28th December 2006-The Citizen Milton Keynes

Dream come true for Doctor Tush

WHILE other people are planning their New Year celebrations, a former Leighton GP is busy dreaming about nebulisers of blood pressure monitors ....or even fork lift trucks.

For Dr Tush Wickramanayaka and her husband Gary have spent the past two years working on a remarkable project building a children's hospital dedicated to the memory of 20,000 Sri Lankan youngsters killed in the tsunami.

And this month, after end­less hours of fundraising and days of complex meetings with Sri Lankan officials, the £4 million project will finally get off the ground with the first bricks laid for a smart, new Accident and Emergency Department.

"It's been incredibly hard work," admitted Tush, who sold her beloved Mercedes car to kick off the appeal.

"We are one of the smallest charities and our project is one of the biggest. But we have been determined to prove that we can achieve our aim and that we will keep our promises."

So far her charity, Children's Hospital Tsunami Appeal Fund, has raised over £100,000, enough to pay for all the groundwork’s on the site at Kalutara and to finance stage one of the building works.

"Stage one is the Accident and Emergency department and also a small, 30 bed medical ward," explained Tush, who was horrified to find that many children were rescued from the tsunami but died needlessly because there was a lack of hospital facilitie

There was only one children's hospital - in Colombo..... It truly was a case that many of these deaths could have been prevented. We knew we had to somehow build another hospital and dedicate it to the memory of those children who died.""

The stage one building should be completed within six months but, says Tush, that is when the fundraising becomes more important than ever.

"We have to equip them. Hospital buildings are no good without medical equipment.

"We've drawn up a list of everything that is needed and we are hoping that local companies, organisations and indi­viduals will help us."

The list includes ear thermometers for just £20 each, nebulisers from £25, Blood Pressure machines for £35 and hospital beds, inscribed with the donor's name, for £50.

Alternatively people can pay towards the construction costs - at £189 per square metre - for stage two of the hospital.

Eventually Tush and Gary aim to provide 300 beds, spe­cialist medical facilities, play areas and even a school room.

"We will not give up and we have a programme of fundraising events planned for 2007. But we do need the help of people out there and we are urg­ing people to support us in the New Year," said Tush.

Anyone wishing to make a donation or sponsor the project can call Tush on 07765 247828 or log on to the charity's website, www.chtaf.org.