A weekend in Darlington

A rainy weekend in Darlington may not be at the top of anyone’s get-away lists, but it proved a genuine highlight of the year for Robert when he had the chance to introduce the work of Extra Cover to a group of lovers of speed. The Ferrari Owners Club of Great Britain hosted a “Competizione” at the Croft Circuit on June 26th and 27th, where various makes of the Italian car sped around the 2.1 mile track at bewildering speeds. Thanks to Matthew’s friend and fellow menswear retailer, the racing supremo Gary Culver, Extra Cover was nominated as the charity for the weekend.

As well as several races for Ferraris, there was an Alfa Romeo Championship and the Northern Saloon and Sports Car Championship, in which makes such as Caterham 420R, Lotus Elise, Marcos Mantis, and even a Honda Civic competed to complete the laps at a staggering average speed of about 75 mph.

At a drinks event on the Friday night, and before an auction on the Saturday evening, Robert gave an overview of the charity. More money was raised on the Sunday, when several drivers agreed, for a donation, to allow someone to sit in the “passenger seat.” Gary very kindly gave Robert the opportunity to sit alongside him in his Ferrari 458 Challenge for a few laps, during which Robert learned (quickly) that going fast is hugely exciting, but slowing down and then suddenly accelerating around a corner is even more so.
Thank you to Gary and the Ferrari crew, and Dave Goddard the race commentor, for being such genial and generous hosts to the latest convert to the smell of burning rubber and the sound of spraying gravel in the wheel rims.

Bishan, Dilshan, and Lakhindu

There are few things more distressing for us than seeing a sick child whose family is unable to turn to support from the government.
And if we can help we will.


Ten-year-old Bishan lives in a rented house with his mum and elder brother, while his dad works as a “trishaw” driver in Colombo, returning for a brief stay every fortnight.


He’s an extremely energetic young boy who adores school, but his life is hampered by chronic intestinal problems, and Extra Cover pays for the cost of a daily enema, and other medical costs as required. We are delighted at his progress in Activities of Daily Living such as being able to eat and wash himself, His brother has recently completed his A-Levels and is now working in a pharmacy.

 

Dilshan was a pupil at the Pre-School in Mahalapitiya whose stomach problems meant he could not drink milk or ingest the milk powders that were available in Sri Lankan chemists.


What was needed was a specialist powder produced overseas – understandably way beyond the means of his family – and Extra Cover was happy to help. Sadly, after a long stay in Colombo General Hospital, Dilshan died from kidney and
liver failure. He was a brave boy, and we shall miss him. To compound the tragedy, his mother has left the family home and moved in with her parents, as his alcoholic father has become abusive.

 

Also at Mahalapitiya Pre-School, Lakhindu underwent heart surgery when he was very young, His post-operative care – not least drugs to strengthen his heart muscles – costs about £40.00 a month.


The government, however, has only been willing to contribute about £1 of that, and so Extra Cover has been meeting the shortfall, and following his progress now he has left the Montessori and started primary school. He is now a strapping young boy and fully enjoying life.

How was 2020 for Extra Cover?

We thought it time that we wrote a report on what is happening with regard to Extra Cover’s work in Sri Lanka. It has been a little remiss of us not to have been in touch before, but our minds seem to have been elsewhere since March.

Below is a quite a detailed report, which we hope you will enjoy reading to the end! However, if time prevents, to summarise: Extra Cover, throughout 2020 where possible with Covid restrictions, continues to support 26 schools, Special Education Needs units and Vocational Training Centres, feeding over 1200 children every school day. More than 60 people with disabilities can now go to school or to a Vocational Training Centre and countless other individual projects continue to receive help from Extra Cover.

If you do have time (as many of us do at the moment!) please read on to find out more.

Extra Cover 2020 report

Firstly, can we just thank so many of you for your amazing support, even in this most difficult of years. The donations keep flowing in after our pier to pier walk last week, and now totals over £5000. Just incredible! Thank you so much!

Although Sri Lanka has been in lockdown as much as here in the UK, there is still plenty to report for 2020.  In comparison with much of the world, the Covid situation in Sri Lanka has been very mild, but the economy has been badly damaged and hardship is even greater than ever in the areas we work. At the end of this email, please find another report from someone we know well, a Sri Lankan who sums up the situation for locals and the challenges they face.

As for us at Extra Cover, the year started with no dramas and the following summarises where we were then:

Support for Government schools

Extra Cover currently support 15 Government-run schools, and our priority is to give nutritious food to a total of 1033 children every school day. These schools all cater for the poorest children in these remote areas. Often, they get very little at home and rely on getting vital nourishment when at school. Some 100 of the most needy children also get monthly dry ration packs to support them at home. These schools have also received funding as needed to help with educational resources, providing new toilets, wash basins and the occasional educational trip. We have taken on a new school called Ganegama North KV where all the thirty children had little or no breakfast before they arrived to learn, and no lunch, because, for some reason, the government had stopped supplying food here. And so Extra Cover has stepped in.

Special Educational Needs units (SENs)

Extra Cover has set up three SEN units to give children with disabilities the opportunity of going to school for the first time. We work with local government who provide a teacher for each SEN, but then Extra Cover organises and pays for everything else. We resource an accessible classroom, pay for assistant teachers, build appropriate toilets, provide food plus transport to get the children to and from school.

These schools have been a great success. On average, we are giving between 30 and 40 children the chance of a basic education, but more importantly we are helping them understand how to socialise and be part of a community, rather than being hidden away at home with little or no life at all.

