Home for Martin
By D.C. Ranatunga
Fifty-two-year-old Martin Rajapakse, a father of three, is lame and unable to do any hard work. Living near Attanagalla Raja Maha Vihara on the Haggalla road, he earns his living by selling sweep tickets in Veyangoda town. On a good day, he earns around Rs.150 from the commission he collects, of one rupee per ticket, but there are always lean days when sales are low.

Martin has to feed five mouths - his wife and three children. Their 13-year-old son is mentally retarded and the eldest daughter aged 16 is dumb. Only the third child, a 12-year-old goes to school. Yet life has to go on.

Martin's is a tough life.To make ends meet is no easy task. He had managed to get a plot of land (about eight perches) when some government property was being distributed among the landless in the area. He put up a shack - about eight by eight feet - out of a few planks. There was just one room where they cooked, ate and slept. Life was miserable when it rained. Water would gush into the shack because the land was at a low level. The three children would then sleep on the solitary table they had.

When Ven.Talalle Chandakitthi Thera, the young monk from the Maharagama Dharmayatanaya decided to do something in memory of his guru, the Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera, he thought the best would be to put up a house following the Maha Nayaka Thera's concept of providing shelter to the poorest of the poor. During his lifetime, he had arranged for many houses to be built and given to the homeless in remote villages. A benefactor who had built a house for a similar cause told him about Martin's family.

The Thera didn't waste any time in visiting them. Fortunately a good Samaritan offered to give them shelter in a shed while the house was being built.

A week later, they went to lay the foundation stone."When the work was done, someone asked me 'Hamuduruwane, where is the 'mul gala'? Everybody looked around, we hadn't brought one. I told them to look for a solid piece of rock. It was cleaned and I chanted pirith and blessed it," the Thera recollected.

The volunteers were to spend the Saturdays doing shramadana. Donations flowed in when the word spread. Some offered timber and roofing sheets. The Karuna Trust set up by publisher M.W. Karunaratne was given the responsibility of managing the finances.

"We had a batch of about 20 leaving on a Saturday morning in two vans to do the work. Meals were prepared early morning and taken. They would work till late in the evening, even till about eight or nine, and get back," the Thera said.

Two bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen and pantry formed the neat little cottage which covered an area of about eight perches with a toilet in the backyard.

In six weeks, the house was ready to be opened on the day the commemorative activities for the late Maha Nayaka Thera were held. Curtains were hung up, beds were in place with mattresses, sheets, pillows and mosquito nets. The kitchen was well stocked with heli-walang, plates and other necessities. Even the lunu pol katta and tuna paha were neatly arranged on the worktable made of bricks.

Venerable Maharagama Dhammasiri Nayake Thera and Venerable Tirikunamale Ananda Anu Nayaka Thera, the senior monks of the late Maha Nayaka Thera were present at the handing over ceremony. Monks from the nearby temple also attended. Having accepted the keys, the family sat in front of a large photograph of the Maha Nayaka Thera and watched the neighbours being given dry rations. A sewing machine was gifted to a woman who earns her living by sewing. A wheelchair was given to a young disabled girl. Fifty pairs of spectacles were also distributed.

This was one of five houses donated in memory of the Maha Nayaka Thera. Three were built at Maharagama. Janavijaya, the organization founded by Gangodawila Soma Thera built another at Ambalangoda. For Martin and his family it is a dream come true.

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