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‘ Village Heartbeat’ – a worthy project

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 21 July 2018 00:00

By D.C. Ranatunga

Intrigued by a name board with ‘Gemi Hada Gesma Vyapruthiya’ in Sinhala on top, I soon looked at the name below in English. It said ‘Village Heartbeat Project’. Is it a medical clinic, I wondered. It didn’t take long for me to realise it is a project of the renowned Foundation of Goodness with the name right at the bottom.

This is one of 10 Village Heartbeat Empowerment (VHE) Centres set up by the Foundation in remote areas where there is lot of poverty, and employment and other facilities for the local population are scarce. The target groups are mainly children of about six years of age going up to 16, youth, and females interested in learning a vocation that will help to earn a regular income. There is no age barrier for them.

English lessons are held for the children after school on weekdays and during the weekend. Another priority area is IT training. Other programmes include life skills and values, educational subjects, vocational training and sports to help them make better progress, in a bid to overcome the disparity between the urban and rural communities.

For the females, while vocational training is planned through the Foundation’s Women›s Enterprise and Empowerment course, other programmes are also arranged to suit their needs. “We sometimes tailor-make our programmes and special workshops are held to meet the needs and requests by the locals. We have had some very interesting courses and activities because of this,” a spokesman of the Foundation said. 

He gave a few examples. The Monaragala VHE students had shown a keen interest and aptitude for robotics. A number of workshops had been organised on the subject at the centre the children had even travelled to Colombo to take part in robotics exhibitions.

At the Oddusuddan VHE Centre in Mullaitivu, due to popular demand, classes had been held on CCTV installation and mobile phone repair and maintenance. Two females who had completed the CCTV installation class had set up their own businesses.

“This is a good example where they are prepared to move away from conventional views, especially about gender roles. We are delighted to see them challenging these ideas and setting strong examples for other women and girls,” the spokesman added.

All the Centres have sector coordinators who overlook the programmes and monitor the activities. The teachers are recruited locally through an interview process.

With the opening of the 10th Centre at Bindunuwewa in Bandarawela District recently, the Foundation extended the operation to the country’s Central region. Earlier, Centres had been opened in the south, east and north. These are at Gandara (Matara District), Udumulla and Ratgama (Galle District),   Hingurukaduwa (Moneragala District), Eravur (Batticaloa District), Tirukkovil (Ampara District), Mathagal (Jaffna District), Oddusuddan (Mullaitivu District) and Murukandy (Kilinochchi District). 

There are an estimated 7,500 beneficiaries from 130+ villages every month from the ten VHE Centres. Fifteen more Centres are to be set up in the coming months.  

Private sector support

The Foundation feels that the programme gives an ideal opportunity for the private sector to lend their hand towards a worthy cause. It’s heartening to hear that a tea estate company is now talking to the Foundation to put up a Centre in Dickoya. A few more will ease the burden of the Foundation in looking for resources to complete their target.

The Foundation is grateful to several individuals who had been helping them in numerous ways. It thanks the Wijesuriya Family from UK who gifted ‘Farleigh’, their beautiful ancestral property as the location to establish the Bindunuwewa Centre in Bandarawela, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Mohan and Geetha Chandramohan from US, the development sponsors for a period of five years, helping to deliver the valuable services which will help uplift the surrounding under-served communities. 

The Bindunuwewa Centre was opened by renowned Sri Lankan cricketer, Sidath Wettimuny. 

The good work done by the Goodness Foundation silently is helping at least 15,000 beneficiaries from 300+ villages monthly, free of cost.

In recognition of the Foundation’s community work towards alleviating poverty, its founder Kushil Gunasekera was among the 53 Commonwealth inspirational volunteers this year to be awarded the prestigious ‘Points of Light’ by the Head of the Commonwealth, the Queen, for “the difference they are making in their communities and beyond”.

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