This month marks the official launch of our joint Women of Tea programme with The Republic of Tea (TRoT) in Sri Lanka, which focuses on improving nutrition amongst tea communities in Sri Lanka. The programme will equip tea estate residents with knowledge, skills, and tools to strengthen their understanding on food nutrition, healthy diets, and food preparation; good sanitation and hygiene; and household budgeting. Dushy Perera, ETP’s Programme Manager for Sri Lanka, was in San Francisco for the launch. Here he gives first hand insight into the Women of Tea programme and TROT’s visit to Sri Lanka earlier this year…
In August 2017, the Sri Lankan tea industry celebrated 150 years of tea production by hosting an International Tea Convention in Colombo. At the same time, ETP member The Republic of Tea (TRoT), were celebrating their silver anniversary (25 years) by bringing a team of their staff to visit tea communities in the hills of Nuwara Eliya and Badulla districts of central Sri Lanka, where they are funding a project to improve the nutritional status of over 11,000 women, men, and children.
At the start of the project, I was delighted to host the TRoT team including their Minister of Evolution Todd Rubin to launch the programme locally alongside ETP colleagues from the UK. Our partner on the ground is an expert and grassroots NGO called the PALM Foundation who are based in Nuwara Eliya.
We held a local ceremony, which involved lighting a traditional oil lamp and cutting local milk rice, as a way of symbolising the success of the venture. After this, we set out on a field visit to witness first-hand how the programme will help people working in tea communities.
On our visit to one tea estate the programme is working with we met Dharshani. Both of Dharshani’s parents live and work on the estate. Dharshani received a good education and is the personal assistant to the Manager of the tea estate where she lives.
As part of her role, Dharshani is supporting the ETP-TRoT programme, directly liaising with the PALM Foundation. Ultimately, her work will help ensure that women and men understand the importance of good nutrition and hygiene, and are able to deliver it at home. It’s clear that Dharshani is committed to the programme and is excited to be helping the children who live on the estate where she grew up. When asked about her plans for the future Dharshani responds, “I want to stay here with the children and help them to become even better than me, so that their futures are even brighter.”
In total, six tea estates have been selected to take part in the project, which will help change the lives of thousands of people. It’s great to have local people like Dharshani supporting the project because they are hugely dedicated and passionate about improving conditions for tea estate communities, of which they’re a part of.
In conclusion, I am humbled by the field visit and the people we met along the way. Without the support of Kristina Richens (TRoT’s Minister of Commerce) none of this would have been possible and I am honoured by her words on her return home, “The TRoT team are all back to work now; feeling like Sri Lanka was a distant dream. The trip exceeded my expectations and provided life changing experiences for all of us.”
On that note, I look forward to sharing more about the successes, challenges, and changes we see from the programme throughout the year.