Ballina bowling up special treat
A BALLINA family plans to make a poor Sri Lankan boy very happy this Christmas.
Kate Morgan, her husband Paul and their two children, Bella and Saxon, have sponsored a Sri Lankan boy, Andru Roxshon, 14, through World Vision for the past 11 years.
They have sent letters and photographs back and forth but have never seen each other face to face - until now.
The Morgans have organised to travel to Mannar Island in north-west Sri Lanka, where Andru lives, to give him a special gift for Christmas.
"Like most Indian and Sri Lankan boys, the report about him always comes back saying, 'I love cricket and I want to play for Sri Lanka'," Ms Morgan said.
"I knew that our friend in Ballina was into cricket so I told him about it and he contacted (Tintenbar East Ballina Cricket Club president) Brett Crawford to see if anyone had any gear they'd grown out of and that could be given to this boy.
"He rang back and said, 'I hope you've got a bit of room in your bag because you've got a whole kit'."
The cricket club's members donated cricket pads, a bat, a cricket uniform and a Tintenbar East Ballina Cricket Club hat for Andru. "Everyone was happy to help out," Mr Crawford said.
Ms Morgan said organising the trip had been a difficult process as charity organisations such as World Vision were strict about allowing sponsors to meet sponsored children.
"There's a lot of protective measures. You've got to do police checks and it takes months to pull it all together, but it's worth it," she said.
Up until recently, Mannar Island was inaccessible to tourists due to conflict involving the Tamil Tigers, and Andru had experienced the effects of the war first-hand. "In about 2008, he was displaced from his village into a refugee situation and we lost him," Ms Morgan said.
"Eventually he made it back to his village. This trip will be a gorgeous opportunity and lovely for our kids to finally see him in real-life."