Rebuilding Shattered Lives
The Small Entrepreneur Programme is one that commenced in May 2005 with a decision to add to existing Foundation programmes, one that would identify small entrepreneurs who had lost everything and to help them. Underpinning this programme is the realization that assistance must take a very human approach, and acknowledge that every affected individual and every family can become a force in regaining normalcy.
The MJF Charitable Foundation Small Entrepreneur Programme identifies individuals who had small scale businesses and who lost those businesses to tsunami. The expectation is that in helping these individuals resume their activity, they will generate employment, help others to earn a living and thus together become a force for stability. Their stories will help others regain confidence, and hope.
The programme identifies and researches individual businessmen, who have no alternate means of income to that which was lost to the tsunami and have the potential and will to rebuild their lives and help others. In 2005, the Foundation will identify and assist 20 such entrepreneurs in Hambantota District, moving on to the east of Sri Lanka.
Amongst the first beneficiaries, is Upul de Silva Gajaweera who held his wife and four children Hasantha, Thilanga, Iresha and Hashini as the water invaded their home, just 50 metres from the beach, on 26th December. They were protected from serious damage and death by the sand dunes next to their makeshift home made of sticks with polythene sheets to keep the rain out. Upul worked as a fisherman and facing death from the ocean that day as he did, he decided never to go to sea again for the sake of his family. His children still have nightmares and refuse to go to school. Hashini, aged 5, was so scared that she had nto be sent to his wife’s parents’ home in the interior of Sri Lanka.
The Foundation learned of Upul and his desire to retrain as a mason cum tiler. Equipment and materials were provided by the Foundation and today Upul has rebuilt his life, working on building sites and earning a decent wage. He has regular employment with NGOs and other organizations in the town as they work towards rebuilding homes lost to tsunami.
Amongst others the MJF Charitable Foundation Small Entrepreneur Programme have assisted are, Thushara Sampath, a watch repairman who lost his tiny shop when the sea erupted. Today, he earns Rs. 20,000 monthly, enough to keep his young family fed and clothed.
Samuel Sirisena, who still lives amongst the abandoned houses just beyond Hambantota market where 2,000 people lost their lives. His home was destroyed and he lives in a house that belonged to a friend who dies in the tsunami. His wife and 4 children fear that the waters will return but they stay on, having nowhere else to go. The family who lives in the house next door died on the road, running away from the water, the whole area is a ghost town, its inhabitants dead or too afraid to return.
The MJF Foundation provided Sirisena with a full set of equipment for him to resume his trade as a carpenter. He produces door and window frames for contractors today and earns Rs. 1,000 a day, enough to live and to care for his family.
The work of the Foundation is made possible by consumers, distributors and retail partners who enjoy or support Dilmah Tea. Merrill J. Fernando, Settlor of the Foundation, established the MJF Charitable Foundation as part of a commitment to bring to Sri Lankan tea plantation workers and the wider community, tangible benefit from the sale of Dilmah Tea globally. The success of Dilmah, the only truly ethical tea in the world, is felt by the Sri Lankan community through our tea sector, community and tsunami related projects which are made possible by profits from Dilmah.
The MJF Charitable Foundation is a Sri Lanka government approved charity established by Merrill J. Fernando. The objective of the Foundation is to fulfill a pledge its Settlor made when launching his Dilmah Tea brand, that the workers at Dilmah, tea plantation workers generally and the wider community would feel tangible benefit from the establishment and growth of Dilmah. The Foundation funds and manages over 50 projects each year ranging from childcare on Dilmah Tea estates to tsunami rehabilitation, assistance to women in need, rural microcredit and the establishment of a free hospital for the poor. The Foundation operates according to a code that is overseen by a distinguished group of Trustees, and audited for effectiveness and efficiency. The funds of the Foundation are completely free of overheads as the Dilmah Tea companies fund the salaries of Foundation personnel, provide office space, equipment and facilities.
To volunteer to participate in MJF Charitable Foundation programmes or to contact us, please write to Dilhan C. Fernando, Trustee, on email DilhanF@dilmahtea.com or visit our website www.mjffoundation.org.
Thank you for your interest in the MJF Charitable Foundation.