The ALMA Girls
The 2004 Tsunami which claimed the lives of over 230,000 people in 14 countries is recorded as one of the deadliest natural disasters in recent Sri Lankan history. Approximately 40,000 Sri Lankans lost their lives on Boxing Day 2004 while a further 516,000 were displaced. Among those who affected were seven little girls from Matara (a major city in Sri Lanka’s coastal belt). The girls had either lost both or one of their parents to the tidal waves and were being taken care of by their close relatives. They survived on donations from well wishers, NGOs, and other organizations for their daily needs. When the Lanka Mother and Child Support Foundation stepped in to their lives, their relatives were facing severe difficulties in managing their education expenses because of their very limited finances. The girls’ families were on the verge of pulling them out school when The ALMA TETRA – PAK Company in Sweden agreed to fund their education until each girl turned 18 years. Therefore, since 2005 to 2014 the girls have been receiving Rs. 1,740 each per month for their educational expenses and this sponsorship had been increased to Rs. 2,000 per month from the year 2015 to Rs. 3,500 per month from the year 2017.
All seven girls have successfully completed their Ordinary Level examination and performed well. Out of which 5 have completed their Advanced Level successfully and are now employed, independent young women, thanks to ALMA TETRA-PAK. The remaining 2 girls will be completing their education by the year 2017.
Empowering the Disabled Child
Disabled children continue to be shunned within society as disabilities continue to be taboo in developing nations. Bound by cultural biasness, poverty, and the lack of awareness disabled individuals in developing countries are a burden to families, organizations, and governments. Here in Sri Lanka the story is no different. In the estate community where families struggle to make ends meet, disabled children have no choice but to merely hope for a better future. Their families lack the finances and understanding to obtain specialist care. And since disabled children need special attention parents abstain from sending them to school or a Child Development Centre. Therefore, the typical day for a disabled child in this region begins with doing nothing at home and ends with doing nothing at home; being completely deprived of any opportunity for development.
This situation has now changed in 11 tea estates located the Golden Valley since the foundation implemented of the “Disability Management” program. This project focuses upon training the welfare staff of Bogawantalawa Tea Estates PLC to manage the disabled children and make them independent individuals of society. Commenced in 2014, Bogawantalawa Tea Estates PLC now has a self sustained disability management team to guide the present and future disabled children of Bogawantalawa and surrounding tea estates.
The program is carried out in collaboration with Liliane Fonds of The Netherlands, CHAI-LF of India, MENCAFEP and Navajeevana which are both the Sri Lankan partners of CHAI-LF. All organizations are long standing charities specializing in the management of disabled individuals. The program is funded by Sligro Food Group of The Netherlands, Bogawantalawa Tea Estates PLC, and Mr. Henrik Hentzberg.