]

The Story of Valarmathy & Jeyamathy

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S. Valramathy and R. Jeyamathy; two of the war- affected females living in the north of Sri Lanka who were supported by the MJF Charitable Foundation to engage in a livelihood based on their skills, narrate what it is like to be empowered in a sustainable and dignified manner, post war.

Women’s Empowerment

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In 2007, the MJF Charitable Foundation Introduced Mankada Pottery project to Udawalawe, in South Eastern Sri Lanka to train female folk in the art of producing unique pottery products of international fame.

Bulk Bag & Cloth Bag Project

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The MJF Charitable Foundation run Dilmah’s bulk bag upcycling project & cloth bag manufacturing project are empowering a group of females in Udawalawe Sri Lanka. Decent work and a regular income for village housewives to support their families apart, the projects have instilled a sense of self-esteem in these individuals as a result of the financial independence they have gained.

The objective behind the MJF Charitable Foundation is to help underprivileged individuals progress in life, and in doing so, to fulfill Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando’s philosophy to make business a matter of human service.

First Augmentative and Alternative Communication App in Sinhalese Launched

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16th November 2017 – Avaz Sri Lanka is the first Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app launched in Sinhalese. The picture and text based app contains pre-recorded words and phrases and has the capability to record thousands more so that a customizable version can be used by the people of all ages experiencing difficulties in speech. It is a collaboration between Invention Labs the creators of the Avaz app and the National Centre for Cerebral Palsy and other Development Disorders (NCCCPDD) and is now available on the App store for iOS devices. 

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other Developmental Disorders experience difficulties in speech. They are unable to express themselves including their needs, thoughts and feelings leading to difficulties in dealing with everyday life. The app aids people with communication difficulties and can be used to supplement or if necessary replace natural speech. It also offers an alternative to paper based versions that need to be replaced with use, wear and tear.

The app is appropriate for young children as well as for adults. Children can say words and create sentences by touching a picture symbol that can speak it out in a voice. For example, if the child is hungry and unable to say the word “biscuit” he/she can touch the picture of biscuit on the Avaz SL app and it would speak the word aloud.

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“Most therapists and parents in Sri Lanka currently use an English app or have to continuously replace paper versions of images and texts. Avaz Sri Lanka has been localized to include culturally specific words and phrases and the pre-recorded vocabulary has been designed by a leading speech and language therapist in Sri Lanka.” says Gopi Kitnasamy Director of the NCCCPDD and the Chairman/Founder of the Cerebral Palsy Lanka Foundation. “It offers the option for parents and speech and language therapists to customize the vocabulary on it to suit the needs of each individual child or person and extend AAC beyond therapy into the home and classroom – as the child or person grows and their ability to communicate increases, the app is able to grow with them” he added. The app is also currently available in Tamil, a customized Sri Lankan Tamil version as well as an app for the Android platform is in development and will be released shortly.

Narayanan Ramakrishnan Team Leader, Avaz India says “Effective implementation of AAC can increase a child’s confidence, independence, social interaction, academic performance, feelings of self-worth, improve social relationships, life activities and overall quality of life. The speech and language therapist along with the support of a multi-disciplinary team working with the child (parents, teachers, occupational therapist, pediatrician) can facilitate this child’s use of AAC to communicate effectively. We’ve developed Avaz as an alternative that is user friendly, can be customized efficiently to ensure that therapists, parents and children are able to communicate easily.” 

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“This app targets a dearth in resources of this nature in Sri Lanka especially in the local languages; there is no better opportunity that we can provide children who have difficulty speaking and their families than the ability to communicate better so that they too may have voice”says Merrill J. Fernando Chairman and Founder of Dilmah and the Settlor of the MJF Charitable Foundation. 

Avaz SL is currently available on the Appstore; a 15 day free trial version is available along with a monthly subscription of just under LKRs. 500 and a lifetime subscription available for LKRs. 10,000. It is also available in: Danish, English, French, Swedish, and Spanish as well as 6 Indian languages: Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telegu.

