Guardians of the Pilgrimage Path: Sri Lanka Red Cross Society’s Noble Mission at Okanda.

Posted on Friday, April 5th, 2024

In the heart of Sri Lanka, nestled within the Kumana Wildlife Sanctuary, lies a path of spiritual significance. Every June, this path becomes a sacred journey for thousands of pilgrims on their way to worship at the Holy Hindu Temple in Katharagama. Acknowledging the challenges faced by these devotees during their arduous trek, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, Ampara branch, plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and well-being of the pilgrims through a dedicated 15-day first aid service at Okanda. 

Undertaking a journey that spans the wilderness, pilgrims walk for days, weeks, or even months to reach Katharagama. This pilgrimage is not without its challenges, and many pilgrims face minor sicknesses and injuries due to accidents during their long and demanding trek. 

Understanding the physical toll and health risks involved in this sacred pilgrimage, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society steps forward annually to provide vital first aid services. The initiative is not just a response to immediate health concerns but a compassionate gesture to support those who embark on this spiritual journey. 

Over the course of 12 days, the first aid service at Okanda anticipates serving 25,568 pilgrims. This day and night service ensures that help is available at any time, emphasizing the commitment of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society to the well-being of those on the pilgrimage path. 

At the heart of this humanitarian mission are 21 volunteers and three first aid instructors. Their roles encompass a range of activities, from liaising with local authorities to organizing Sramadana at Okanda Devalaya. The meticulous selection and training of first aiders are crucial elements in the success of the initiative. 

The primary objective is clear to provide day and night first aid services to the 25,568 pilgrims walking to Katharagama through jungles during the month of June. This initiative serves as a beacon of hope, assuring pilgrims that their well-being is a priority. 

From fundraising campaigns to meetings with local authorities, from community service at Okanda Devalaya to the careful selection of volunteers and first aiders—the road to success is paved with meticulous planning and dedication. Erecting first aid service visibility boards at the temple premises adds an educational dimension, raising awareness about potential hazards and promoting hygiene practices. 

Marking its presence from June 11th to June 22nd, 2023 to 22nd June, 2023, the first aid service unfolds at the sacred Okanda Devalaya. Successful implementation hinges on financial support, permissions from the Board of Trustees of Okanda Devalaya, and the allocation of vehicles to facilitate the mission. 

Beyond the immediate relief provided to pilgrims, the initiative seeks to strengthen relationships with the Government Agent and Government Health Sector Institutions. This collaborative effort sets the stage for future service programs with enhanced coordination, paving the way for a safer and healthier pilgrimage for years to come. 

In conclusion, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society’s First Aid Service at Okanda stands as a testament to the power of compassion, community, and collaboration in ensuring the safety and well-being of those undertaking the sacred journey to Katharagama. 

(By Achini Wimalasena, Acting Focal Point; First Aid of Sri Lanka Red Cross Society)