December: Clothing Donation 3
We made good use of a final batch of HSBC unused branch uniforms by donating them to the girls in the school band at Weerahela School.
This is an extremely rural school and one of the first ones we visited, on the recommendation of the Zonal Director of Education, when we originally came to Sri Lanka a decade-and-a-half ago.
It was immediately noticeable that many of the children at Weerahela had a lot less than those at other schools, including some rural ones. Many didn’t have any shoes, for example.
So this was one of the first schools that we helped, building a library, then taking the children on a field trip and sponsoring a number of students through our student sponsorship programme.
Each time we had an opening ceremony for a project. And each time the school band would lead all the guests down the road and into the school grounds.
However, unlike other schools, the children didn't have special costumes, as at other schools, because their parents couldn't afford them.
So it was extremely gratifying that this time we could provide blazers, which the parents will be able to re-design into band uniforms.
Today, Weerahela has 165 students from grades one to 11 and a dynamic new principal, Mr Gamini, who was keen to thank to the bank for its donation.
November: Clothing Donation 2
Thanks to HSBC we were able to donate more batches of unused branch uniforms this month.
We had to wait for some weeks until after Sri Lanka came out of lockdown before we were allowed to enter some of the local elderly care home in the area.
In mid-November, we visited Meththa Nissarana Elders Home in Hambantota and then the Sadagirigoda Elders Home where we distributed shirts and belts to the residents.
October: Clothing Donation 1
One of our first priorities, once Sri Lanka came out of lockdown, was to arrange the handover of a batch of unused branch uniforms, which HSBC had kindly donated.
This was part of the bank’s commitment to up-cycle equipment and supplies as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility strategy.
We worked with the Grama Niladaris (village officials) at Ranminithenna and Jullpallama villages to find local families who would benefit from the donation of 176 shirts.
October: MCTC Reopens
We were very relieved that we were able to re-open the MCTC again and get students back through the door towards the end of the month.
Here's one of the first classes back, although plenty of parents are still keeping their children at home.
We'd also like to thank Microsoft and Hansamali Gamage for providing much-appreciated online training to the MCTC team and government IT teachers while Sri Lanka was under lockdown.
They all found it incredibly helpful.
September: Planning New Courses
One of the few upsides of the pandemic has been the breathing space it has given us to plan new courses.
In 2022, we are hoping to launch our first big new course for many years: a certificate in Wildlife and Conservation.
Jaya (pictured) and Tharindu have been working on this for a number of months in association with Sri Lanka's leading wildlife experts.
The area around Tissa has many national parks and the government has done a very good job of conserving the country's biodiversity.
However, the need to do this is not always appreciated at the local level where residents are much more interested in securing an income for themselves and their families.
We hope that this new six-month course will create a win-win situation.
Increasing environmental awareness among the many people working in the tourism industry (jeep drivers, trackers, tour guides etc) will enable them to provide visitors with a better experience.
In doing this, they should not only boost their income, but also protect the country's biodiversity and ecosystems.
The course will cover the country's many different species: from Yala's famous leopards and sloth bears to Uda Walawe's elephants and from Bundala's abundant birdlife to Mirissa's whales and turtles.
July: MCTC Online Classes
The spread of the Delta variant means that we have not been able to continue running any of our classes at the MCTC even with social distancing measures in place.
Sri Lanka's schools are also now shut. Government teachers have resorted to setting up a Smartphone on a tripod in front of a whiteboard and trying to reach as many students as possible.
We have taken our community classes online and here are some of the students from Community Class 68 dialing into a lesson for the first module: Introduction to Computing.
May: Mask Distribution
Thanks to Artemis Associates in Hong Kong for sponsoring mask distribution to families in need around Tissa.
The Hong Kong-based reputation management consultancy is an existing sponsor of our student sponsorship scheme, which we used to identify families who cannot afford to buy masks and have vulnerable family members with underlying medical conditions.
Pictured are Chandrika and her sons Thusitha and Tharindu who are both unable to speak. She works as a labourer after the father abandoned the family.
March: Sumudu Pre-School Sponsorhsip
Thanks once again to Cate Thomas, her partner, Ron Sidell, and brother, John Skutsch, who renewed their sponsorship of the Montessori school they originally built in 2010.
It has continued operating during the pandemic and has a teacher and assistant who recently returned to the school after completing her training in Galle.
February: Students Zoom Training
Pictured is grade 11 student Udeni outside her house with Nuwan teaching her how to take part in a video conference call on her father's phone.
We are trying to put the MCTC to best use during the pandemic by letting government teachers use it to provide revision classes for students who have O-level exams coming up.
February: Teachers Zoom Training
An increasing number of Covid-19 cases are keeping most students at home so we’ve started training government teachers how to use Zoom at the Mahasenpura Community Training Centre (MCTC) instead.
Almost none of these teachers will have a computer at home. Some will use the centre to hold classes, others will use their Smartphones.
February: HSBC Poster Project
Children at Mahasenpura, Kawantissapura, Nadigamwila and Ranmithenna Schools received colourful charts and graphs created by HSBC Colombo staff members and their families.
The bank's volunteers usually travel far and wide every year to work on various community projects. Restrictions due to COVID-19 stopped that.
Many thanks to Hambantota International Port Group for transporting them across country too.
January: CIMA Library Renovations
For the fourth year running, we worked with the Colombo-based CIMA Students Society. This year they raised funds to renovate two school libraries at Kawantissapura and Ranminithenna Schools.
Both libraries lacked enough tables, or chairs for the students to sit on. In addition to receiving furniture and books, they're also now getting a regular supply of educational magazines too.