Download from –www.bit.ly/avazsrilanka

For further information, please see:

www.avazapp.com
www.cplanka.org or www.cplanka.lk
www.mjffoundation.org

Avaz

Avaz is a creation from Invention Labs, which was founded in 2008, by students of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), a premier educational institution. Avaz has been designed over many years, based on expert feedback from many speech therapists and 100+ parents and children from 25+ schools in India and USA. Avaz evolved into a robust, picture and text based AAC system, and one of the highly rated AAC systems around the world. It is being used by many children across the world including one of the top school districts in the USA and several leading special education schools in India. It was awarded the National Award from the President of India, for Empowerment of people with disabilities, in 2012. It was recognized as one of the top 35 innovations in the world, by MIT’s Technology Review, in 2013, and was featured in a TED talk in 2014.

National Centre for Cerebral Palsy and other Development Disorders (NCCCPDD)

The NCCCPDD is a joint venture between the Cerebral Palsy Lanka Foundation (CPLF) and the Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation. CPLF is the first non-profit organization set up to primarily assist persons affected by Cerebral Palsy in Sri Lanka. The Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company established to formalize activities that were close to the heart of the Founder of Dilmah and his vision to make business a matter of human service.

Together these organizations seek to assist people especially children with Cerebral Palsy and their families and become a centre of excellence which provides world class treatment, services and programs supporting those with CP, their carers and other stakeholders. The NCCCPDD also aims to raise awareness of Cerebral Palsy in Sri Lanka, to build the long-term capacity and educate the public and other stakeholders on CP and other disabilities. The NCCCPDD is located in Ambagahawatte –  and offers a variety of therapies to over 72 students on a daily basis. All services offered to students at the centre are free.

Contact:

Gopi Kitnasamy | + 94 77 755 4328 | info@cplanka.org

Thamindri De Silva | + 94 11 4822359 | thamindri@mjffoundation.org

The AIDEX Meet- Athletics With A Difference

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The Colombo Friend in Need Society ( CFIS), in collaboration Dilmah and assisted by several other private organizations and well-wishers , has organized the AIDEX Annual Sports Festival, the 27th in unbroken succession, scheduled to be held on 15th October 2017 at the Prisons Grounds, Leslie Ranagala Mawatha, Colombo 8.

In the coming event 400 athletes from various parts of the country are expected to participate, across a wide range of disciplines. Bicycle races and 63 Track and Field events will be worked off commencing at 9 am. The latter will include 100, 200 and 400 metre races, Putt Shot, Long Jump, Discus Throw and Archery. Participants include veterans of the Armed forces, civilians and even children.

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This year marks the 186th Anniversary of the CFIS, the oldest charitable organization in Sri Lanka, founded by Bishop Turner in 1831, with its motto, appropriately, as “ They Shall Not Suffer”.

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In a world seemingly specially designed for the fully able-bodied, it is crucially important that those disadvantaged in various ways, whether congenitally, through disease, and accident or conflict, are provided with the means to compete on an equal footing. Most societies the world over now accept, and actively contribute to the societal and moral imperative to meet the challenge of equating the disadvantaged with the advantaged. As important as the economic and livelihood independence that the disadvantaged need to be invested with, is the confidence and the sense of dignity which comes with the knowledge that despite disability, that they can contribute as much to society as the fully able.

For all these individuals what is most important is not charity but assistance and facilitation, to enable them to eventually move away from dependence to independence, so that instead of being supported by well-wishers and families, they can start separate lives and support families on their own. The Merrill J Fernando Charitable Foundation (MJFCF) has, over the years, assisted many such individuals through its Small Entrepreneur Programme (SEP), enabling engagement in a very wide spectrum of private enterprises.

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Dilmah, continuing with a decade-old practice, will provide participants and volunteers with caps and T-Shirts whilst numerous other supporters have made donations in either cash or kind Mr.Nihal Abeysekera , Mr. S.C.Weerasooria, Fonterra Brands Lanka(Pvt) Ltd., Ceylon Cold Stores Ltd.,Coca Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd., Lanka Milk Foods (CWE)Plc., Cargills(Ceylon) Ltd., Ceylon Biscuits Ltd., Galadari Hotel, Stassen Exports(Pvt) Ltd., and Hilton Colombo will provide refreshments during the course of the day.

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Volunteers from the CFINS Management Committee, Administrative Staff and Workshop will assist in event management. They will be supported by teams from the Girl Guides of Museaus College, medical students from the Colombo Medical Faculty and the staff of M/S Tallman Tours.

This is an event open to the public, to enable these determined men, women and children to showcase their talents to the world, in a demonstration that despite seeming inadequacies the spirit is as strong, and as competitive, as in the fully able.

