The John Keells Group commemorated World AIDS day falling on 1 December 2012 with an unprecedented week-long series of activities.
The AIDS Week Calendar of John Keells Foundation – the Group’s CSR arm – commenced with the message to mark World AIDS Day by Susantha Ratnayake, Chairman, John Keells Group, addressed to all staff and issued on 29 November.
“The primary cause for the spread of HIV and AIDS is ignorance – the way to combat it is through awareness and education,” said Ratnayake. “I urge you all to unite with us in working towards eradicating the disease, especially by supporting John Keells Foundation and the HIV and AIDS Workplace Committees in their initiatives in raising awareness within and outside the workplace… Through this collective effort, I am sure we will be able to make a significant contribution to combating the spread of this disease in Sri Lanka.”
The John Keells Group has a seven-year history of commitment to combating the spread of HIV and AIDS through awareness raising. Since the launch of the John Keells HIV and AIDS Awareness Campaign in 2005, the Group has educated to date a total of 48,403 persons both within and outside the workplace.
From the establishment of its Group-wide workplace policy on HIV and AIDS and the extensive awareness raising campaign both within and outside the workplace to its active membership status on the Steering Committee of Lanka Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS, John Keells continues to lead the corporate drive against HIV and AIDS.
The commemorative activities to mark World AIDS Day included various Group-wide activities such as awareness sessions, poster and video campaigns, pinning of the ‘red ribbon’ on the management and staff, a digital awareness campaign and a quiz to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS.
A novel feature of this year’s commemorative activities was a free health check organised by John Keells Foundation in collaboration with Asiri Hospital and open to Group employees. 400 staff made use of the opportunity to test their blood sugar, cholesterol, HIV and blood pressure.
Meanwhile, 1 December also marked a significant milestone for the John Keells HIV and AIDS Awareness Campaign in the Maldives when John Keells Foundation was invited to conduct an awareness program for Maldivian nationals in collaboration with John Keells Maldivian Resorts and the National Drug Agency (NDA) of Maldives.
Mayurie De Silva, Project Champion and Master Trainer of the John Keells Group, conducted the program, which was coordinated by Suraj Perera, Assistant Vice President, Head of Operations, Maldivian Resorts. Staff members from many Maldivian Government institutions participated at this session which was very interactive and highly appreciated by the participants.
The event, which was graced by Ilham Hussain, the First Lady of Maldives, Dr. Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed, the Minister of Health, and Madam Uz Lubna Mohomed Zahir Hussain, the Chairperson of NDA, received wide coverage in local media. Another historic event which took place in the Maldives as part of the World AIDS Day activities was the passing of the ‘Red Cushion’ – symbolising awareness on HIV and AIDS – travelling to the Maldives.
The JKH resort, Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa, established the first-ever HIV and AIDS Workplace Committee in the Maldives. The awareness program, which was conducted by the Resort Manager and veteran master trainer Nalinda Liyanage in collaboration with the SHE organisation and the Mullee Regional Hospital of Maldives, was attended by over 100 staff members. Thereafter the SHE organisation conducted a voluntary counselling and free screening service with 36 staff members volunteering for testing during the day itself.
Another significant milestone was recorded with the John Keells HIV and AIDS Awareness Campaign entering the shores of India recently. John Keells BPO Solutions India marked the launch of the Campaign within the organization with a week-long event starting with a ‘red ribbon’ campaign.
A quiz competition and a poster competition on the World Health Organization declared theme ‘Getting to Zero: Zero new infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS related deaths’ were also conducted during the week.
The senior management team pledged their commitment to the initiative and participated in ‘Passing the Red Cushion’ around the organisation. An ‘I Pledge’ banner was put up in the premises with the team members being invited to sign and pledge their support to the initiative. The campaign was a success and witnessed overwhelming participation across the company.
All John Keells Resorts, Cinnamon Lakeside and Cinnamon Grand joined in the AIDS Day activities by pinning red ribbons on their staff and guests and conducting awareness programs on HIV and AIDS. Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts also distributed car stickers among staff as part of their awareness campaign. Meanwhile, the staff at John Keells PLC and Cinnamon Lakeside pledged support for the cause by signing posters.
Several Group companies including NDO Lanka (formerly John Keells Logistics Lanka), Mackinnon American Express Travel Ltd. and Chaaya Blu, Trincomalee hosted poster competitions to mark World AIDS Day, showcasing remarkable creativity of their employees.
Union Assurance PLC, another Group company, conducted a series of awareness sessions in its regional offices in Colombo, Galle and Kurunegala as part of the AIDS Day activities of the Group.
The Group’s most prolific master trainer, Ivan Perera, Security Manager at Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana, conducted multiple awareness sessions during the period for the benefit of staff of the Habara hotels and Cinnamon Citadel as well as for school children, staff, local government officials and community members of Habarana and Palugaswewa and Hikkaduwa, educating a total of 1,075 people. He recently established the record of educating over 20,000 people since 2009, including members of the Sri Lanka Army and Air Force as well as ex-LTTE combatants in rehabilitation camps.
In fact, the active contribution of the employees of the John Keells Group plays a key role in the success of the John Keells HIV and AIDS Awareness Campaign. John Keells master trainers – a dedicated team of volunteers from across the Group who conduct awareness programs on HIV and AIDS awareness campaign – were instrumental in conducting a series of awareness sessions both within and outside the Group during the week. Currently, there are approximately 60 trained master trainers attached to the HIV and Workplace Committees located in businesses across the Group enabling them to reach out to organisations and communities in various parts of the country.
The John Keells Group is committed to contain the spread of HIV to ensure that it remains in its current ‘low prevalence’ status in Sri Lanka in keeping with the National Policy on HIV and AIDS as well as the Millennium Development Goals.
In this respect the Group firmly believes that education is the key to prevention of the spread of HIV and to enable persons living with HIV to continue their livelihoods through an effective HIV and AIDS Workplace Program and Policy. The Group encourages interested organisations to contact John Keells Foundation to hold awareness sessions for the benefit of their members.