ROTARY CLUB SPREADS THE TEA LEAF VISION STORY
April 8 2015.
Mike Hemmings reports:
The plight of youngsters on some tea plantations in Sri Lanka was highlighted in a talk given recently by Rotarian Tim Pare to the Rotary Club of Seaford.
Behind the picture postcards of smiling young women plucking tea, there is a hidden story of entrenched hardship and hopelessness, of personal, civil and humanitarian rights abuse, and of on-going health issues – both physiological and psychological.
Tea Leaf Vision (TLV) is a vocational education centre that provides free, full-time education for young people of every culture and religion in Maskeliya, Sri Lanka. It provides an effective means of lifting young people out of almost impossible conditions.
Yadharshini Selvaraj, Principal at the TLV Centre for Professional Development, leads the wide-ranging programme. Prior to this role, she was Head of Grammar and Speech at the Centre. She is also a fully qualified counsellor and holds TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TKT (Teacher Knowledge Test) qualifications.
A knowledge of English is low to non-existent in tea plantations and Miss Selvaraj has developed lessons that the youth of these communities can engage with, understand and use when starting employment.
The Tea Leaf Trust was formed in 2008 after Tim Pare and Yasmene Shah made a honeymoon trip to Sri Lanka. Their experiences led them to leave the UK and move to Sri Lanka to provide vocational education to the youngsters from Tea Estate communities. In 2010, they established the TLV Centre in Maskeliya – one of the poorest tea plantation areas in Sri Lanka.
In five years, TLV has seen:
• 688 students graduate from the full time diploma;
• 1,061 students graduate from the Basic English Programme;
• 6,813 children aged 7-12 benefit from the Community English Programme;
• 8,795 children aged from 5-16 benefit from the holiday activities programme; and
• 24,915 community members benefit from TLV ‘service projects’.
The age group that TLV targets is 18-24. Not only are these young people taught English, the programmes help students to realise their potential and get stable, salaried employment away from the poorly paid and often back-breaking manual labour of the tea plantations
Additionally, students are given support for living in the midst of complex societal issues, such as sexual abuse and violence. Special activities also encourage students to develop self-confidence, knowledge of peace-building and a means of achieving ethnic cohesion.