Off the beaten track Mankada – pottery making in Udawalawe

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Article By Panchamee Hewavissenti Published in Ceylon Today

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Pottery is one of the most ancient forms of art in Sri Lanka dating back several millennia. Archaeological excavations provide sufficient evidence of the dexterity in the craft, of ancient potters. During the time of kings in ancient Sri Lanka, there had been an assigned caste or clan to make pottery, known as Kumbalkaruvo.
This traditional art has become a livelihood for many a low income earner in rural areas today, despite their caste and clan. Poverty, lack of exposure and opportunities are some factors that make people turn to pottery for their sole livelihood.

Nevertheless, the local pottery industry has survived due to the high demand from foreign as well as local tourists for locally made figurines, mascots and utensils. Therefore, this trade is linked substantially with the tourism industry.

Pottery tourism

Although pottery tourism is one of the most unexploited and unexplored facets of the industry, Sri Lanka has the potential to be a pottery tourism destination due to the number of potters around the country and their excellent skills. Therefore, pottery tourism can be promoted as a part of cultural tourism in the country. If adequate attention is paid to it, and facilities provided to those who are engaged in pottery, this industry as well as the tourism industry can be developed to a great extent.

For this reason, it is vital to introduce a sustainable and strategic approach to enhance this industry which is closely linked to cultural tourism. Although there are no designated pottery destinations, there is one in the Udawalawe area that is stands out.

Mankada

Mankada is one such place where elegant and winsome figurines and utensils are produced and sold to tourists. Besides purchasing pottery, tourists can also take a brief tour around the workshop to see how various things are being made as well as have a go at the potter’s wheel if they wish.

Ceylon Today visited Mankada which is located in close proximity to the Udawalawe National Park and Elephant Transit Home which are the two main tourist destinations in the area.

Poverty and lack of opportunities

The area is visibly poverty ridden and unemployment levels are high. A majority of people are involved in inconsequential jobs.

Some villagers engage in cultivation, tapping toddy and labour work. Others make ends meet through small jobs connected to the tourism industry. Although tourism flourishes in the area, it is not a boon to the local community which leads a hand-to-mouth existence.

As a means of alleviating prevailing poverty in the area, which is a popular tourist destination, MJF Charitable Foundation for Empowerment through Sri Lankan Traditional Arts and Crafts, introduced a pottery making programme for the impoverished local community to expose them to the lucrative tourism industry.

Ajith Perera, the master potter of the Mankada pottery workshop has selected and trained, to international standards, over seventy five members of low income families in the Udawalawe.

“Once they perfect the technique, they can commence work as a potter at the Mankada pottery workshop. Many beautiful artefacts which attract tourists, such as terra-cotta figurines, pendants, tea pots, mugs, tiles, plates and tea bag holders are made by members of low income families in this area,” said Perera.

A majority of women who are employed at the workshop were formerly labourers or unemployed. Being illiterate, it was difficult for them to find employment or a regular income. The workshop stepped in to train them and later on, recruited them to work on a permanent basis.

Mankada pottery workshop was built by the dedicated labour of the villagers themselves with the expectation of uplifting themselves.

Livelihood

The workers at Mankada possess a wonderful passion and dedication to the work they do. It is an ideal place of work for the less educated, including school dropouts, from rural areas of Udawalawe who are reluctant to leave the village for better employment opportunities elsewhere.

Priyanka Pushpalatha who is 42 years of age has been working at Mankada since 2013. She said that she underwent excellent training in pottery. “My husband is a sugarcane farmer and I have three children. After I commenced my livelihood as a craftswoman at Mankada, I could earn a decent income which would be otherwise impossible. I am delighted that I could build a house for my family and educate my children with this additional income by working as a potter,” she said. Pushpalatha further added that she has also started a spice business and has opened a savings account after she began working at Mankada.

K.P. Pushpamali who is a young girl in her early twenties said that there are no other employments to be found in the village except for a garment factory. She said that like many of the villagers, her parents too are conservative and do not allowgirls to leave the village for employment.

“Many girls remain unemployed due to the attitude of their parents. Moreover, living away from home means a lot of expense.

When I completed my Advanced Level examination, I had no opportunities. But the need to get a job was highly felt,” she noted, while adding that it is a blessing for her to work at the Mankada pottery workshop so that unnecessary expenses are cut down and she can go home after work.

