The MJF Kids programme was first established in 2006 as a part of Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando’s commitment to sharing the success of his Dilmah brand with the underprivileged. It is free for children from underprivileged families, especially from the vicinity of the MJF Group, where some of the most impoverished urban dwellings in the country’s capital, Colombo are located. The majority of the people in these ‘slums’ have not received a formal education, which is a trend that tends to repeat itself from one generation to the next as products of their environment. Sadly, therefore, the children miss out on an education as their parents often keep them at home to care for other children or to help with work.
In an endeavour to break this vicious cycle of entrenched poverty in the nearby slums, the Foundation set up the MJF Kids Programme. Today, more than 1000 children form the MJF Kids and are exposed to a life of possibility. The ‘MJF Kids’ are the pride and joy of the Founder and following its success in Peliyagoda and Maligawatta, the Programme has now been replicated in the Founder’s hometown of Pallansena, a little fishing hamlet in Negombo, in Siyambalanduwa in the Monaragala Districts – one of the least developed areas in country, in Moratuwa where a comprehensive programme of support for children from marginalised communities are carried out and in Point Pedro in the Northern Province to help children marginalised as a result of the now concluded war. These children gather at MJF Centres island wide and are guided by teachers in arts, crafts, cookery, sewing and IT, and are assisted in their school curriculum. The objective of the programme is to provide these children with education, life-skills training, and a general exposure to progressive alternatives outside of their own limited and often dreadful life-experiences. As a consequence, they will be equipped to step outside of their existing environs and establish a better quality of life for themselves and their families, one day.
With the Dilmah office forming the backdrop as the base and home of the MJF Kids, the response by the kids to the many opportunities that have come their way has been overwhelmingly positive. What is taken for granted by many children was a new and enlightening experience for the MJF Kids; from basic hygiene, to painting a picture with water colours; from learning to filter water, to using a keyboard and mouse.