Guided by the Father

There are lots of people who inspire you throughout your lifetime. Some are just worth writing about because they believe in collective power and in uplifting others for positive change.

Mar 11, 2022

Fitz Roy Royen, his wife Annie and their son with the neighbours whom they assist on a monthly basis.

By Christine Fernandez
There are lots of people who inspire you throughout your lifetime. Some are just worth writing about because they believe in collective power and in uplifting others for positive change. For me, nothing is more inspiring than learning from real people who manifest their dreams. This gentleman has not written books, does not have his own television show nor is he famous for anything. He is just a simple young man who was guided by his father to do good in the world. This particular person is strong, bold and has the fortitude and courage to push through his fears. He is full of empathy for others and finds ways to turn obstacles into opportunities. My inspirational story today is about a young man I met during my stay in Sri Lanka where, everything got started in him and found its purpose in him (Colossians 1:16).

Like most expat wives, it was as usual, a search for purpose in a foreign land. There was meaning, making and purpose in meeting Fitz Roy Royen that was God driven and guided. When I was first introduced to Fitz by our parish priest, he reminded me of Jeremiah 17:7-8 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, they are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit. He was focused on persistence and dedication rather than excuses and reasons why something will not work. There are more than 21.7 million people in Sri Lanka; 70 per cent of the workforce are vulnerable as they lack employment protection; with around 85 per cent of the poor population living in rural areas. The large rural sector causes an unequal spatial distribution of wealth as the country’s wealth is largely concentrated in the urban centres, limiting poor rural citizens access to resources and better living conditions. A beautiful island that resembles a tropical paradise, but poverty in Sri Lanka remains a critical concern as the country is still recovering from the tumultuous 30- year civil war of 1983 to 2009.

The nation may have made significant improvements over the years but serious issues remain with regard to poverty. The poor are still struggling to this day. There are many NGO’s and organisations that try and provide assistance but I believe you cannot reach everyone. However, when you are in the same “slum”, you understand the struggles and have a better understanding of the people and their needs. One such young man who really understood the needs and had the desire to help was none other than Fitz. What inspired me most about Fitz was his “case for optimism”, that we are living in the best time in human history.

Fitz, a young man in his thirties, married with a child, lives in the slums in Colombo, next to the Presidential Residence. What a surprise when I visited and saw the atrocities surrounded by all the glitz and glamour. It was like we were in the “slum dog” movie. You walk into the maze and everything changed. Little cubicles everywhere with people in them with nothing much that they own, or have to their name. Among these cubicles one stood out even though it was just a cubicle. Fitz and Annie’s house. Their unspoken life metaphor influenced their lives, especially Fitz, more than he realised.

Take only what you need …
For Fitz Roy life is a test, life is a trust and life is a temporary assignment. He was raised a Catholic by his accountant father and homemaker mother. He has three other siblings. His father was the guiding light in his life. When he was a little boy, perhaps from around four years of age, he witnessed his father providing for the less fortunate. Fitz’s dad would always buy two extra bags of food when he shopped for his monthly groceries. Fitz watched his father silently for months and one day, he questioned his dad and was taken on the trip to distribute the bags to the needy. His father iterated to him “always take only what you need and give the rest away to the people who need it most”. Fitz’s life changed that day. He has been looking out for the poor since then, be it children, adults or even the aged.

In 2005, he travelled to Dubai to work for Shoe Mart and used part of his earnings to ship clothes, shoes and stationery for the needy of Sri Lanka. The distribution was carried out by setting up a network with friends and family in Colombo. It was difficult to accomplish everything he desired with just his monthly wages so he played basketball for a club, since he was a professional basketball player, to earn extra money for his project. He did that every three months for a couple of years. His return to Sri Lanka a few years later saw him continuing his father’s work of setting aside two bags of food every month just for the poor, from his earnings. Both Fitz and his wife Annie also set aside a small amount from their monthly earnings to provide for two families that they have adopted since his return to Sri Lanka.

Same goals and aspirations
I believe our path crossed for a reason, since we shared the same goals and aspirations, “to provide for as many people and communities as possible” with the right tools. I was looking for a team to set up a food project for the poor in Sri Lanka and I was introduced to this young man and his team. Fitz was so fired up with the Holy Spirit that when we first met and I iterated my plans to start a food project, he was overjoyed and I could see the burning desire in him to achieve his goal by surrendering his whole being for God’s purpose.

His journey was not without stumbling blocks. Opportunities were slim for the “have nots”. However, Fritz never gave up on his calling. With the help of a wonderful priest, friends, parishioners and professional assistance on how to go about setting up a food project, Fitz ploughed along to fulfil his mission of feeding the poor, not only in Colombo but in high poverty concentrated areas like Mullaitivu, Batticaola and Monaragala district. With the proper tools: goal setting; planning logistically and promoting the event widely, Fitz and his team travelled to Mannar on their first big “food project” for the poor. Laden with a truck full of groceries, boxes of clothes, school supplies, bags and other basic necessities, Fritz Roy put smiles on people’s faces, gave joy to children and tears of joy to the elderly. Yes, some of us were tools but he was the heart and soul of the project, working into the night to plan and carry out the mission, even after I left Sri Lanka. Fitz would always bug me for more knowledge sharing, resources, introductions and even prayers so that he could accomplish God’s work.

In this last year, Fitz has saved many teenagers and young adults around Colombo from drugs and smoking by starting a sports programme: basketball, soccer and even beach running. He provides breakfast for these young people three time a week. In Sri Lanka, poor disadvantaged youth rarely get help from any social networks. They have to lean on “angels” like Fitz to get them off the streets and give them a purpose. Fitz continues his father’s work by not only providing for two families but for many disadvantaged people in Sri Lanka. I am so privileged to have met this young man who continues to be my friend.

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