By being employed at the workshop, workers are assured of a regular income. They have necessary equipment to continue the trade and are being provided with guidance to manage the business in a sustainable manner.

Heritage and cultural reflection

Mankada pottery has achieved international fame apart from being a regular tourist destination. Many of their creations are inspired by animals such as elephants that roam freely about in the Udawalawe National Park. Our heritage and culture are reflected in their creation.

It has become a pottery hot-spot in the area and is the latest addition for tourists, apart from the Elephant Transit Home and the National Park. Mankada has become a huge attraction for the quality and beauty of their pottery. It is reported that the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver promoted Mankada craft items as part of his ‘Jaime Collection’ of handpicked items for a relaxed style of dining.

Team Ranaviru Sevana emerges champions of the 6th Dilmah Challenge Trophy National Blind Cricket Tournament Finals

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Team Ranaviru Sevana secured a last wicket win over team Shakthi during the nail biting finals of the 6th Dilmah Challenge Trophy National Blind Cricket Tournament held on August 19th at the Wesley College Grounds. Both teams consisted of players of varied stages of visual imparity from partially sighted (B3), to partially blind (B2), to totally blind (B1).

Playing a remarkable first innings, team Shakthi obtained 215 runs in 27.3 overs with batsmen Saman Thushara (B2) scoring 78 runs while Damith Thushara (B1) contributed with 26 runs. Team Ranaviru displayed that its bowling attack is in fine form when the players Dimuthu Ravindra (B1) obtained 3/31 in 5.3 overs while Saman Kumara (B1) got 2/35 in 5 overs.

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Chasing the final target, Ranaviru players K.A Silva (B1) obtained an extraordinary half century, while Sahan Kumara (B1) scored 34 runs and N.S Malcum (B2) 18 runs to obtain 216 for 9 wickets in 31.5 overs. The inning played by the last pair of the team Ranaviru was commended by the spectators as their outstanding partnership navigated their side to the match victory. Meanwhile the Shakthi player Upul Sanjeewana (B2) obtained a successful 3 wickets for 26 runs in 7 overs. The players Dineeth Ravindra (B1) was adjudged the ‘Man of the Finals.’

Players Chandana Kumara (B3 ) from Shihashakthi who obtained 391 runs with two centuries and 1 wicket, Upul Sanjeewa (B2 ) from team Shakthi who obtained 157 runs and 8 wickets, and T D K Sahankumara (B1) of team Ranaviru who scored 122 runs including a century and 4 wickets were awarded the ‘Man of the Tournament’ trophies.

An event supported by Dilmah Since 2005, the National Blind Cricket Tournament is a celebration of the capabilities and the sportsmanship of the visually impaired spread across the country through the game of cricket. The tournament gives all teams registered with the Sri Lanka Cricket Association of the Visually Handicapped an opportunity to participate in a national level cricket tournament to showcase their talents. Subsequently, the best players are selected for the National Blind Cricket Team to represent at the Blind Cricket World Cup. This year’s tournament had 180 players taking part in 29 matches played over a period of 60 days in Colombo and Moneragala.

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National Blind Cricket Tournament is a cause close to the heart of Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando, who established the MJF Charitable Foundation to fulfill his commitment to ‘make business a matter of human service.’
“The growth of the cricket for the visually impaired in Sri Lanka is an encouragement for the blind to reach their full potential. National Blind Cricket Tournament is a manifestation of their strengths. It is everyone’s responsibility to help them develop their talents. Sri Lanka is known as the Cricket country and the Dilmah country, and I hope that the visually impaired cricketers would gain due recognition through the event,” says Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando.

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Supporting the National Blind Cricket Tournament apart, the MJF Charitable Foundation has, throughout the years, assisted the visually impaired through various initiatives such as the annual AIDEX sports meet that rewards the talents of the differently-abled community in Sri Lanka and the Knowledge Chest initiative which voice records publications to ensure visually impaired have access to vital publications without having to bear the high cost of Braille books. The MJF Charitable Foundation is also working closely with the School for the Deaf and Blind in Ratmalana and Subhagya Vidyalaya – the School for the Hearing and Visual Impaired in Monaragala.

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About Dilmah

Sri Lankan family tea company Dilmah, founded by Merrill J. Fernando, today the world’s most experienced teamaker, has championed quality, authenticity and variety in tea. Dilmah pioneered the concept of Single Origin Tea in 1988 when the family company went against industry trends to declare its commitment to authenticity. Garden fresh, unblended tea is a hallmark of Dilmah and offers a unique taste of unblended Ceylon tea packed at source – where it is grown.

