Written by: Sanadi Ilandaridewa
The Birthday Fund Charity (BFC) was founded in the UK in 2014 with the purpose of aiding the families of academically gifted children who are unable to fulfil their full potential because of their parents’ poor financial background in rural areas in Sri Lanka. The BFC does this by helping the families generate a lasting and stable income through a self-employed job. This has been the main focus of the BFC since it was founded in May 2014.
“BFC brings kind hearts together.”
In addition to this, the charity has introduced a new Individual Donation Programme called ‘Kind Heart’ in which the beneficiaries receive the donations under the donor’s name. A pilot programme was launched last May for 6 months to test the success and popularity of this project. The pilot programme began with the donation of books to both primary and secondary school children from areas of extreme poverty in Sri Lanka. As of 2016, all six phases of the project have been completed, supporting a total of 470 children from 6 different schools in the districts of Monaragala, Puttalam, Vavuniya and Anuradhapura which are known to be extremely poor. This project also reached two mostly support needed schools in rural areas in Kandy district. There is no doubt that the Kind Heart programme has been a great success so far and shows signs of a promising future for the charity.
But what made this specific programme so successful in such a short amount of time? The answer to that would be the fact that the Kind Heart Programme is unique. Most charities donate money under the Charity’s name which gives credit to the charity. However the unique aspect of the Kind Heart Programme is that the donations of writing books and other accessories worth Rs. 1000 each are given directly to the children along with a letter addressed to them, signed off with the donor’s name. This ensures that all credit goes to the donor instead of the charity. Because of this many people are more than willing to contribute to this project.
It may not be apparent, but choosing the district, the school and the pupils to whom the donations are made, is a major part of this programme. It is important to ensure that the donations are made to those who need it the most. Districts that are known to be poor are chosen, and then from these districts, district coordinators choose suitable schools. For example in October 2016, the district of Puthalam was chosen and the schools from this district were so poor that they even possessed no clocks or tablecloths. These schools nominate teachers to run the project in their school and they are asked to choose the beneficiaries. If the schools are relatively small, the charity is able to donate supplies to the whole school however if the schools are quite large, intelligent pupils with poor backgrounds are chosen. While the charity wishes they could provide for all students, there is only so much the funding can allow them to do. After these major decisions are made, a local supplies distributor has to be found as it is cheaper to purchase equipment from distributors rather than shops because of the large quantities. The supplies are usually bought at a discounted price and the distributors are even willing to transport the supplies. Throughout the whole process, everyone is very generous and is more than willing to give a helping hand in any way they can; this is another thing that has made the whole process a great success.
The happiest and most worthwhile part of this whole project is when the donations are given to the children. The district coordinators and other BFC members describe how overjoyed the children were to receive our kind donations. Not only the children, but the teachers were enthusiastic as well. The Birthday Fund Charity believes that supporting a child’s education is truly worthwhile as it gives them a secure future. The charity also believes in empowering students to their full potential especially when they may not have the resources to do this independently. It is our responsibility to give them the help they need. They are the future generations of our motherland after all. We are all aware of the shortage of educational resources in rural areas in Sri Lanka, so why stand by idly when there are infinite ways by which we can help?
Rural areas understandably have higher numbers of children who fail their exams, not because they don’t have the ability or enthusiasm, but because they don’t possess the resources they require. These children may give up on their education because of the fact that they don’t have the necessary resources. Some parents also give children the impression that school is trivial and keep them at home without regular schooling to help with house work or agricultural work, specifically during the harvest seasons to help in the paddy fields. This attitude needs to be changed. If a child doesn’t go to school regularly and therefore doesn’t gain the knowledge needed to have a substantial career, how can they expect to have a secure future? The districts that the Kind Heart project target, usually rely on agriculture as an income and therefore pass on their agricultural skills to their children, thinking that their children will rely on farming as an income in the future. However, the children that live in villages now can’t hope to depend on agriculture in the future, especially now that Sri Lanka is becoming increasingly urban. With this in mind, the Kind Heart project donates exercise books, pens, pencils and school bags to children, hoping that giving them resources will change their attitudes towards their education and motivate them. To reinforce this, each child is given an aforementioned letter that tells the child that consists of encouraging and inspiring words signed off by a specific donor.
“Books will open their minds, broaden their minds and strengthen them as nothing else can”.
Because the efforts of the 6 month long pilot programme widely proved to be a success, the next phase of the Kind Heart project will be launched for a period of 12 months. The aim of this phase is to enhance the program to give long term benefits to the whole school selected from a district in each phase to cover most of the 22 electoral districts in Sri Lanka rather than the previous number of 50 selected children at a time in the pilot programme. This will also focus on getting all the children of the selected schools to participate in a fundraising campaign to make it more beneficial to their schools in return. This will not be an easy task, but the founder of the BFC believes that nothing is impossible to a kind heart, and the team is determined to achieve the success. But the charity cannot carry out the programme without funding and that is where the charity needs the help of the public.
“Books are the greatest gifts one person can give another.”
The donations can be made in standing orders of £5 monthly + a second hand book (looks like new) for 12 months or in two separate payments of £30 + 6 second hand books every six months. This small donation can make a huge difference to the Sri Lankan children’s future and would be highly appreciated.
Standing Orders can be set up online to reach
Account Name: Kind Heart
Ref: KindHeart-Your Initials
Sort Code: 20-49-81
A/c No: 00603333
IBAN GB94 BARC 2049 8100 6033 33
For more details about the Kind Heart project and BFC, please go to www.birthdayfund.org.uk or contact any member of the BFC Board of Directors;
Mr. Jayantha Herath (Chairman) on 07946 217217
Dr. Manjula Mahanama (CEO) on 077785 773377
Mrs. Devika Ratnayaka (Director of Registry) on 07846 747940
Mrs. Ama Gunasekera (Director of Communications) on 07823 556487
Mr. Godfrey De Silva (Director of Finance), 07970 106833
Mr Chandana Gunasekara (Director of Donation Projects) on 07540 385096
Mr. Prasanna Muthu (Director of Legal Affairs) on 07990 877402
Mrs. Olu Suraweera (Director of Fundraising) on 07988 731582
Mrs. Nita Gurusinghe (Director of Youth Affairs) on 07951 846133
Mr. Aruna Perera (Director of Events) on 07802 949707
Mr. Ajantha Weerasekera (Director of Facilities) on 07917 477105
Mr. Anjula Kumarage (Director of Marketing) on 07453 494479
All are invited to join BFC and help us raise funding for the “Kind Heart – 2017” projects.