Johnson Matthey PLC (London) is one of the main benefactors of the children supported by UKFG. Immediately after the Tsunami, the company offered 30 Tsunami
refugee children scholarships . They have continuously sponsored the same number of children over the last eleven years. Two of the children they sponsored are now undergraduates and Gihari Kusumini Epage gained one of the highest O Level results in the country in 2015 and went on to pass her A levels to gain entry to University. Moreover, on several occasions over the last ten years, Johnson Matthey have contributed towards funds to buy shoes and books for Ullala and Ratanapala Schools.
Neil Carson the CEO at Johnson Matthey until 2015 generously used his personal funds to build and donate two brand new libraries with thousands new books to Ullala Maha Vidayalaya and Rathanpala Maha Vidayalaya at Kamburupitiya.
Ellie Davison (Group Charity and Communications Manager at JM) was on holiday in Srilanka in October 2015. Hearing about her stay, Mr Sirisena Gamage invited Ellie to visit the schools the company supported to see for herself the difference the company funds made to the education of the children.
On the of 3rd November 2015 Ellie Davison -accompanied by Mr Sirisena Gamage, his son Didul and Devsiri’s cousin Ananda Hewavidana -visited Thumbe Ratanapala and Ulllal aschools. It was a whistle stop tour but the time spent was enough to see how their funds benefit the children. All three schools gave her a tremendous welcome. Ms Davison was garlanded and taken to school in a colourful parade. All three schools had a special assembly which the staff had organised to greet their distinguish visitors . Traditional songs were sung and beautiful cultural dances were performed by the students. The school principal, Ms Davidson and Mr Gamage made speeches at all three schools.
Ellie Davison presented seven children who passed Grade 5 Scholarships in three schools with a valuable bundle of stationery each donated by Devsiri’s family as well as her own gifts All other students were given the ball point pens she had brought from home .
Here is what Ellie had to say about this special day she spent at Kamburupitiya – a rural village far away from the usual tourist spots:
A wonderful opportunity to see our giving in action
By Ellie Davison, Johnson Matthey Group Communications Manager
Since joining specialist chemicals company Johnson Matthey in 2014 I have been responsible for managing our community investment budget, which includes donations to several schools through the United Kingdom Friends of Galle (UKFG). founded by Devsiri Hewavidana at Ashford Kent. Our relationship with the UKFG has been in place for more than 11 years, and began after the devastating tsunami of 2004 which took almost 36000 lives in Sri Lanka alone.
I visited Sri Lanka on holiday in November 2015 and took the opportunity to see how our funding was being invested and how it was having a positive impact on the schools and students.
I asked – at quite late notice, I admit – to visit to one of the schools to see what had happened so far and to find out how we might be able to increase our involvement in the future. Mr Sirisena Gamage, the founder of the UKFG and his son Ruvini quickly Didul Gamage organised a visit to three schools for me. To make it to all the sites a 5:00am start was necessary – so much for being on holiday – but boy was it worth it!
The visit really showed me how rural schools in Sri Lanka operate with very little money indeed, but an awful lot of creativity.
I had asked for a ‘low key’ visit, but I think our ideas of ‘low key’ were quite different! I was greeted at the first school, Thumbe, by dozens of smiling children. The Thumbe school is lovely and well maintained if a little lacking in resources, but that didn’t stop the children, who had created instruments from old water bottles filled with pebbles as maracas, to coconut shells they banged together as cymbals.
Each school treated me to music and dance performances and several talented students made presentations in impressive English. At each of the schools I was also honoured to make presentations to students that had recently completed their 11+ exams with excellent results : an achievement that simply wouldn’t be possible without the work of UKFG.
This was followed by a delicious Sri Lankan feast which featured many local treats together with sweet ginger tea. This epic event was attended by Mr. Gamage, the principal, teachers, and at one of the schools it seemed the whole village had turned out to greet me.
I was completely overwhelmed by everyone’s warmth and kindness and the amount of work that went into putting together our very special day. It was so much more than I could ever have expected. To everyone who helped us organise the trip, who performed, showed me around, fed me such wonderful food and made me feel so welcome, thank you! It was the best experience of my trip and something I’ll never forget.
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