Dilmah takes the lead in bringing innovation to a global tea category that has suffered decline as a result of commoditisation. Signature events such as the Chefs & the Teamaker and Real High Tea are innovations that seek to educate and inspire hospitality professionals to offer their guests a completely new tea experience. The events foster greater respect for this healthy, natural and versatile beverage.

dilmah

The Dilmah School of Tea seeks to inspire passion in tea through knowledge of the artisanal aspects of tea amongst hospitality professionals, tea aficionados and consumers. The emphasis is on the importance of Real Tea and the versatility of this natural herb in Tea Gastronomy, food pairing and Tea Mixology.
Dilmah is Ethical Tea, in that all packaging profits are retained in Sri Lanka and fund the work of the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation. We believe that Business is a Matter of Human Service.

http://www.dilmahtea.com/
https://www.facebook.com/dilmah
https://www.instagram.com/dilmahceylontea/
https://twitter.com/dilmah/
www.schooloftea.org
www.mjffoundation.org
http://realhightea.dilmahtea.com/

The Empower Culinary & Hospitality School Felicitated Its Second Batch of Culinary Graduates

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The Empower Culinary & Hospitality School, Sri Lanka’s premier culinary and hospitality facility with World Association of Chefs’ Societies (WACS) recognition, felicitated its second batch of 15 culinary students at a graduation night held on July 27th at Waters Edge Hotel, Battaramulla. An outcome of the philosophy of MJF Foundation Settlor Merrill J. Fernando that, business is a matter of human service, the Empower Culinary & Hospitality School was established to offer the underprivileged an opportunity to rise above their circumstances. The school uses an intensive training method to provide selected students with comprehensive knowledge and international perspectives on cuisine and hospitality. The five month culinary course offered by the school is equal to the best in the world with visiting international professionals supplementing the Sri Lankan faculty. Culinary empowerment spans the fundamentals of nutrition through personal discipline, English, cooking skills, information technology and menu planning. Students are selected from the applicants based on their enthusiasm for knowledge, their commitment to hard work and their desire to succeed as chefs.

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Elaborating on the initiative, Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando said, “Dilmah Tea is known worldwide for its quality. That’s not my achievement of Ceylon Tea. What is little known is the philosophy that is driving Dilmah Tea. At the MJF Charitable Foundation, we have a variety of activities bringing hope to poor and the underprivileged. The culinary school is another source of providing hope and happiness to the underprivileged. About 90% of the students who passed out came from our estates. Children of tea pickers; they never had a hope of achieving such a position in life.”
When the school took on board its second batch of young men and women from underprivileged backgrounds; majority being from tea estates and impoverished urban dwellings; they were without any exposure or knowledge in the field of culinary art. The second intake also enrolled four differently-abled children from the MJF Charitable Foundation’s Rainbow Centre Programme and from the MJF Kids Programme. After many months of hands on training at the Centre’s state of the art training facility, working with leading chefs from across the world, the students graduated with an international perspective on cuisine and hospitality. They will now receive internships within MJF Foundation, Dilmah and from leading hotels, restaurants and other hospitality operators. Culinary knowledge apart, these students have been given life skills, social skills, English language skills and IT during the course; the latter being two of the predominant challenges faced by the students.

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Among those who attended the graduation ceremony were Black Hat Chef and WACS Reference Judge Bernd Uber, WACS Education Director John Clancy, the General Managers, F&B Managers and chefs from leading hotels and the representatives from the MJF Group.
The graduating batch also undertook the challenge to prepare the dinner menu for 75 guests attending the graduation night and assisting them in their task was W. Dinesh – the winner of Bocuse d’Or Sri Lankan competition; a product of the first batch of Empower Culinary & Hospitality School.
Young graduate Asela Madusanka’s thoughts reflect the positive influence the culinary school has on the lives of underprivileged youth. “Until I started this culinary course I did not know that there are so many opportunities in the hospitality industry. Learning to make international cuisine was so much fun. What I want is not just to be a chef but to be someone who could make innovative dishes.”

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Similarly Danesha Madushani sharing her thoughts at the graduation said although she wanted to learn beauty culture after her A/Ls, the exposure she got at the culinary school took her in a different direction. “Everywhere you find salons, but to be called a chef is something more special, I feel,” she opined.

