Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Limited (CCBSL) continued their noble undertaking entitled the ‘Say We Care’ programme with the vigorous task of uplifting the standards of Yabaraluwa Vidyalaya in Malwana. This gracious move, which is a CSR initiative taken by the Coca-Cola employees themselves, has been very warmly received by the local village surrounding the school.
The school, which is about one kilometer away from the Coca-Cola plant, is the fundamental source of education for over one-hundred children. It also serves as a very important location to the surrounding houses, as the premises are used as accommodation for the village during floods and other natural disasters. Sadly, the infrastructure of the school was under-developed for many years, and had been destroyed by the current weather conditions and over-usage. However, this is a situation that CCBSL quickly rectified. Under the motto “Say we care to brighten a soul”, the Coca-Cola employees changed the lives of the students in the most positive manner possible.
The ‘Say We Care’ team uplifted the school in terms of infrastructure and technology. Firstly, the ‘Say We Care’ team renovated several aspects of the school. Extensive plans were laid out to develop the entrance to the school. An entire wing of classrooms has being completely renovated by Coca-Cola under this project as well, which took care of practically everything that needs to be upgraded be it the window grills in the classrooms, the walls, fences, sanitary facilities, etc.
Apart from the general renovation of infrastructure in the school, the ‘Say We Care’ programme also installed a brand new computer room for the students, complete with several computers and furniture already donated to the school via this programme.
The most admirable trait about the ‘Say We Care’ programme is that it rightly recognizes the vital role that education plays in the lives of children, and hence in the future of the country. This is solidified by the fact that the members of this initiative have personally signed up as volunteers and will take turns to teach the students themselves, as part of the technology training sessions. These sessions were kicked off by the Information Systems staff of Coca-Cola. After the initial session, the rest of the company staff will use their expertise to teach the students important computer skills using interactive methods. This personal involvement that this programme entails not only gives it that all-important human touch, but as a member of the Say We Care team puts it, “This project is not just about handing over money to a school for its development, but it also gives us a sense of personal responsibility towards the students. Volunteering to teach them IT skills might take up some of our time, but its time well spent and gives us such a sense of fulfillment.”
The project also takes into account creating a healthy environment for the children that is conducive to learning. Focusing not only on the academic side of the project, recreational activities were also addressed, with the play area up for refurbishment and further development as well.
E.M.P.K Gunarathne, Principal, Yabaraluwa Vidyalaya observed that “This is an extremely commendable initiative on the company’s behalf. This school was on the verge of being shut down due to lack of resources and poor infrastructure. Even though many companies were aware of the problem, only Coca-Cola came forward to help the school. The interest that the company has shown in making this school a better place is truly amazing. The Coca-Cola staff has been very selfless and has approached this project with a lot of energy. I hope our students realise how lucky they are thanks to this special opportunity Coca-Cola has given them.”
Patrick Pech, Country Manager, Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Limited commenting about the ‘Say We Care’ project says, “In every country that we operate, it is very important for us to make sure that connect with and become a part of the local community. The sustainability of this project is very important to us. We ensure that the team members will personally conduct computer lectures in the school. The programme is designed in such a way that we will be making monthly visits to the school to make sure that everything is flowing smoothly. It is also a very flexible system, and we will continue to assist the school in whatever way possible. Our employees are very aware of the needs of these children. I am proud of the way this entire initiative was spearheaded by our employees.
It is very gratifying to know that they live our values both within and outside the company.”
In an age where other large multi-national companies seldom give back to the community, Coca-Cola’s dedication to the local community, the education of the children and in turn to the future of the country is praiseworthy. The smile on the faces of the students of Yabaraluwa Vidyalaya is proof enough that the company truly believes in opening happiness.