Meet the Match
A Trainer with a PASSION FOR SPORT AND RECONCILIATION
One of four children born to a Sinhalese family, Priyantha Peiris moved to Russia as a college student. While there, a fire in Priyantha’s hostel forced him to jump from the fifth floor to safety, where he injured his spine upon landing.
Priyantha moved back to Sri Lanka after one year in a Russian hospital, refusing to be discouraged by the injury. During his rehabilitation, he became involved with the Motivation Charitable Trust and decided to launch his own organization: the Spinal Injuries Association of Sri Lanka.
Since then, Priyantha has accepted several positions with the National Paralympic Committee (NPC) of Sri Lanka, most recently serving as its treasurer starting in 2004. During this time, he represented Sri Lanka before the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), managed and mentored national wheelchair basketball and tennis players, and supervised relief projects following the disastrous 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 30,000 Sri Lankans and left thousands more injured and homeless.
As a freelance disability equality trainer, Priyantha is very passionate about reaching out to minority populations in Sri Lanka’s eastern and northern provinces. Historically, there has been ethnic tension in the country between Sinhalese and Tamil people, with a 25-year civil war only recently ending in 2009. But Priyantha believes sport can serve as a bridge for people of all backgrounds and abilities.
“Sports is one area where you can build reconciliation,” Priyantha says. “We have seen it and we have proved it when we set up the NPC. I was able to convince 100 athletes from the north and eastern provinces to work with us. Sport may not be the biggest or most valued integration aspect of reconciliation, but that evidence alone shows that it can be.”
What makes Priyantha even more confident of achieving better relations between the two groups is his significant experience in the disability sports sector since 1999. During S4C, he will turn 50 years old, making him one of the oldest participants in the Global Sports Mentoring Program.
“I could do the same thing young people can do in half the time because of my experience,” Priyantha laughs.
At Ability360, Brielle and her team have the exact tools to help Priyantha meet his goals, as well as to help him learn more about mentorship, human psychology and its roles in sports motivation, and expose him to new and foreign cultures. The organization has a strong background in therapeutic recreation and recently brought on an outreach specialist to discover the best ways to recruit for its programs. Roughly 33 percent of Ability360’s participants have a spinal cord disability, which has been a focus area for Priyantha in his career. Their time together will provide Priyantha with the perfect platform for continuing and expanding his work in Sri Lanka, especially as he looks to focus his Action Plan on preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.Read the Blog Article