Witnessing this milestone in their lives were also parents of the young graduates.

Danesha’s mother Chandrika Priyani said that her daughter has made her proud.

“I still recall the day she wore the chef jacket for the first time. That was the moment I realised that my daughter has a clear path ahead. Seeing a child graduate is a dream of every parent. Today my husband is also attending this function. Being a part of this special moment in our daughter’s life means so much for us,” Chandrika added.

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Yanali Wickremesinghe, the mother of Hansana Pieris said her daughter only studied up to Grade 9 in school due to her hearing impairment. “Taking up this culinary course helped her in so many ways- she learnt punctuality; she started taking responsibilities. She was able to discover some of her inborn talents which we were unaware of. Once she drew a portrait of a chef who came to lecture her at Empower. Having seen this, the chef suggested that she learns food carving. She did some amazing food art afterwards – a watermelon carving, rosses carved out of tomatoes,” she recalls.

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Empower Culinary and Hospitality School apart, the MJF Charitable Foundation (MJFCF) operates educational and vocational training centres across the country to empower youth from marginalised backgrounds. In June 2017, the Curtiss Centre for Design at the MJF Centre Moratuwa which was set up with support from Dilmah Partner Darron Curtiss of New Zealand to facilitate training in graphic design for youth from marginalised backgrounds awarded certificates to 40 young graduates while another 134 graduated from the Cricket Life programme; a collaboration of MJFCF and Cricket Live Foundation New Zealand giving cricket coaching for underprivileged children to enable them progress in life through cricket.

dilmah

About Dilmah

Sri Lankan family tea company Dilmah, founded by Merrill J. Fernando, today the world’s most experienced teamaker, has championed quality, authenticity and variety in tea. Dilmah pioneered the concept of Single Origin Tea in 1988 when the family company went against industry trends to declare its commitment to authenticity. Garden fresh, unblended tea is a hallmark of Dilmah and offers a unique taste of unblended Ceylon tea packed at source – where it is grown.

Dilmah takes the lead in bringing innovation to a global tea category that has suffered decline as a result of commoditisation. Signature events such as the Chefs & the Teamaker and Real High Tea are innovations that seek to educate and inspire hospitality professionals to offer their guests a completely new tea experience. The events foster greater respect for this healthy, natural and versatile beverage.

The Dilmah School of Tea seeks to inspire passion in tea through knowledge of the artisanal aspects of tea amongst hospitality professionals, tea aficionados and consumers. The emphasis is on the importance of Real Tea and the versatility of this natural herb in Tea Gastronomy, food pairing and Tea Mixology.

Dilmah is Ethical Tea, in that all packaging profits are retained in Sri Lanka and fund the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation. We believe that Business is a Matter of Human Service.

http://www.dilmahtea.com/
https://www.facebook.com/dilmah
https://www.instagram.com/dilmahceylontea/
https://twitter.com/dilmah/
www.schooloftea.org
http://realhightea.dilmahtea.com/

Merrill J. Fernando

As a very young man, he saw firsthand, how producers and their workers were exploited. He was inspired to believe that, one day he will have his own brand, which would be of finest Single Origin tea, in 100% Pure Ceylon Tea and share his profits with the poor. He laughed at himself of his impossible dream. From then until now, tea has become a cheap commodity, sold by heavily advertised and promoted brand names by trading companies. Consumers have to pay for brand names and not for quality.

Thirty four years after his impossible dream, he decided to launch his own brand. In his first press interview in Australia prior to the launch, he said, today, tea is a cheap commodity, I will bring integrity back to tea, by naming my brand “DILMAH”, after my two children- Dilhan and Malik, in Single Origin tea, as opposed to multi origin commoditized tea; the finest on the market and sharing profits with the poor and the disabled.

Merrill launched, garden fresh, unblended, Single Origin Pure Ceylon tea, grown and packed at source, fully value added and branded. In doing so, he retained all the profits from branding and marketing, in his country. Until then, tea producers and workers watched in pain and anger, their raw sweat and toil enriching traders in rich nations, while they remained poor. In carrying out the full process of value addition and branding, right where tea is grown, every packet of Dilmah tea became the world’s first ethically produced tea and it remains so, even today.

