April 2, 2012, Peliyagoda, Sri Lanka – Merrill J. Fernando, Dilmah Founder and Settlor of the MJF Foundation celebrated 6 years of the MJF Kids, and 700 underprivileged childrens’ lives transformed. The MJF Kids Programme was initiated by the Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation in 2006 to instill hope amongst children in hopeless circumstances. Seeking to help children from the most deprived communities, the programme is one of the most important to Merrill J. Fernando from amongst the hundreds of projects his Foundation undertakes each year.
The event held on April 2 at the first MJF Kids’ School, situated within the Dilmah Head office complex, coincided with World Autism Day. It was designed by past and present beneficiaries of the MJF Kids programme as a gesture of thanks to the Dilmah Founder’s commitment to making his business a matter of human service. The children demonstrated skills in art, craft, dance and speech acquired as part of the programme of entirely free education that the ‘MJF Kids’ receive.
Currently, the initiative supports more than 120 kids from the most marginalised sections of society in Colombo and surrounding towns. The programme provides educational support, nurturing aesthetic abilities, environmental stewardship and instilling leadership and character building qualities in kids from these communities. The boys and girls who make up the MJF Kids have in every case used the knowledge and inspiration they gained from the programme to escape the debilitating impact of their poverty.
The event commenced with the traditional lighting of the oil lamp, followed by a rendition of the MJF Kids song. Merrill J. Fernando was presented a cake to celebrate the occasion. Nineteen year old Indunil Aruna gave a short speech on the transformation of his life from a slum dwelling kid with no opportunities to a MJF Kid with endless possibilities for a future. He ended his speech, proclaiming that Settlor Merrill J. Fernando was considered a father to all the underprivileged children in the area, offering them the chance of a better life. A fusion drum demonstration, solos by a former MJF Kid was followed by the life story of seventeen year old Chaturanga Sri Manjuka who spoke about the transformational impact of the programme on his life.
The children presented the settlor with a painting and a tray of vegetables grown and harvested by them as part of a Dilmah Conservation sustainable agriculture project, in the MJF Kids’ garden.
Speaking at the event, Dilmah Founder Mr Merrill J. Fernando said that every time he watched the MJF Kids perform he felt deeply moved by their boundless energy and talent. He said that it takes little to appreciate this talent and to harness it. He commended the efforts of the staff at the MJF Charitable Foundation saying that their work helped children who could otherwise have ended up in a life of crime, to have the chance of a better life. He thanked the Dilmah Partners from around the world, friends and well wishers who made the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation possible.
He concluded saying “God gave wealth to many but he chose only a handful to do his work – and that is people like us, whom he blessed with the desire to help others, and the resources and people to do so”.
The evening ended with the declaration that the six MJF Kids who sat for the Ordinary Level examination in 2011 had all passed with good results and would enter their Advanced Level classes this year.
The MJF Charitable Foundation was set up to fulfill the Dilmah Founders wish make business a matter of human service and share with the community the fruits of his success. Thousands of people and many worthy initiatives are supported in programmes that emphasise dignity and sustainable empowerment. For more information visit www.mjffoundation.org .