On Dilmah Tea Gardens, workers and their families benefit from hospitals and medical facilities provided or enhanced by the Foundation. Development of crèches, establishment of a specialised Eyecare Hospital in Pelmadulla and provision of clean drinking water to 1600 families in the Kahawatte Estate are among the ongoing programmes of the Foundation.

Settlor of the Foundation, Merrill J. Fernando set out to change the world of tea as a young man, with a big vision, a small team and few resources. That was where the spirit of the Foundation was born, for as the team worked together and shared a common vision, they became one family. The help Merrill could provide at that stage was small – school uniforms and books for the children of the poorer members of the team mainly. That family and that philosophy today extends to over 1,000 people in MJF Group facilities in Colombo, and over 30,000 people on Tea Gardens owned or part owned by Dilmah.

The Foundation has an ongoing programme for the development of creches, for parents – estate workers mostly – to leave their children in a comfortable and educational environment – while they go about their daily work. In 2006, 63 creches will be upgraded to Model Creche level; the programme includes improvement of infrastructure related to the creches, provision of play and educational equipment and materials, teacher training and nutritional assistance for children.

Assistance to tea estate workers and their families as well as retired workers additionally includes the construction and equipment of Houpe Estate hospital which has a specialised maternity facility intended to reduce infant mortality in the area. The programme will extend to the establishment of the specialised Eyecare Hospital in Pelmadulla in 2007. Foundation hospitals provide medication free to estate workers and to villagers who use the facility.

In the area of education, children of estate workers can apply for scholarships to the Foundation to pursue University level education. The Foundation’s Empathy Fund additionally cares for the education and basic living expenses of 80 children of workers who are orphans or have only one living parent. The Empathy Fund also provides assistance to extremely deprived people from any rural community. As an example, the Fund is providing for the education of two estate children orphaned in 2006 by the death of their mother.

The Foundation has embarked on a programme to provide access to clean drinking water for 1,600 workers families on Kahawatte Estates. This is a major infrastructure development project aimed at enhancing the lives of the beneficiaries who currently walk long distances for water or use poor quality water sources. In an attempt to further enhance living standards for tea estate workers, the Foundation is providing training on Household Cash Management and Health education aimed at the reduction of alcohol and tobacco use.

Retired estate workers are a very vulnerable group, often having difficult lives at the end of a lifetime of hard work. The Foundation provides midday meals to eligible retired workers and also to almost 1,500 pre school children. Nutrition amongst children is especially important in their early years for physical and mental development.

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