-of a kind author. "This book came to mind because I do not want children to suffer. I want them to build esteem and confidence and be effective in this world. When reading I am books, children replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and these positive thoughts extend," explained the author.
"Negative thoughts cannot make us feel good," said Author Viglione who began publishing books 10 years ago in the U.S. "I got so much joy when I gave a book to a child," said the author and went on to say that there is a child in everyone. "We have lived and experienced childhood and there is a child in each one of us. I believe that it is the responsibility of adults to provide a safe, nurturing environment for children to grow up. "We want to be partners with Sri Lanka in gifting these books to children. This is not about the I am foundation, the books are our tool.," pointed out the author.
I am books have been published and distributed among children in Mexico, Italy and other countries. "Our goal is to take the first ladies in each country to the world. In Sri Lanka too, the message in the book is by the first lady," explained Dr. Powers who has spent considerable time with little children.
First Lady Shiranthi Rajapakse who believes that the thoughts of men are refined by reading and that reading makes a complete man, had suggested that the book be taken to handicapped children, and Jeff Goonewardena and Steve Viglione are making immediate plans to give I am books to handicapped children in the country.
"The first lady has taken a great liking to this book - I think she is beautiful, sincere and a wonderful person with a passion for the children of Sri Lanka,"observed author Steve Viglione.
"Every child is priceless especially between the ages of two and a half and five years of age, for they have a vision and a dream inside them. So, it is important that we catch them early and nurture their God given essence and their goodness." said Vice Presidemt of The I AM Foundation, Dr. Marilyn Powers.
Jeff Goonewardena who initiated the visit of I AM Affirmation Book author Steve Viglione and his wife, also initiated the printing of over 75,000 copies of the book. "My plea to the little ones of Sri Lanka is to identify themselves not by race but as one person. There ought to be no differences, no separatism," said Goonewardena.
"It is our goal to print one million books and distribute them around the world among little children. As requested by our first lady Shiranthi Rajapakse, we are now planning to take this book to handicapped children too. My thanks to the people who have helped us, especially Jeff Goonewardena who is also the Sri Lanka Consul General for Colombia and Venezuela initiated the visit of San Deigo based author Steve Viglione and his wife Dr. Marilyn Powers. They were accompanied by Director, Thilanka Hotels,Thanuj Gunewardene; Chairman, NAITA (National Apprentice Industrial Training Authority) Amal Senadhilankara; and Manager, Thilanka Hotels, Tissa Dayananda, to the length and breadth of the country to reach out to underprivileged children.