Ian Botham tells a story that brutally explains his passion for helping Sri Lanka after the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.
He tells of a mother who, clinging to her two children as the tsunami waters threatened, was forced to choose which she would let go in order to save at least one of them.
It is an image worse than any nightmare most of us could imagine.
With a death toll over 184,000, it’s hard to picture the individual men, women and children who died. Numbers of this kind remain beyond understanding; the terror of it all unimaginable had it never actually happened.
In Sri Lanka alone, 35,322 were killed.
Those like the mother Botham met that inspired him to walk across the country to raise funds for Sri Lankan children help put a human face on the unthinkable numbers that died that day.
But for young Sri Lankan Pulina Tharanga, no such help is needed.
He was one of countless children who lost a parent, in Pulina’s case his mother, that day.
Pulina was just 11 years old.
Then, just months later, tragedy struck once again when his father died in a boating accident.
He and his brother and sister were left orphaned.
Pulina and his siblings were lucky they had a loving grandparent to take care of them at that point, but nothing can take away the pain the three children suffered, and how catastrophically their lives had been turned upside down in a matter of weeks.
Like many young boys from Sri Lanka, cricket had always been a passion for Pulina as he grew up. Now it would come to be source of strength as well.
And just a year after the tsunami struck, Pulina took this passion for cricket to the Laureus-supported Foundation of Goodness project, a sport for development charity in Seenigama, Sri Lanka.
Since then he has achieved remarkable things through cricket.
It all started when Pulina moved to play for the Tamil Union Cricket Club in early 2011 having been encouraged by Kushil Gunasekera, founder of the Foundation of Goodness.
He performed excellently and the decision to move was already seen as a great success. But there was even more to come.
During his time playing at Tamil Union he was eventually watched by selectors for the Sri Lankan under-19 squad.
They were impressed.
And it wasn’t long before he was named in the Sri Lankan squad for the under-19 world cup and chosen to go on tour to India, around Sri Lanka, Australia and the West Indies in a Quadrangular tournament that took place later on in 2011.
Now aged 20, Pulina was recently the special guest as he joined Laureus Academy Member Ian Botham to launch Beefy’s Big Sri Lanka Walk in the capital of Colombo. The funds from the walk will go to help other young Sri Lankans find success in life through sport, just as Pulina did.
The remarkable goals he has already achieved truly stand as testament to his commitment and passion, and also to the unique power of sport to help young people recover from tragedy and hardship.
But supporting young people like Pulina is only possible thanks to your support as well.