The Goodness of Kushil
Updated: Apr 7
Kushil Gunasekera is a man who can usually be found with a smile on his face, and with good reason. Gunasekera describes himself on Twitter as a “philanthropist, change-maker and founding trustee of the Foundation of Goodness, who leads through action”. In all of those aforementioned roles, Kushil has brought relief, restoration, and real smiles to his country men after some of the hardest times in the nation’s history.
In sporting circles, the term lifer is usually awarded to those who dedicate their life to their chosen game. Kushil grew up groomed for a life of cricket. He grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, attending the best schools, living a comfortable life provided by his well-to-do parents. This allowed him to focus almost solely on cricket, succeeding at the amateur and professional level. After a long playing career, he served his country’s national youth program as an organizer for the Under 19 World Cup. As a lifer, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking the next phase of his life would still involve cricket. In 1999, Kushil established The Foundation of Goodness from his ancestral home in Seenigama, primarily to help young kids with sports training, as well as providing English and computer literacy. This grew over time to provide more holistic support to the rural community through a basic clinic, and modernizing village homes in Seenigama.
All these efforts were proving effective over the course of The Foundation’s early years, but everything changed on Boxing Day 2004 when a tsunami devastated the island nation. For many Sri Lankans, the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 was a day of reckoning. More than 35,000 people lost their lives, with more than half a million displaced, and more than 100,000 houses were destroyed. The country faced unprecedented challenges to not only provide relief, but to rebuild from such a disaster. The call for aid came and Kushil would answer in a way many may not expect from a cricket lifer, but one that changed his life completely.
Over the course of the next two years, The Foundation of Goodness would ramp up their efforts to provide immediate, and long term aid to the villages in Seenigama. Kushil gave up what was left of his ancestral property, and lucrative sugar business to set up an emergency central command. In a previous interview with Rochelle Gunaratne, Kushil had this to say in the tsunami’s aftermath:
It was literally the worst of times but where the foundation was concerned it became a collection point for the outpouring of funds from all over the world and we were able to channel it into rebuilding the lives of the villagers. We received blessings in adversity and beauty from ashes as the standards of living and opportunities grew to unprecedented levels for the villagers.
In the weeks and months following the disaster, aid began coming to Sri Lanka in many forms from monetary donations to entire medical facilities. The Foundation of Goodness became a hub for aid in the South of Sri Lanka, providing immediate aid though their facilities, open to all and completely free of charge, for almost 20,000 villagers in about 25 villages. The scale and nature of the aid that The Foundation brought to Sri Lankans from their base in Seenigama completely elevated the standard of living in their part of the country. With 30 specially chosen empowerment activity centers available for free, The Foundation of Goodness gained renown for their truly holistic approach to rebuilding in the aftermath of the wave. They’ll help you modernize your house, teach you photography, introduce you to the English language, show you how to play cricket, and provide healthcare (including dental) at no cost whatsoever. In a time of utter devastation, any ounce of help is meaningful and The Foundation gave it all back to their people for free. The rebuilding process over the course of the next two years saw the philanthropy of Kushil shine, especially with the support from the international cricketing community. For those familiar with the sport, legends like Ian Botham, Mike Brearley, Steve Waugh, Michael Clark and Sri Lankan cricketers like Murali, Mahela, and Sanga made donations to The Foundation of Goodness. On an organizational level, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Surrey Cricket Club sponsored a humble cricket ground, marking a major investment into Sri Lankan cricket. Attention like this gave The Foundation worldwide attention, which at times became chaotic. So much money poured in, and yet Kushil and his team kept track of every single cent, and how it was spent. Accountability to their donors, going beyond just bookkeeping, and sharing it through The Foundation’s newsletter is something that Kushil personally advocates for. Anyone who goes for a volunteer trip, or makes a donation to The Foundation of Goodness will receive this regularly so they know where the efforts go, and where the foundation is headed.
Over the years, The Foundation of Goodness has not stopped, not in the slightest. In 2011, the group began taking their efforts to the post-war north of the island. The Foundation opened The North Learning and Empowerment Institute in Mankulam town, a second hub to provide the same holistic methodology that brought them so much success in Kushil’s hometown. Translating goodness however may not be that great a challenge for The Foundation, as the results of their hard work are well known across Sri Lanka. In many of the quotes Kushil has given lately, he always speaks of how privileged he is to be able to turn generosity into concrete, life changing action. He never fails to acknowledge how it is through giving, and volunteerism that he believes people can become the best versions of themselves. Even on his personal Twitter account, you will find great nuggets of wisdom worthy of motivational posters, one of which reads “When you create happiness for others you experience the same”.
It’s no wonder he’s always smiling in his photos, considering the amount of happiness he’s created for so much of Sri Lanka. Kushil Gunasekera and The Foundation of Goodness celebrate 20 years of amazing work in 2019. Hopefully, they continue to spread the message of generous, selfless giving for another 20 years and well beyond.
Kushil Gunasekera is the Founder and Chief Trustee of The Foundation of Goodness.