Young Ipswich student ‘wants to make a difference’ to the lives of struggling families overseas

Vibhash Gunasene during a fundraising concert. Picture: St Joseph’s College

Vibhash Gunasene during a fundraising concert. Picture: St Josephs College - Credit: St Josephs College

A young philanthropist has raised thousands of pounds to help improve the lives of disadvantaged children in Asia through a charity he started when he was just 11.

Schoolchildren in Sri Lanka with their new school materials thanks to the Vibhash Ravi Trust Fund. P

Schoolchildren in Sri Lanka with their new school materials thanks to the Vibhash Ravi Trust Fund. Picture: St Josephs College - Credit: St Josephs College

Vibhash Gunasene, a Year 10 student at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich, was moved to act after witnessing poverty during family visits to his parents’ homeland of Sri Lanka.

In 2013 Vibhash established - with the help of his mother, Lavangi Gunasene - the Vibhash Ravi Trust Fund, which has since brought in £5,000.

The money is used to buy books and stationery, as well as pumps for villages, so schoolchildren need no longer spend long hours travelling to collect water.

Vibhash Gunasene with his book of poems. Picture: St Joseph’s College

Vibhash Gunasene with his book of poems. Picture: St Josephs College - Credit: St Josephs College

A current project aims to extend the small home of a disabled child so he can manoeuvre his wheelchair more easily.

Vibhash, now 15, said: “When I went to Sri Lanka, India and Nepal I saw this poverty and I wanted to help so I published a book of my poetry to raise funds. I wanted to start a charity, which my mum began for me. Since then I have published a second book of poems and organised a fundraising concert.”

A vocalist, guitarist and drummer, Vibhash played at the concert together with family friends, fellow students from St Joseph’s and friends from other schools. The event was held at Curve Bar, Colchester, and collected £1,000 for the trust.

Vibhash Gunasene with a little boy in Asia who he hopes to support. Picture: St Joseph’s College

Vibhash Gunasene with a little boy in Asia who he hopes to support. Picture: St Josephs College - Credit: St Josephs College

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“I am inspired by people like Ghandi who urged us to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ and I want to make a difference,” Vibhash said.

This year his visits to Sri Lanka will be curtailed as he is studying for his GCSEs. His grandmother will act on the trust’s behalf, distributing school materials.

In the long term, Vibhash is determined to continue with the charity. It is early for him to set a definite course post-school, but he is considering taking a medical degree to give weight to his activism.

Danielle Clarke, principal of St Joseph’s College, said: “We are very proud of the example Vibhash continues to set.

“The fine work he is doing fits so well with our college ethos, which calls on everyone in our community to show kindness, respect and humility; to be one’s best and value every child as an individual, equally deserving of educational opportunity.”

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