Colombo, 3rd June 2020 – Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company plc and associated Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation initiated the second phase of its Covid response with the presentation of 10,000 testing kits, virus collection swabs and RNA Mini kits at a cost of Rs. 44 Million to Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Pavithra Wanniarachichi. The donation was made by staff and workers of Dilmah. Also present were Health Secretary Dr. S. H. Munasinghe and Dr. Janaka Sri Chandragupta, Additional Secretary, Development.

A minimum 15% of the pretax profits from Dilmah are used to fund the humanitarian work of the MJF Foundation. Settlor Merrill J. Fernando committed Rs. 450mn towards relief and post Covid recovery. The first phase focused on emergency food aid and will continue through medical assistance to entrepreneurship development focusing on green recovery. The handover provided the first of three tranches to enhance Sri Lanka’s current testing capacity. “Thank you to Dilmah and their Foundation for providing these valuable items at the correct time. Today everybody asks for testing…and these will certainly help” stated Secretary Dr. S. H Munasinghe.

Dilmah’s MJF Foundation response to the Covid crisis commenced in the first week of April with dry ration and hygiene pack distribution; by the end of May, over 6,000 families including tea estate and other workers and others in vulnerable communities in Moratuwa, Kalkudah, Valachenai, Point Pedro, and the Dunkeld Estate in Maskeliya.

Other initiatives during the lockdown period included teletherapy and education for over 250 children and youth with disabilities using messaging and communication apps, home school assignments and catch up classes for over 400 children and youth, and the counseling of parents and women affected by the lockdown. Dilmah Conservation launched a virtual campaign to transform household spaces into edible landscapes to support nutrition and food security. Its e-publications on ‘Eco-Friendly Home Gardening’ and a virtual webinar series on edible gardening inspired people restricted to their homes to engage in organic farming.

“One of my proudest moments during the lockdown was to learn that Community Based Organizations and Women’s societies supported by the MJF Foundation united to donate time and resources to sew free masks and Personal Protective Equipment for use by their local Police, clinics and hospitals. It was a wonderful outpouring of support to their communities and country.” said Merrill J. Fernando Chairman and Founder of Dilmah and the MJF Group.

The second phase will support recovery efforts of micro & small agricultural enterprise, the reskilling of youth and adults to increase their earning potential, support to the value addition for agricultural products and the adaptation of therapeutic services for children with disability. This will be followed by a final phase focusing on longer term initiatives aimed towards macro-economic, social and environmental impact. “We need to address the persistent problems of inequality and Climate Change as we cope with Covid - a Green recovery is the best option for Sri Lanka as it addresses both,” said Dilhan C. Fernando – CEO of Dilmah. “With over 70% of Sri Lanka’s employment tied to Small and Medium Enterprises, and the potential in our agricultural produce, we need to support rural, agriculture and cottage industries for effective social and economic recovery,” he continued.

Speaking after the handover, representatives from the Production and Engineering teams at Dilmah Tharanga Indunil and H.M. Gayani Priyangika “We were so happy and proud to represent Dilmah at today’s presentation. We had every faith that our Chairman would respond in an appropriate manner ”.

Procurement of the items was facilitated by Rotary International as part of their support to Sri Lanka’s Covid response. The MJF Foundation and Dilmah Conservation will dedicate a total budget of Rs. 450 Million for the 2020 -2021 financial year with all existing programmes realigned to serve the current and long-term needs of communities and families affected by the global Covid lockdown and ensuing economic downturn.

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