Founder of Marc-Sri, Rita Perera, 73, better known as “Sister Rita”, was a religious sister, but during the 1960’s she was forced to revoke her vows due to serious health reasons. She later married Marcus Perera and the couple built their house in Kalutara, which they called “Marc-Sri”. They lived a happy life, until Marcus died in 1982.Rita did not yield to sadness, but began to try to alleviate her pain by going to visit people in hospitals who had no one to take care of them. That was when she thought of converting her own house to a haven for those who had nothing to call a ‘home’.
‘Marc-Sri Saranaseva Nivahana’, is a centre to care for and shelter the poor and the abandoned. Hailing from a family of six that had produced many prominent personalities in the island, like leading gynaecologist, the late Prof. Wilfred Perera, Fr. Mark Perera, well known as a priest, teacher and counsellor, Daisy Pathirana, who taught at St. Aloysius College, Galle, for more than 35 years, Newton Perera, a leading chartered accountant, late Joe Perera, a former High Court judge, and the youngest, Dr. Kitty Perera, Rita is lovingly called Amma by the children of the home.
Ms. Rita Perera who founded Marc Sri 30 years ago, in 1983 said she never planned her home to be turned into a shelter for orphans and the homeless.
“After my husband passed away in 1982, I was living in this house by myself,” she reminisced. “One day a man with a broken back appeared at my doorstep. He could not walk and had no place to go. Ever since then this place has become a home for the elderly, the sick and disabled orphans.”
She added that in the early days she made huts with coconut branches to house those whom came to her and took care of them by herself. Then gradually a few humanitarians like herself started helping out at the shelter. Eventually, those who were taken care of by Rita grew up to volunteer at Marc Sri. Now there are about 40 volunteers, most of whom had lived at Marc Sri for 15-20 years and had grown up under the loving care of Rita.
Since that fateful day in 1983, Rita has never taken a break from her humanitarian efforts. She now runs 11 shelters in various locations including Paiyagala, Beruwela and Wadduwa. Father Julian Tissera worked tirelessly, day and night andhelped Rita with her efforts.
“Marc Sri was started without a plan. I never imagined myself being a mother to so many children,” she said once. “Now we are all a family and this a place filled with love and kindness.”