August- Kemith's IT Donation

We would like to extend a big thank you to US high school student Kemith Perera who decided to raise some funds for Sri Lanka after hearing about the country’s difficulties earlier this year through a contact of MCTC manager, Tharindu.

Kemith is passionate about computer sciences and hopes to study the subject at university. The US$1,325, which he persuaded friends and family to donate through a GoFundMe page, will make a huge difference to our ability to continue giving rural students access to IT and the kind of opportunities that their parents did not enjoy.

The Perera family came over from Pennsylvania to visit the MCTC in August – father Kanchana, who also works in IT, mother Uthpala and cousin Shanmi.

Tharindu organized a special seminar, during which Kanchana recalled how he and Uthpala had grown up in Sri Lanka before emigrating to the US. Kanchana not only explained how his own life opportunities had been transformed, but also promised to help other students to understand and achieve theirs.

The family discussed the importance of IT and English for modern office life, before conducting a practical English session. They then went to visit Asangala Temple where we were able to establish a lab for young students thanks to a donation from HSBC.

Before they left, the family also donated the funds for a laptop, which will help us to provide IT services while on the move to other schools. This kind of equipment is beyond the means of even middle class Sri Lankans right now, costing the equivalent of about three to four months salary. So it was most welcome.

July - Food Relief

The situation in Sri Lanka deteriorated rapidly in June, as the economy ground to a standstill and inflation topped 50%.

The lack of fuel means that farmers can no longer operate the machinery to tend to their crops. So families are now struggling to even source local vegetables to eat.

We have been trying to help where we can. Pictured is Nandawathi, the mother of one of our former sponsorship students receiving a food package. She lives alone and is unable to work because of various health issues so has been finding the current situation especially tough.

May - Tharushika Joins Sumudu Pre-School

The pre-school got a new teaching assistant in May after Tharushika joined Miss Sunethara, the main teacher.

Tharushika comes from the Thanamalwila area where the school is situated and had been living in Colombo until the country's the economic crisis.

After leaving school with her A-levels in 2016, Tharushika studied to be an accounting technician and her long-term ambition is to find a job overseas.

Her sponsorship is thanks to Cate Thomas, her partner, Ron Sidell, and brother, John Skutsch who orginally built the Montessori school in 2010.

May - MCTC IT Careers Seminar

A big thanks to Nandun Chathuranga for coming to the MCTC for a special careers seminar. Nandun is a local boy from Tissa who has just graduated with a Higher National Diploma in electrical and electronic engineering from college in Colombo.

He came and talked to the students about the many different types of IT jobs they could aspire to such as data entry, graphic design and online tutoring.

We wanted to hold a session as most MCTC students start with very little IT experience and focused on the traditional jobs they see in their community such as teaching, or working in a bank.

April - Water Filter for Nadigamwila School

Thanks to a request from Jaya and Teddy, Nadigamwila School got a water filter from the University of Moratuwa's Leo club at the end of April.

The filter will allow the students to drink fresh water, which is very important in this area of Sri Lanka as there are large incidences of kidney stones due to the local water.

As part of the donation, the school will send a progress report to the university.

April - Community Class 69 Starts

The end of the Sinhalese New Year holiday saw us launch our latest community class studying the Microsoft Certificate Course.

The class runs every Sunday morning from 9am to 11.30am.

The first module called Introduction to Computing is being taught by Nuwan.

Most of the students are A-level leavers.

April - Kids' Class 10 and 11 Start

We were able to launch a new kid's class for grade three children at the end of March. Demand was much stronger than pre-pandemic, a good indication that children and their parents are keen to make up for lost time.

We ended up with too many students for one class, so we have now split the group into two classes running after school every Wednesday and Friday from 2.30pm and 4.30pm.

As before, Nimeshika is teaching the class with Teddy helping as a demonstrator and they plant to continue even when there are power outages.

March - Classes Continue Amid Power Outages

The MCTC team are working hard to keep the centre open despite power cuts.

These are affecting the whole country because of an escalating foreign exchange crisis, which means that the government does not have enough hard currency to import fuel.

However, it the power is off, then we continue classes teaching theory instead.

Here Nuwan is showing students from Grade 7 at Mahasenpura School how to create a basic flow chart.

March - Finding Jobs for MCTC Students

Many of our MCTC students come to the centre to study in the months they have off between O-levels and A-levels, or A-levels and university.

But quite a few decide they would like to get a job at the end of their course and we always try to help them find the right openings with local companies and/or organise internships so they can gain some work experience.

Pictured are Dulakshi (top) and Chamudi (bottom) who both completed our three-month Microsoft Certficate Course.

MCTC Manager Tharindu and Deputy Manager Nuwan have been able to find them both jobs with Tissa-based LHG Marketing.

They have put their Excel skills to good use there preparing invoices and customer payment lists.

Both Dulakshi and Chamudi come from families that do not have IT access.

Their fathers are farmers and their mothers are housewives so they are the first generation using IT and working in an office.

When she is not at work, Dulakshi likes to relax by reading. Her favourite school subject was maths.

Chamudi likes to dance.

February - Asangala Temple Classes Begin

The first proper classes at Asanagala Shri Abhinawaramaya Temple in Ranminithenna village began in earnest this February.

We set up the lab in late 2020, but Sri Lanka's spreading Covid outbreak meant that it was closed for the whole of 2021.

It was wonderful to finally start up classes for rural children living near the temple.

The class will take place every Sunday from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.

The first one also benefited from the help of two volunteers- Renata Feherova and Rebecca Purchon - who were on holiday in Tissa and asked if they could come and do some voluntary work.

They showed the nine students (across grades seven, eight, nine and ten) how to create and save a Word document, then how to change a font's style and size.

In future, the classes will be run by two local volunteers.

One is Prasad Janaka, who works at Hambantota General Hospital. The other is Prasad Jeewantha, a local farmer who was one of the first students to ever study computing when we opened the Mahasenpura Community Training Centre (MCTC) in 2007.

We were able to set up this lab thanks to a donation from HSBC and a local conservation NGO called Save Yala.

The bank recycled five used computers from its Colombo HQ, while the charity provided all the furniture.

January - Teacher Training

New School Year: new series of teacher training.

The government hopes to make the whole Sri Lanka school curriculum far more IT oriented in 2023.

However, most teachers (except for the IT teachers) often have very little computer knowledge because they didn't learn it at school and cannot afford a computer at home.

So we're starting to train the Mahasenpura School teachers in batches, beginning with those in the primary school.

January - Sumudu Pre-School Re-opens

After a long enforced Covid hiatus, Sumudu Pre-school was able to re-open in January.

There were eight new students and seven existing students in the class, overseen by the lead teacher, Miss Sunethara and her assistant Miss Chamodi.

Once again, the class has been made possible thanks to its sponsorship by Cate Thomas, her partner, Ron Sidell, and brother, John Skutsch. They orginally built the Montessori school in 2010.

January - Community Class 68 Starts

After nearly a year of severe disruption, we have been able to re-start our community classes in person again.

The first new class is for post O-level leavers, who are about to start their A-levels.

It is being held every Thursday and will run for three months covering the Microsoft Office syllabus.