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This is what you shall do…

23 January 2014 Posted by 3 Comments

By Damitha Perera

“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela 


It all started with a friend shaving her head. It was her 34th birthday and she shaved her head. No party, no restaurant, no new dress. She just shaved.Her.Head. And I’d never seen her look more beautiful. To say it was a profoundly inspiring act on her behalf is an understatement. Still, she never meant to inspire anyone because she was doing it for her own reasons. I contacted her and  wanted to know more.

Six months later I find myself sitting on a plane on my way to Colombo having packed my job in, rented my place in London, with the gut wrenching, heart aching reality of being away from my two boys for three months.

10 days in to my work here and I’ve had my first ever contact with an adult living with HIV, understood that a child who is HIV+ likes the same cartoons as one that is not, discussed male and female sex work at length, walked along a railway line, made friends with tuk tuk drivers, been enraged by a journalist and now find myself writing this column with my feet in the air. A conventional 9-5 this is not. All this before I’ve even started to talk about my work; the job I came here to do.

Corporate training and a disciplined work ethic is one thing. However, a job that makes you flip open your laptop before you’ve opened your eyes in the morning is a different matter. Not because you have to but because you want to. Because someone else’s life depends on it. There’s liberation in doing something that has no obvious reward for yourself; it frees you of ego. When that happens something magical happens inside you. Your soul begins to stir awake and you become aware that you’re thinking on a different plane; a slightly elevated state of mind from where you have previously been. You are rewarded with a different perspective and it changes your game.

With each fresh experience on this path I find myself on a new journey. One that is outside my comfort zone. At times it’s bewildering, other times it’s emotional and sometimes it’s funny. But most importantly, it’s new. It’s a chance to intervene in the the dehumanising of humans.

Rarely do we seek this and it is even more rare that we make it more important than ourselves. Yet, here I find myself; my life happening right in front of my eyes surrounded by others doing the same.

One thing is for sure; once you start on this journey there couldn’t possibly be any going back.



  • Sangeetha Arun said:

    Well written. All the best in your journey 🙂

  • Bridget B said:

    What an inspiring and uplifting post Damitha. I look forward to hearing about your journey – both physical, and spiritual. BBXX

  • Ayo said:

    Just as I was about to throw myself into the very work ethic that you mention in your blog, I stopped and turned it all around. I guess when you forget that every day is a special day you treat these moments with a little more care.

    Many thanks for such a thoughtful note that made me stop, think and start the day again!



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