This educational funding programme
was conceived by the Southern Tsunami Trust (STT), a charitable body established to help Sri Lankans affected by the tsunami. The core group of trustees include Dr Sujeewa Amarasena – Head of Pediatrics at Ruhunnu Hospital; Professor S Mendis - former Dean of Ruhunnu University, Medical Faculty; Father Patrick Fernando; as well as other members of the clergy and local community.

The Sponsor-a-Child scheme is a long term (initially 3 years) project aiming to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance for self-betterment through education. Whilst education is provided free by the state, children often cannot afford basic essentials such as transport to and from school; books and stationary; clothes; sporting goods; even food.

Each month the children in the programme, currently 200, receive a cash sum direct into a bank current account held in their own name. Immediately a portion is transferred into a savings account that will be accumulate for the full 3 years. The funds held in the current can be withdrawn by the children to use at their discretion for ways to help them perform at school.

Each child is allotted a programme monitor with whom they meet monthly. At these private monthly meetings the monitor seeks confirmation of the expenditure as well as school reports (ensuring the children are attending school) and can begin to build a profile of the child and the family home environment.

This monthly meeting, and the professional manner in which it is conducted, has identified situations of alcohol or substance abuse by a parent / guardian allowing help to be brought to that individual and in so doing further improving the chances of the child.

Dr Sujeewa Amarasena describes how free education has been the biggest factor behind poverty reduction in post-Independence Sri Lanka. By providing financial assistance to help children’s educational and other needs, the aim is to reduce financial stress in low-income families and ensure that they become good, functional family units. Apart from being tsunami-affected, all of the selected children are from the low-income population with parents generally from the informal employment sector with many who didn’t receive much education themselves.

The STT has also established a centre in Katugoda where parents visit monthly for discussions about the child’s progress. This centre also serves a valuable purpose for the wider community, acting both as a community centre where people can come to read newspapers and as a learning centre giving computer and English classes. There is also a playground for any children from the community.

Our funding at present covers the scholarships for the 200 children as well as admin, staff and other costs of the centre and the programme. Over the coming months this will be reduced to cover only the scholarship costs, as the STT raises independent funds. Our intention is to back these children, and others who may be enrolled in the programme, as far as they want to take their education, including to university.


Other projects with the STT

Friends of the South has been involved with several projects managed by the STT offering financial support where appropriate in line with our own mission statement.


Further to the Sponsor-a-Child project, we have also contributed to a variety of projects presented to us by the STT. These include:


- The entire set up and running costs for the Community Centre outlined left and provision of computers to enable them to offer tuition classes at the Centre.


- Re-equipping damaged homes with essential household items


- Providing clothing to school children


- A variety of livelihood projects


…and many other ad hoc requests.


We look forward to continuing our work with STT in 2006.