Our nation is currently facing one of the worst periods of crisis in its history. Crippling inflation, a lack of fuel and a looming food shortage are included in the long list of unfortunate circumstances that we as a people are currently enduring. In light of this Sri Lanka Unites, The Foundation of Goodness and Leads have come together to launch a collective response to this crisis.
Established in 1999 the Foundation of Goodness and has worked extensively to bridge the urban-rural divide in Sri Lanka by way of a holistic rural development model, along with special projects targeted towards responding to crisis situations arising in Sri Lanka, starting with the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. In 2021, they reached 68,000+ beneficiaries. The Foundation of Goodness currently has special projects in place to help Sri Lankans gain access to food, medicine and education during the ongoing economic crisis. Swanthri Jayawardena from FoG brought to the fore 3 crisis response projects including the ‘Feed the Hungry’ programme through which so far 30,000 Sri Lankans have received ration packs, the ‘Medical Supplies’ programme which has so far provided 33 million rupees worth of medicine to over 53,000 patients in 16 hospitals, and the ‘School Supplies’ programme through which 4000 mobile data connections to students who are struggling to study during this time as well as the distributions of school bags, books and stationary to 7500 students. Ms Jayawardena also stated that Sri Lanka has been proven to be the 5th ‘Most Giving’ nation in the world and the act of giving and helping would be the key to responding to this crisis which will go hand in hand with organisations like FoG, Leads an SLU as continue to facilitate these generous actions.
LEADS’ main target group is vulnerable children and families across Sri Lanka. It’s emergency relief prioritizes lifesaving and targeted life-sustaining activities in vulnerable groups including children. Mr Jude Perera from LEADS stated that the current crisis response efforts of the organisation includes food provision to 7026 households in 13 districts, food voucher assistance for CDCs in 8 districts and works as the implementing agency (with Save the Children as the lead agency) in providing multi-purpose cash grants to 17,250 households. Additionally, Leads has initiated a school feeding programme in two schools as well as a community kitchen in Dehiwala. The organization also works to protect, prevent and mitigate risks to children’s mental and emotional well-being and provides basic MHPSS training to 400 health workers, and provides targeted MHPSSM to vulnerable children and adolescents. Finally, Leads also currently provides livelihood support to 90 persons with disabilities in the Nuwara Eliya District. Their current emergency relief update reports the provision of food vouchers worth Rs. 10,000 to 1968 households in 9 districts.
Sri Lanka Unites recently conducted their annual peace tour across the nation in an effort to spread the message of peace, unity, equal opportunity, and justice. It is a truth to say that every annual tour has been special in its own way, and this year far more so. Sri Lanka has been shaken to her core with so many challenges, while it is easy to lose hope, this year especially Sri Lanka Unites set out with a determination to revive hope and to set the pathways for a better tomorrow.
Given the current crisis faced by Sri Lanka, the goal was to solve problems of Sri Lanka with the foundation of peace and unity. The focus of Sri Lanka Unites has always primarily been to create platforms and raise up young leaders to take up the baton in leading through multiple avenues that’ll raise the standards of this country. This year the program was launched through a new face called the ‘Accelerator’ and a new database of 78 young entrepreneurs across multiple sectors were identified through the tour. Sri Lanka Unites continues to encourage any young visionaries especially interested in the export sector to join this movement and are currently looking for 30-50 investors to fund the visions of the young entrepreneurs. Official registrations are set to commence this September, with opportunities open now for information to be sent across , all this is open to Sri Lanka’s young leaders through their socials.
To further help address the issue of Sri Lanka’s humanitarian crisis especially when it comes to the upcoming food shortages. 20 acres of farming land that had been neglected was identified, and for every acre an investment of 100,000 Sri Lankan Rupees is underway, to prepare the land to help farmers and youths progress and lead in farming and cultivation as a means of combating a food crisis.
Taking it a step further the Sri Lanka Unites Kids Department was formed with the objective of nurturing ‘Peace agents’ within an inclusive generation and to cultivate their bold ideas and innovations that will create a just and thriving country. To further support education of the younger generations of Sri Lanka, a scholarship has been set up where 300 university students without any government aid will be provided with 5,000 Sri Lanka Rupees a month. Education is a powerful tool to equip the generations to come with, and Sri Lanka Unites is making every effort to champion supporting children and youths in their pursuit of education.
Vishni Vincent, the Co-national director of Sri Lanka Unites brought to light another great initiative, the distribution of dry ration packs to families in need in partnership with Keells. SLU has helped over 3000 families with dry rations so far and collectively over 12000 families have benefited through the Keells project as a whole. Keeping in line with the goal of supporting younger generations, the SLU team is also creating a database of 500 young children who are struggling to get basic nutritious meals. Through a study conducted by Save the Children with support of SLU, FISD and NCP (who gathered data throughout the island), it was found that 80% of households had adjusted their meal frequency or types of meals where Education and food were the top two priorities. To address this Sri Lanka Unites has created an avenue to provide nutritional packs for families with children under 5 who are currently at risk of malnourishment. Additionally, Sri Lanka Unites has released a link to a multi-purpose form through which families that need support can be entered and identified as well as those who can help and volunteers that can continue to gather data from every corner of the country.
Finally SLU is launching a new initiative, www.grassrootsunites.lk where you can find information on humanitarian response initiatives throughout the country and get involved. It’s an easy avenue, ‘an Uber for crisis response’ as stated by Prashan Devisser, the president and founder of Sri Lanka Unites and Global Unites. This website will help anyone find a way to help and use each person’s unique skills in some way through the response effort. Www.grassrootsunites.lk will accelerate the rate at which aid reaches those in need as its convenience means that those who want to help can get connected to an initiative immediately. The research, the background check and a description of the initiatives can all be found in one place. Moreover, through this website, the international Sri Lankan community and non-Sri Lankan communities also have an easy access pathway to join hands with the efforts within the country to respond to the current crisis.
In times like this where the old methods of leadership have proved a failure, it’s important that all Sri Lankans band together to focus ourselves on what we can each do to help each other out of this crisis, despite what our leaders do. It’s time for an overwhelming response to this crisis that we all face and support grassroots humanitarian initiatives in order to help and heal Sri Lanka. How we respond and the way in which we join together will determine how bright the future will be for all Sri Lankans.