Hirundi and Kevindi : Born with a best friend
By Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna
Today on the Little Stars cover is a multi-talented pair who are each other’s mirror image. They are announcers, dubbing artistes, and most importantly, young entrepreneurs who help underprivileged children. Hirundi and Kevindi Ranasinghe were able to achieve the Gold Star Award, which is the most prestigious title given by the great worldwide Brotherhood of Scouts to cub scouts.
This year, they were selected to represent Sri Lanka at the 10th International Folk Festival – Nepal where they were the youngest from folk artists of 13 countries and were admired by the Vice President of Nepal during their visit. They were also selected to represent Sri Lanka at the world’s largest children festival, the 6th Arts Olympiad 2020 in Washington, organised by the International Child Art foundation (ICAF).
With the support of their parents, they maintain a YouTube channel and Facebook page “Talented kids with Hirundi and Kevindi” to share their experience with others.
Hirundi and Kevindi, tell us about yourselves.
We are 11-year-old twin sisters who live in Homagama. The elder one is Hirundi Nulanga Ranasinghe and the younger one is Kevindi Senanga Ranasinghe. We study in grade seven at St. Paul’s Girls’ School, Milagiriya. Among our hobbies, reading is our passion. We have been addicted to books since we were small. We love to do science experiments and we maintain a small science lab. We love collecting books and we have a library with more than 3,000 books. We collect stamps and have a huge stamp collection. Another thing we love to do is travelling and making travel logs. Our favourite sport is chess and our favourite subjects are science, history, and drama. We love to learn astronomy. We study astronomy at the Institute of Astronomy, Sri Lanka, attached to the Space Generation Advisory Council Vienna, Austria.
Is it easy being twins? Do you get mistaken as each other?
It’s always awesome being twins. It is like being born with a best friend. What we say is that my twin completes me. She’s my other half. It’s like my twin is my mirror and my shadow, it doesn’t matter who is with us, we always have each other; always better together.
We get mistaken for each other sometimes. In our childhood, mom gave the same medicine twice to my sister because she mistakenly thought she was me. And a few times our grandmother too gave the same treat twice to one of us. When we were babies, one day our mother bathed the same baby twice by mistake. And when we are in school, teachers and friends always get us mixed up.
On the other hand, we never had to show up alone on the first day of school, or go to a far-away competition alone, or sneak out of our house alone. We share the same friends, sports, string instruments, and sense of humour, and also share the same tastes in clothing, music, books, and food.
What inspired you to start your book project and “Junior Scientist”?
After our Grade Five Scholarship Exam, we were more engaged with a few societies like UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation), the Twin Organisation, Ranwala Balakaya, and the Liyara Foundation. While we engaged in these, we understood that many children are interested in books but they can’t buy books and don’t have access to libraries as well. Sometimes, they didn’t have a library in their area. So we decided to donate books to these little friends. Initially, we made requests to our parents and relations, but last year we thought we needed to do something on our own rather than collecting money from our parents and relations.
That is how we started “Junior Scientist”. We are very interested in science activities. Our parents gave us a lot of equipment and materials to do our experiments and with that experience, we made small science packs and wrote down the experiments that children can do using these packs. Through our parents’ contacts and FB (Facebook) online marketing, we immediately created a good customer base for these packs.
We have a few varieties ranging in price and for different ages. You can buy a small pack for your kids for a small value if you are short of cash or a big one if you can afford that. We do custom orders too. At the moment, the Sri Lankan market doesn’t have many of these types of packs and even the few available ones are very expensive.
We used our profit to buy books for our little friends. We also donated some books to the “Basayen Anagathayeta” project, and libraries as well. So for the moment, we have two objectives in this project – to provide science packs for those who are interested in science activities and to use our profit to donate books for our little friends.
What are your favourite books?
Our favourite books are Little House books. Little House is a series of American children’s novels written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, based on her childhood. Laura and her family lived through severe ups and downs, but they always learned togetherness, patience, family unity, and satisfaction. The Ingalls family endured severe setbacks, loss of homesteads, debt, sickness, and death. But they continuously lived calmly with a grateful spirit, even in the face of tragedy. These stories teach us about the courage to keep trying in the face of resistance, wonder and desire to have an adventure, and the hope to believe that something better is sure to be just around the corner.
