Project partner: Buddhist Vihara Victoria Inc.
Region: Southern Metro
Berwick’s ethnically diverse community prides themselves on bringing people together, including newly arrived migrants. This welcoming spirit is nowhere more apparent than at Buddhist Vihara Victoria (BVV), a local temple servicing the entire Southern Metro community.
'In one day, we can get 1,000 devotees gathering outside the temple for processions,' says Pushpa Mallawaarachchi, Secretary and Public Officer of the centre.
As well as cultural events, the important site is a teaching and training centre. Visitors of all ages come to use the public library, meditation centre and attend the Dhamma language school.
But accessibility to the temple was poor, with no dedicated car park and a dirt track prone to mud in winter and dust in summer. The uneven surfaces made it unsafe, especially for those in a wheelchair and older visitors.
'An elderly lady told me that when it was raining her children wouldn’t allow her to come to the temple by herself because she might slip in the mud,' explains Pushpa.
'We’ve had the need for an upgrade for about 10-12 years, but every time we made plans, we didn’t have the money.'
After hearing about the funding opportunities through Pick My Project, the temple community swung into action.
'Some of us went into other temples, some went into the movie theatres as well, finding voters. Everyone helped, so we had to celebrate by doing a blessing ceremony at the temple for all the voters.'
The blessing worked, as the temple is now home to a dedicated tarmac car park with accompanying landscaping. Pushpa says it has meant a lot to the community, especially for the elderly and young children.
'When we have a ceremony, the little children used to do cultural dancing from the road entry to the temple wearing shoes because the road was too muddy to perform barefoot, but barefooted dancing is the custom in Sri Lanka.'
Not having to wear shoes has been an important improvement for the temple’s worshippers too.
When people came out of the shrine room one day they were putting on their shoes to go to the other side and a little girl said, 'Mum, Mum, you don”t need shoes now! You can walk!'
Thanks to these upgrades, the temple will be able to safely continue servicing the region, in a way that is in line with traditional customs.
Reviewed 24 March 2021