We're still catching up! Here's November's edition 🦩
Another Roller Coaster - November 2019
‘Stability’ and ‘business as usual’ are not concepts generally realised in Mannar. Just when working arrangements seemed on an even keel and the women finding their feet in Café Arokkiya’s food and beverage business, the ship struck disaster. The kitchen manager and three of her staff resigned en masse on a Friday evening, giving no notice and not considering our need to open the café on the weekend. The reasons for the abrupt departure? … our raising of issues over purchasing inefficiencies which adversely impacted their salaries, cleanliness of the kitchen and food vanishing from the café. After journeying with these women for a year this was devastating news for us. Overnight, Rojan, Bridging Lanka’s manager, recruited new women who commenced work the next morning. However, we were left with heavy hearts.
Shihan Maharoof, former head prefect at Trinity College, Kandy, temporarily joined the Bridging Lanka staff team while waiting for his final exam results. Shihan led a business training session for Sebamalai, the café manager, on how to undertake a SWOT analysis (internal Strengths and Weaknesses; external Opportunities and Threats). Following the instruction, Sebamalai then conducted a SWOT analysis session for the other café workers. The result was a number of strategic decisions were made and plans developed to ensure the ongoing success of the café.
Cultural Constraints affect Gender Inclusion
The mixing of food with live music in a public café is still a novelty for local Adampan folk. We’re certain that residents started showing up to Café Arolliya’s Eats & Beats events out of sheer curiosity. For Kavi, the main organiser of these events, the challenge now was to also attract female performers. Many talented female singers, dancers and musicians abound in Mannar but for them to gain parental permission to perform at night in a café proved too much of a stretch. In a conservative area like Mannar a young woman’s honour and reputation are of utmost importance and cannot be compromised. Alas there were no female takers. Nevertheless those who gathered at Café Arokkiya really enjoyed the live music by local male musicians and the tasty morsels prepared by the kitchen staff.
We’re on a roll with our edu-tourism initiative! As in the previous year, Murdoch University’s School of Veterinary Science in Western Australia sent three vet students - Ada Shackleton, Lauren Caspersz and Jessica Stone – to undertake a 10-day veterinary fieldwork placement at Bridging Lanka’s Donkey Clinic & Education Centre (DCEC). These placements are a two-way deal – the students gain valuable hands-on experience in all aspects of equine treatment and care and the DCEC gains a fee that helps with sustaining the donkey welfare and donkey rescue operations in Mannar.
Spreading the Message
Vipula Bandara our organics guru returns to Mannar every few weeks to urge local farmers to go organic and to get them proficient in all its aspects. Theory and practice sessions in organic cultivation are now occurring at four locations in Mannar District – Kunchukulam (Madhu Division), Murunkan (Nanattan Division), Adampan (Manthai West Division) and Thailankudiyiruppu (Mannar Division). In the future an organic outpost is planned for the outstanding Musali Division. Here at the DCEC in Thailankudiyiruppu, apart from the standard composting method, three varieties of liquid fertiliser are being trialled in barrels with varying quantities of cow and donkey dung and plant matter. Samples of the three are now being tested in a lab to determine which ratio gives optimal results.
Out of great concern for the legion of mangy street dogs in Mannar, Perth-based Animal Aid Abroad asked Bridging Lanka to purchase two acres of land for a clinic and kennels. The land is in close proximity to the DCEC, enabling the sharing of vets and vehicles to catch, sterilise and provide rabies treatment for the burgeoning number of dangerous street dogs. The lengthy search to find an architect who would design the Hendro Animal Rescue Centre, pro bono, finally ended with Mrs Wathmi Fernando agreeing to design the building. Wathmi produced a visionary design that met instant approval. We are hopeful that construction work will commence in 2020.
Although our Australian government funded project, Towards Religious Harmony, has been in motion since the beginning of 2019, hiccups in the approval process to work in Kandy District has cast a shadow over this important work. The young Muslims from the Digana area continue to meet weekly as Youth Nation (Kandy) and are supported by monthly visits by Bridging Lanka staff. A major plan is to rent out a space as a drop in centre from which a range of activities would be run to attract young people from diverse faith traditions - language tuition classes in which Tamils practise Sinhala and Sinhalese practise Tamil, sports tournaments with mixed teams, an awareness program to address the serious local drug situation, how to resist social media manipulation, fundraising for a pool table, installation of gym equipment for a ‘cut body’ and a musical concert.
A Bright Year Ahead
A social highlight in November was the celebration of Kavi’s 19th birthday at Hotel Ahash. Since joining the Bridging Lanka team in late August, Kavi has been an inspiration to us all. He is quick to learn, demonstrates unusual commitment to the tasks he takes on, demonstrates a deep love and care for his friends and his soulful singing melts the hardest of hearts. Many happy returns of the day, Kavi.
Bridging Lanka is a public benevolent institution (PBI) with Charity status with the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission, Deductible Gift Recipient status and Charity Tax Concession status with the Australian Taxation Office. All donations are tax deductible.