The tea plantation workers have long been one of the most exploited workforces. They have for generations endured sub-standard living conditions and their wellbeing was an underpinning factor in the Founder’s crusade to market his very own home-grown brand of 100% pure Ceylon Tea. While exploitation of workers the world over has increasingly come under the microscope, the reality is that tea plantation workers are not exploited by mean-spirited employers, but by a system of trade by which Ceylon Tea has largely been bound for over a century. A system by which, the vast majority of profit generated from the fruits of their labour is made by overseas based organisations and brands, leaving producers in Sri Lanka struggling to make ends meet and unable to pay their workers a decent wage. Hard working communities deserve to be able to lead self-sustaining and dignified lives without an ignominious reliance on handouts from charitable organisations. Sadly, however, the consequences of entrenched neglect and exploitation spanning many decades cannot be remedied overnight, and redressing their issues requires considerable attention and assistance. Therefore, a sizeable focus of the Foundation revolves around the plantation industry and the upliftment of its workers.
Education is an area that is of particular concern to the Founder and on which he has placed a special emphasis. Plantation workers have been deprived of accessing higher education and the numbers that have gone on to receive University educations have been shamefully below the national average. Such a damning statistic demonstrates the endemic lack of opportunities and resources that have systematically impeded them from accessing higher education. In rectifying this anomaly, the Foundation set up a scholarship scheme and improved facilities in plantation schools. The first doctor from the plantations, Balakrishnan Satyaraj, the son of a tea picker on Somerset Estate and one of the early recipients of the scholarship scheme has now completed his medical studies at the Rajarata Medical Faculty. He is currently completing his final year practical examination at the Anuradhapura Teaching Hospital where after he will commence his medical internship at a government run hospital. The success of the Dilmah brand, from plant to cup, is an overwhelming testimony that there is no fairer trade than farmers marketing their own produce.
Having completed most of the infrastructure needs on the plantations, the project also focused towards nutritional improvements of children at the Child Development Centres (CDC) through the mid day meals programme. Nearly 1500 Kids below the age of five continued to have a nutritious daily mid day meals at 71 CDCs in Kahawatte Plantations and a further 19 CDCs of 4 estates in Talawakelle Tea Estates. In addition, nearly 850 Kids who attended Grade I in January 2013 from the Plantation CDCs were presented with a school bag each and school accessories.