AFLAC’S candles light up the faces of cancer patients

By Anne

By a happy chance, I was in the auditorium of the National Cancer Hospital in Maharagama on November 29 when AFLAC (Association For Lighting A Candle), held its annual Christmas party at the Hospital. It was good to see the hall fill up with patients, big and small, all looking forward to an evening’s entertainment that would take their minds off sickness and medications.

Also present were family members of many of the patients. When the lights were eventually dimmed, the curtain went up on a rollicking comedy starring funny man Tennison Cooray and his excellent supporting cast. Tennison played the role of a character called “Tarzan Baba” and his antics plus his characteristic style of a simpleton making outrageous cracks, soon had the audience laughing away.

Young patients enjoying the party

They loved it! This party in December is only a highlight in AFLAC’s year-round involvement with cancer patients. It began in 1999 when AFLAC selected ten patients recommended by the Maharagama Cancer Hospital, for assistance. To date, this programme has served 463 patients from all parts of the island. As is customary in all AFLAC projects, each patient is assigned a coordinator who acts as a link between patient and AFLAC.

A monthly nutritional supplement to the value of Rs.1,800 is given to the patients for medicines, vitamins and any nutritious food recommended by their doctors. It is the co-ordinator’s responsibility to see that the donation is used for the intended purpose.

He/she is expected to follow up on the patient and to bring to the notice of AFLAC any additional needs of patient and family and the Association makes every effort to meet such needs.

For instance, a coordinator had found that Gunasena, a middle-aged patient who had returned home after treatment that necessitated the amputation of one leg, had only his wife to take care of him and it was a big struggle for her every day to get him to the outside toilet from their little shack. AFLAC was able to provide a wheelchair for Gunasena and this made a world of difference to both patient and caregiver.
Many similar needs arise and AFLAC depends on its donors to enable them to meet such contingencies. The coordinators are unpaid volunteers from many different walks of life.

Sponsorships are solicited for a minimum period of one year, with the sponsor sending the contributions quarterly, or bi-annually or annually.

Sponsorship donation is US $ 18 per month, or Sri Lankan rupees 1800 per month. The annual donation is US $ 215 or Rs. 21,600.

Stage 2 of the Cancer Project was the undertaking to upgrade and maintain the Female Surgical Ward No.14 of the hospital.

The refurbished ward was opened in February, 2000, and AFLAC had the satisfaction of having ensured a clean and pleasant environment for the patients.

As Capt. Elmo Jayawardana and his wife Dil, who are the moving spirits behind AFLAC put it, “Poverty, pain, loneliness, desolation and neglect are at our doorstep.

All we need is the awareness and the willingness to mitigate the suffering of people in any way we can. AFLAC’S role is to create that awareness and willingness and to act as a meeting place between afflicted patients and caring and generous donors.

Any help that is given goes a long way to ease another’s pain.”

If you feel moved to help, here are some contact numbers:-

Mr. Sunil Perera, Chief Coordinator, Patients’ Sponsorship Programme – Tel. (9411) 2657499; e-mail:, or, Mrs. Sabine Dias, International Coordinator, Patients’ Sponsorship Programme e-mail:, Priya Cooray, Chief Coordinator of Cancer Ward: e-mail:

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