Dilmah is globally renowned for the finest quality tea and for its philosophy of caring and sharing. The brand was established on Merrill’s unique philosophy of making business a matter of human service, a pledge that is fulfilled through MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation.

MJF Charitable Foundation

The MJF Charitable Foundation was established by Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando, to fulfill his commitment to make his family business a matter of human service. MJF Charitable Foundation, changes over 10,000 thousand lives each year. All companies in the MJF Group, contribute 10% of their profits before tax, to the Foundation. Merrill does not accept donations and believes charity must be forthcoming strictly, from his personal resources.

www.mjffoundation.org
https://www.facebook.com/MJFCF
https://www.instagram.com/mjffoundation/

Dilmah Conservation

Dilmah Conservation promotes sustainable use of the environment as Merrill believes that every individual and business has an obligation to ensure that a sustainable interaction with the environment is maintained at all times. Through Dilmah Conservation, he pioneered a comprehensive commitment to foster respect for the environment and ensure its protection by encouraging a harmonious coexistence of man and nature. Together with its resource partner
IUCN, the world’s largest global environmental network, Dilmah is promoting biodiversity, species/habitat protection & awareness of sustainability with special focus on protection of the Asian Elephant.

www.dilmahconservation.org
https://www.facebook.com/DilmahConservation
https://www.instagram.com/dilmahconservation/

Eastern Sri Lanka is rising!

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The construction of the MJF Centre for Dignified and Sustainable Empowerment- East is progressing as men, women and children whose wellbeing was compromised due to the ethnic conflict, look forward to the brand new beginning…

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In February this year, the MJF Charitable Foundation embarked on its most ambitious project today – the MJF Centre for Dignified and Sustainable Empowerment – East. The Centre replicates the concept of empowerment with dignity for underprivileged and marginalised communities that the MJF Centre for Dignified and Sustainable Empowerment – South implements. An initiative by the MJF Charitable Foundation which fulfills Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando’s philosophy of making business a matter of human service, the Centre in the East has the vision to transform the lives of the communities whose wellbeing was compromised due to the ethnic conflict.

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Amidst preparation for delivering a great outcome for people in the East, the MJF Charitable Foundation team recently convened the government officials, business community, representatives of Rotary Sri Lanka and the Eastern University for a special meeting in Kalkudah to enable them gain insights into this largest ever humanitarian and environmental project getting off the ground in the Eastern region, post war.

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The project, it is envisaged, would improve the quality of life of the communities that are most underserved and deserving of assistance.
A replication of several community development initiatives under the MJF Charitable Foundation such as the MJF Centre in Moratuwa which implements multifaceted projects, the National Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy & Developmental Disorders in Ambagahawatte, Sithijaya Centre in Ambalantota, Empower Culinary & Hospitality School, this Centre in the East has the objective to find long term solutions to the foremost challenges faced by the community in the area- predominantly the issues of unemployment, lack of vocational training opportunities, teenage pregnancies, high rate of school drop outs, deteriorating forest cover etc. Of the 14 Divisional Secretariat Divisions in the Eastern Province, the Centre will primarily focus on nine DS Divisions including areas with the highest concentration of vulnerable communities. Additionally, Dilmah Conservation will replicate its successful organic model garden established at the Moratuwa Centre – Dilmah Conservation Sustainable Agriculture Research Center at the MJF Centre in the East as a means of promoting human nutrition, reducing the cost of living and enhancing life through contact with nature. A place for research and development on sustainable agricultural methods and appropriate urban agriculture, the model garden at the Centre will have a few additions such as a cashew nursery, cashew processing centre, a market place for the beneficiaries to sell their products and waste management units with the objective to promote sustainable living amongst the occupants in Sri Lanka’s East.
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The management advisory team of the Centre include; Rotarian Past President M. Ganesharajah (Rotary Club Batticaloa, Commissioner of Inland Revenue for the East and the North), Rotarian Past President Dr. K. E. Karunakaran (Rotary Club of Batticaloa and member of the Faculty of Healthcare Sciences in the Eastern University of Sri Lanka), Rtn.N.Pathmanathan (District Governor 2002-2003, RI District 3220 – Sri Lanka & The Maldives), Dilhan C. Fernando (Trustee of the MJF Foundation), Thamindri De Silva (Manager – Strategic Development of the MJF Foundation) and S. Kamalanathan (Manager – Projects of the MJF Foundation).

