by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando from London

The Festival of Cricket, popularly known as the FOC was the brainchild of an old Anandian in the UK whose aim was to bring a full spectrum of the Sri Lankan community living in the UK to a rendezvous for the entire families. The subtle motive of bringing about harmony, peace and unity among each other by allowing them to forget about various social parasitic view points on race, caste, religion and simultaneously eliminating the pseudo egoism which had been ingeniously ingrained in some quarters of alma mater, the formula seems to have worked for the past several years like clock work attracting crowds over 5000 annually.

Although a tournament of cricket is the general basis for development of the event, its popularity has grown, year on year, with social intercourse affording compatriots the great opportunity to have a day full of fun and games. With the underlying factor being to raise funds towards the progress of educational facilities among the alma mater of the participating Old Boys' Associations another major effort that went into operation in tandem has been to raise much needed funds to a national charity.

This unique Sri Lankan Old Boys Association is made up of representatives from many schools in Sri Lanka who are resident in the UK presently. This year 23 schools participated in the Festival of Cricket tournament. The Association works with the help of an elected Committee each year and work entirely on a voluntary basis to make the event a great success.

The main attraction of the day is a knock out cricket competition between the participants representing their alma mater, culminating in a final match for a Trophy. The cricket underpins a number of other activities held around the grounds to keep the captive audience/visitors entertained and occupied. These activities include music, children's fun fare, a Sri Lankan bazaar, excellent international cuisine from numerous food stalls, beer tent and trade stalls representing many Sri Lankan business houses including that of airlines, freight companies, insurance, telephone etc.

Hospitality marquee caters exclusively for the elite entrepreneurs who can afford to entertain their clients or friends on the day while watching cricket in a relaxing mood by sampling the Sri Lankan culture and gastronomy with a touch of nostalgia.

All proceeds of the events are divided amongst the participating schools to purchase educational materials, equipment or to set up Scholarship Funds in Sri Lanka with a separate Children's charity that always make a substantial donation to the National Cancer Institute of Sri Lanka.

From the inception of the Festival of Cricket in 1989 'The Children's Charity' became an integral part of its fund raising exercise which appealed to the visitors who have been very generous with their contributions. This very fact has helped the Organisers to accomplish their dream of donating the much needed sophisticated and expensive medical equipment to help alleviate the pain and suffering of patients at the Cancer Hospital Maharagama.

Out of the collections in the year 2004 under the chairmanship of charity operations Mr Hemal Wijesuriya (Trinity OBA), Maharagama Cancer Hospital received a electrically operated 'Farmer Dosemeter' at a cost of 3915 which is used to monitor Radiation levels. Accessories for Bronchoscopes used for accurate diagnosing of acute chest diseases were also donated to the Welisara Chest Hospital at a cost of 1000. Mrs. Indu Seneviratne, the liaison person in Colombo coordinated in accomplishing this task for the FOC Children's Charity 2004.

The presentation ceremony to hand over the valuable medical equipment to the Hon. Minister of Health, Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva was held in August 2005 at the Health Ministry in Colombo. Sri Lanka's Cricket Captain Marvan Atapattu, on this occasion did the honours on behalf of the FOC Committee.

Photo - Camera magic eye capturing the significant moment - from left;
Hon. Minister for Health Mr Nimal Siripala de Silva,
Dr Mrs Paranagama - Deputy Director Maharagama Cancer Institute,
Dr Jayasundara Bandara - Additional Secretary Medical Services,
Mr Marvan Atapattu - Sri Lanka Cricket Captain,
Mrs Indu Seneviratne - FOC Charity liaison person in Colombo,
Dr Ajith Munasinghe - Senior Consultant Chest Hospital Welisara and
Dr Granville Dharmawardene - Former Chairman Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Authority