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Feeding growing minds in Maa Oya

Chathini Uduwana
Regional Manager Sri Lanka, Typefi

At Typefi, we believe in the importance of doing our bit for others. Every year, our Colombo team works on a Corporate Responsibility Project to give back to the Sri Lankan community—last year we organised and donated school supplies to 55 school children at Weragala Primary School, and this year we decided to support families in another disadvantaged community.

We have the most beautiful and untouched beaches on the East Coast of Sri Lanka. My husband and I visit the East Coast every year as a ritual, taking the opportunity to breathe in the smell of salt, feel fresh sand under our feet, and experience the local food and culture.

It was during these yearly trips we began to notice small children selling things on the roadside, clearly suffering from hunger. There were many primary school age kids in school uniforms, selling fish or vegetables. Sri Lanka has almost a 92% literacy rate, one of the highest in Asia, and it’s even higher in younger demographics.

Two children stand in bare dirt outside a hut in the Sri Lankan village of Maa Oya. The hut has clay walls and a corrugated iron roof that is patched with pieces of fabric and shadecloth.
Children in Maa Oya.

But while education is free, it can be difficult for many to put food on the table to support their children’s physical growth and development.

17.3% of Sri Lanka’s children under five have stunted growth due to factors such as poor nutrition and repeated infections. This can affect their cognitive, language, and sensory-motor abilities as they grow. As we got to know the region, we learned it has the highest level of malnourishment in Sri Lanka.

So, in preparation for heading out to the East Coast this year in November, we planned a charity program with the Typefi team in our Colombo office. We selected 75 families in Maa Oya, a village surrounded by thick forests and huge ancient reservoirs—many over 1000 years old.

Maa Oya depends on agriculture to survive, but it’s a constant battle against nature. In Sri Lanka, wild animals destroy over a third of crops every year, and in Maa Oya, a village surrounded by jungle, this problem is especially prevalent.

In addition to limited water resources, almost every week elephants attack the village to eat the harvest. I met a young woman, no more than 27 years old, with two small children, whose husband had been permanently paralysed in an elephant attack.

For many of these families, they place their hope in their children. They do their best to provide them with a good education, so they are prepared for their future. At Typefi, we wanted to do as much as we could to help them succeed.

The Typefi team really pulled together, preparing a bag of dry rations for everyone. These rations can be invaluable to communities like Maa Oya to help increase nutrition and feed the growing minds of school children. We included items like rice, wheat flour, dhal, sugar, canned fish, noodles, tea, coffee, and milk powder. We also managed to donate school supplies, clothes and sanitary items for each family as well.

The village was delighted to accept the dry rations, especially the wheat, flour, and milk. We were also able to cover the lists of books the children required for their upcoming school term.

Sitting with these families, talking with them, and listening to the hardship they experience every day was an emotional experience for all of us. Between us and the villagers, there was hardly a dry eye in the place.

Our whole team has hearts of gold, and I’m lucky to work with such generous people. Most of the junior staff donated a significant portion of their own money to buy the supplies for the villagers. The whole team stayed up for two nights to sort, pack, and plan the event.

Watching the team selflessly give up their time and resources to help others was an incredible experience and it helped bring us closer as a team to give back to our communities.

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