We especially like the character of the mother, Caroline Ingalls. She’s inspired us to enjoy what we have by living simply, teaching at home, and that even through adversity, you are stronger than you think. We love the family togetherness that both the Ingalls and the Wilder families enjoyed. They worked hard together and this built their family bond. This is a concept we try to learn from them.
And we also love to read St. Clare’s – a series of books written by children’s author Enid Blyton about a boarding school of that name. The series follows the twin heroines Patricia “Pat” and Isabel O’Sullivan from their years at St. Clare’s. So it’s our all-time favourite because it’s based on twin girls like us.
What does the term entrepreneurship mean to you?
Since we are still in grade seven we don’t have a very technical explanation of what entrepreneurship is. But to us, entrepreneurship means doing something on our own and helping society from that while making some money for us. We believe entrepreneurs are often creative. The skills we can learn as little entrepreneurs will help us thrive in our entire lives.
You also work as voice artistes. Would you like to share your experience?
It’s an awesome experience, because as voice artistes we learn how to use our voices on different levels and for different characters. We dubbed so many cartoon characters and some kid’s movies too.
What are the other organisations you work with? What type of work do you engage in?
We are representing Sri Lanka at the Environmental Online Organisation (ENO) and contribute to environmental sustainability and peace. ENO is a global network of schools and communities over 133 countries. The ENO school network is connected to 10,000 worldwide schools. We are working to spread environmental awareness, to encourage learners to act for their environment.
We are representing Sri Lanka in the Treebuddy organisation in Finland. Treebuddy is the ultimate tree planting and care service. With Treebuddy, we have planted millions of trees worldwide and work with various partners taking care of the trees, our “Treebuddies”. With the local communities, we can all help nature to thrive and heal.
We also represent our country in the World Association of Performing Arts (WAPA) as honorary members. We truly believe cultural dance and music and folk art are really important for every country. It is our way to tell other people about the things they need to know about our culture. It is also the way other people could respect, have knowledge on, and give importance to our traditions. We are trying to tell the world about our culture and the stories behind our folk arts.
Apart from these, we are engaged in our own project on creating public awareness on the use of polythene and plastic. We were awarded an appreciation medal from ENO for this.
Currently, we also have a book donating project. Each month, we donate books to the National Library and Documentation Services Board, or to the children who need books to read, using our own money. We are involved with SOS Children’s Villages too. We both sponsor two children with monthly donations.
How do you manage your time between social work, extracurriculars, and school work?
What we believe is if you want something, then you can somehow make time for that. We use our free time to do our social work and extracurricular activities. We always follow a timetable so it’s really easy to manage time. Especially during the quarantine curfew period, we don’t have school, so our daily travelling time of close to three hours every day is saved. So we have around 16 hours per day to do our work.
Who is supporting you in these endeavours?
Our loving parents and grandparents support and encourage us to achieve all these things. They want us to become fully capable and independent people when we grow up. We cannot forget our dear Principal Madam Mrs. Sumedha Jayaweera and our loving teachers in St. Paul’s Girls’ School, as they too support us to achieve these things. And we also want to thank the Principal and all the teachers of our previous school, Homagama Maha Vidyalaya. And all our friends, because without them we could not have come this far.
Do you have any advice for children hoping to start their own business?
Yes. Contrary to what many people may think, you don’t need money to start a business. You can start a business even with what you have; maybe with your thinking, drawing, or writing abilities or small equipment that you have. You need to believe in yourself and your dream should be strong and solid, so no one can break your resolve to achieve your dreams. And most importantly, age is not a problem.
Finally, what are your goals for the future?
Our ambition is to be scientists. Also, our goals are to help children get at least basic education facilities, and create small-scale libraries even in small villages in Sri Lanka so that every child will have access to books based on their interest. And we are trying to plant trees in every single corner in the island and trying to involve and encourage others to do the same. So for that, we are trying to do as much as we can. But whatever we achieve and whoever we become, we need to be together and we need to help our country and society as much as we can.