The story of a Bocuse d’Or Sri Lanka Gold Medallist – from unemployed to culinary role model in 8 months

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Every individual has inherent ability regardless of their circumstances; poverty is debilitating, but not disabling, physical disability in most cases is ability in an untypical form. When the unemployed son of a tea picker in Ratnapura used the opportunity of a 4-month culinary bootcamp to secure Gold in the Sri Lanka national component of the world’s most prestigious culinary competition, he proved that with knowledge, attitude and an opportunity, anyone can be transformed.

Dinesh was amongst a group of underprivileged and unemployed youth chosen to form the first batch of students to be offered culinary training in Sri Lanka’s finest culinary training facility. We had just inaugurated the Empower Culinary & Hospitality School, Sri Lanka’s only WorldChefs certified culinary training facility. The faculty includes local and international instructors, guided by eminent chefs like Bernd Uber, Peter Kuruvita, Rohan Fernandopulle on the Board of Governors. The course is free – all we ask of the students is discipline and commitment.

Dinesh had lost his father when he was younger, and dropped out of school after his Ordinary level exams. As his mother works at Dilmah’s Rilhena Tea Estate, the estate manager nominated him for Empower and in October 2016, he joined the first batch of students at the School. They started with 2 weeks on the Dilmah Conservation farm, to understand sustainable agriculture, learn respect for nature and the importance of nutrition … and also to dispel any notion the students may harbour from seeing culinary shows on TV, that success involves anything less than passion, dedication and absolute commitment to perfection. The class moved on to learning English, knife skills and completing their bootcamp culinary course in 4 months.

In February 2017, Dinesh graduated with the rest of his class, many from Dilmah’s Kahawatte Tea Plantations. Two students from his batch passed with distinction, and all received apprenticeship posts in 5 star hotels in Sri Lanka. That was an achievement in itself, for the students went from uncertain futures, lacking the ability to do anything but work as unskilled and low paid labourers, to having the choice of most high quality hospitality establishments in Sri Lanka for their apprenticeship.

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For Dinesh there was more. He started his training at Dilmah’s Cape Weligama, and went on to Water’s Edge in Colombo, when Chef Rohan Fernandopulle chose him to be Commis Chef in the 2-man Water’s Edge team for Bocuse d’Or Sri Lanka, supporting Chef Chamaka Perera. The Bocuse d’Or is considered the world’s most prestigious live cooking competition, with each team comprising a Chef supported by a Commis Chef who must be under 19 years of age. In a very prophetic comment at the time, Chef Rohan who is General Manager of Water’s Edge and also a Governor of our Empower Culinary & Hospitality School, told the Dilmah & MJF Foundation team that ‘he would make a great Chef of the young culinary apprentice.’

At the announcement of the results of the National Selection of the Bocuse d’Or on Friday evening, Water’s Edge won Gold and life changed in that instant for Chefs Chamaka and Dinesh.For Dinesh it was more than the great achievement of winning the acclaim of a prestigious panel of Judges that included Chefs Otto Weibel, Bruno Menard, Alan Palmer amongst others; it was a miracle, for the young man who less than a year ago could not even boil an egg. Dinesh returned to the Empower School the day after, wearing his Bocuse d’Or Gold Medal with pride and joy. He shared words of encouragement with the next batch of students, who are looking forward to their own graduation in a few weeks.

Every person, whether differently able, impoverished, victim of tragedy or most other situations, has inherent ability. It is a crime for those who have that comprehension and capability, to allow that ability to go waste. That was the principle on which we established Empower. The MJF Foundation was established by my father – Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando – in the knowledge that every business must have a purpose that goes beyond profit. That belief is founded on his own journey from an ordinary background in an isolated hamlet to building a global business, and the knowledge that his success is a blessing from God that must be passed on.

The stories of Dinesh and the other graduates of Empower express the life changing power in the philosophy of making business a matter of human service. In this programme, attitude, knowledge and commitment are nurtured in young men & women, whether they may come from harsh domestic circumstances, have Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome or other condition. In the current batch, due to graduate shortly, one young lady who is an aspiring chef, has Down syndrome; she is different but able. They have all risen to our expectation thus far, transforming their own lives and the lives of their families. In each case, it has only taken an enlightened programme that shares the knowledge they need, respects their dignity, instils discipline, shares positive attitude & humility, and requires 4 months of their time.


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