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Glimpse 2020 with Rtr. Chathuranga Gallage

We came to you with Glimpse last time with its first edition, and it is time to let you know what Glimpse is.

Once a person becomes a Rotaractor, he always acts as one, no matter where they are or what they do. Thus, “Glimpse” is added to the Rotaract Alumni Mora Blog as a platform to the stories of our Club members who are now expats in different parts of the world.

So this time, the Glimpse 2020 continues its journey with a very influential character, a past president of Rotaract Alumni Mora, Rtr. Chathuranga Gallage, along the way from Australia.

Q: Hello Rtr. Chathuranga! First of all, thank you very much for spending your valuable time with us. So before sharing your experience, can you please briefly tell us who you are?

I’m currently working at Deakin University, Australia, since 2018. I’m a product of Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya and I graduated from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering of the University of Moratuwa, in 2014. I was an athletic student during my school times who engaged in 100m, 200m running and long jumping, and I was able to become a record holder in the Sri Jayawardenapura zone from Under 13 – 200m running event.

Q: Having a very outgoing character during school times, you became a Rotaractor after entering the University, and even as an alumni member. So let us hear “what you were” as a Rotaractor.

I will simply list down the positions I held at Rotaract Mora and Rotaract Alumni Mora.

  • Rotaract Mora
    • Asst. Director – Community Service 2010/11
    • Director – Community service 2011/12
    • Vice President – 2012/13
Rotaract Mora Vice Presidents
  • Rotaract Alumni Mora
    • One of the Charter Members
    • President – 2016/17

Q: Since you were an active member as well as a leader in the Rotaract Club, there might be many unforgettable projects. Can you please share some of those with us? 

Handz” was one of my most memorable projects, while I was in the Rotaract Mora, which I could become the project chairperson in 2009-11. It is unforgettable for me not only because it was an Award-Winning project, but also it is was a very broad project that could lend a helping hand to those in need. Also, I find this as a good opportunity to mention Rtr. Sajith Vimukthi Weerakon and Rtr. Chathura Kanchana Dayabandara, the founders of Handz, and Rtr. Maduka Chandrasiri, the Former Director of Community Services of the Club, who were the big brains and the kind hearts behind this project. Are You Ready, Cast4 and Inspirer were also among the list of my memorable projects during my Rotaract Mora times.

1st ever Paduru Party by Rotaract Mora in 2012

After I joined Rotaract Alumni Mora, we initiated the projects Ganga Addara and Sathkara, and I still love to recall the memories we had during those projects and what we could do for those in need makes my days happier.

Q: You have been an active Rotaractor for more than 7 years in both Rotaract Mora and Rotaract Alumni Mora clubs. So, are there any awards and recognition you’ve gained during that period as a Rotaractor?

As I mentioned before, “Handz” is my favorite project even today. This particular project gave us the best recognition by winning The Most Outstanding Project of the Year – South Asia award in the Rotaract year 2010/11 (Rotary International Citation), and The Most Outstanding Project of the Year – Rotaract District 3220 (Sri Lanka & Maldives) in the same year.

Project “Handz” won the award for the most outstanding project of the year in 2011/12
Appreciation of Mr. Gamini Alwis’s (of State Timber Corporation) continuous support for the “Ganga Addara” Project

Q: Australia, a land far from home! What were the biggest challenges you had to face by living in a faraway country?

Any newcomer to any country falls in trouble with the language barrier and social and cultural barriers, and it was the greatest challenge I faced right after the migration. Not to mention that it was a real struggle to find a suitable employment opportunity during the first few months.

It is rather challenging to cope up with the multi-cultural society, which still considers Sri Lanka as a third world country, thus making new friends here became a difficult task. Unlike in Sri Lanka, the change in weather and traffic conditions vary from extreme to mild, and some can say living here is an arduous journey.

The lifestyle in Australia is totally different from Sri Lanka, and it is hard to survive only by sitting in the comfort zone as we used to live in Sri Lanka. Here, the more you challenge your limits, the easier your survival will be.

Q: There’s a saying, “Be a Roman when you are in Rome”. So how did you manage to adapt to the new culture and lifestyle?

It is always easier said than done… Adapting to a new lifestyle cannot be achieved in a day, it all comes with determination and patience. Most importantly, our view and method of approach to new challenges. And for me, I strongly followed one quote: “You can achieve anything with the faithfulness to your destiny and by believing in yourself“.

Q: That indeed is an interesting quote to follow! You mentioned earlier that it is challenging to make new friends. But, in my point of view, I think it is a greater challenge to keep in touch with your old friends with a busy lifestyle. How do you manage the connections with your friends?

It was really hard to manage friendships between Australia and Sri Lanka especially because we have a 4.5 hrs time gap. So, it was a real challenge for me. 

Apart from that, we have to work more, sometimes more than 12 hours a day, compared to Sri Lanka. So, it is very demanding, both physically and mentally. But, whenever I find some free time, I make sure to update my clustered Facebook and Messenger chat groups at least by sending a good morning message, by sharing jokes, having audio/video calls, and remembering important days and events to celebrate…

Q: Every country has its own unique culture, and it may be very different from your home country. So how do you value the cultural differences in Australia?

Being exposed to such a culture was a great experience for me since I got to engage with people from many different countries who have way more different cultural backgrounds than Sri Lanka.

The challenging part is that we must be wise enough to act appropriately toward each culture, as an example, people who come from a Europian culture respect their independence regardless of gender.

However, the sad part is, if a person is not well-guided or does not have sufficient self-control, they might get their lives ruined. So, the best way to add colors to life while living here is by being vigilant always and keeping in mind the prime purpose of coming here.

Q: Thank you very much for such wonderful pieces of advice. Now, let me ask something from a different angle. As a Rotaractor, you were always ready to lend your helping hand to others. After being an expat, how could you become the help the others seek?

I like to share my knowledge with my peers whenever possible, mostly related to the field of my expertise. This is not something extravagant to point out, yet, when others are drowned in issues I always feel happy to support. I also find enough time to contribute to Community Service projects in Sri Lanka and share my experiences with the junior club members.

Q: As you said, you have expanded your horizons as a true Rotaractor. But, how did the new community support YOU in the times you needed them the most?

These people are always very helpful. There is a large community of Sri Lankans living in Australia, and they never hesitate to help each other during hardships. Here, everything happens according to a system and everyone has the self-discipline to obey it. Hence, asking for help has become easier due to the plenty of resources (online, offline, libraries, information centers, etc.) available to everyone.

Q: We all know that you have been an influencing Rotaractor. I wish that your story can answer the doubts of another expat or someone willing to become one. So what is the advice you give them as a senior Rotaractor?

Whatever you do, wherever you are, be honest and be humble. Be focused and concentrated more on your weaknesses, while trying to brush up your strengths. Be a good human being to the entire society. Be motivated and be proactive to lend your helping hand to anyone who is in need. Finally, try to make a good impact on society, which will help you to be satisfied until the very last day of your life.

Q: Thank you very much Rtr. Chathuranga, for sharing your experiences with us. And thank you for the inspiring message you conveyed for all the Rotaractors in the world. To wrap up this discussion, let me ask you one last question. What is “Glimpse” in your eyes?

First, I would like to thank all the members of the Rotaract Alumni Mora for providing this valuable opportunity to share my thoughts with all of you. And I think the project Glimpse is a perfect platform for that aspect as well. I hope you have enjoyed reading and gain something for your lives, which would be the ultimate happiness of mine. Thank you!

By: Rtr. Sajeewa Jayarathne

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