Vocational Training Centres (VTCs)

After the first few pupils left our SENs, Extra Cover realised that there was then little for these disabled young adults to do and their vocational skills were limited. And so, we set up two VTCs to help give them some basic skills and possibly the opportunity to make items to sell. The type of skills taught are needlework, sewing, woodwork, ekel broom manufacture (made from various bits of the coconut tree), greeting card design, gardening and cooking.

These VTCs are amazing, working with between 30 and 35 young adults with disabilities and again giving a wonderful opportunity for those who have often been left out the chance to learn, make friends and have a great time. As with the SENs, Extra Cover organises a dance teacher to visit as often as possible, always an event of pure joy! If you ever come out to Sri Lanka, a visit to a school dance lesson is a must!

Both VTC’s are completely paid for by Extra Cover, renting buildings, paying for teachers, resources, transport and food.

A few years ago we purchased a piece of land with buildings to develop our own base, volunteer centre and VTC. It is called Suhada, which translates appropriately as ‘kind hearted’ and now grows tea, pepper, cinnamon and vegetables. Students learn many different skills but importantly learn about cultivating, harvesting and selling products, which could be of invaluable help to them and their families in the future. Some are encouraged to help prepare and cook their daily meals.

Several of the VTC students have gone on to set up their own small businesses, with seed money from Extra Cover – always given with some pride!

Pre-schools

Extra Cover runs six Pre-schools for around 90 children, often housed within government schools but fully resourced by us. They are a vital resource for the poorest families, not only preparing the children for ‘big school’, but also giving the parents the chance to work and earn some vital rupees. It is also a vital time for these often tiny children to get regular nutritious food, which Extra Cover always make sure they get.

Scholarships and individual support

Extra Cover is regularly approached to help individuals or families. It may be for medical help, extra nutrition, help with finance for further education for talented children that come through our schools (like Kavindi pictured above, who is off to University) or even a new prosthetic leg or two!  A great example of this work is Oshada and his family.

Oshada and family

Last year, Oshada, one of the pupils from Gonalagoda, a school that Extra Cover supports, was involved in a horrific bus crash. The result was truly upsetting so read on with care. Both his parents were severely injured: his father lost a third of his skull and is brain-damaged; his mother has a crushed pelvis, hip, knee and ankle and was unlikely ever to be able to walk properly again. Oshada was relatively lucky. He lost two toes, a part of his foot and has a huge dent in his shin but when we last saw him, he was well enough to hobble around with a cricket bat in hand! (see picture below)

Extra Cover ensured that this family made it to all their medical and physiotherapy appointments (the hospital was a 40 minute tuk-tuk journey) and that they all had enough food. Oshada’s family was in severe poverty before the crash and has been reliant on his mother’s sister who has neither the money nor the resources to care for them all long term.

We’re delighted to report that the family’s fortunes are turning round; Oshada is walking well, his father has had his skull repaired and, although very slow and deliberate, is getting back to some sort of normality and his mum, having been told by doctors that they should amputate her leg (she refused), is walking again although her legs are now different lengths. Incredibly they have even started a small business selling fruit and vegetables that they source from the village.

Extra Cover will continue to support this inspirational family and are looking to help them achieve their dream of having their own home

Housing projects

Over the years Extra Cover has built more than 50 houses for families in desperate need, many of these post-tsunami.  But every year we seem to come across a family who just need something to help make their life more bearable, so Extra Cover steps in and builds a basic, but to them ‘top end’, three-room house and outside toilet. Going back to visit them is always a joyous occasion.

What’s happened since March?

Rather annoyingly we were on our way to the airport for a visit to Extra Cover on the 15th March when travel to Sri Lanka was cancelled. Since then Sri Lanka has been in lockdown for all but a few weeks so performing any of our normal work has become almost impossible. The poorest in society, unfortunately, have been badly affected. Mass redundancies in low-paid work, especially in tourism and agriculture providing virtually no casual labour, coupled with the fact that children were not receiving vital school food, have made it very difficult. Extra Cover did manage to carry on supporting many individuals but it was made impossible to help many, no matter how hard we tried, especially as travel was so restricted and delivery of aid made so difficult due to the remote areas we work in. We have worked closely with the schools to help make them Covid secure, including wash stations, and PPE equipment.

Extra Cover has continued to pay all the amazing teachers, tuk-tuk drivers and others in our employ, fully to start with and now currently at a rate of 66% until the re-opening of the schools. All are very grateful, as so many others in the country have received little or nothing.

When we get the go ahead and schools re-open, Extra Cover will be back helping as many as we can – probably more than ever considering there will be a lot more people in need.

Fundraising

All this is only made possible by so many people being incredibly generous towards Extra Cover. We continue to promise that our expenses are kept to a minimum, UK costs are kept down to below 3% of donations as admin costs are absorbed by Hansfords Menswear, trustees claim no expenses and accountants wave their fees to audit and file our paperwork. In Sri Lanka, every rupee is carefully spent, the majority being spent on feeding over 1200 children every school day, paying for teachers, school resources and school transport for children. We only employ one person as Charity Co-ordinator, who works with two volunteer trustees who claim minimal expenses. We value every penny that is donated.

2020 has quite obviously been a disaster for fundraising; we have had to cancel three major events (a golf day, our 15 year anniversary dinner and a charity walk). We understand that it is not only tough for people in Sri Lanka, but also here in the UK and also understand people may be as keen to support children who are going hungry and are in hardship closer to home.

Luckily to date, we have not had to cut back any of our work in Sri Lanka. Due to some prudent financial planning, we put aside enough money to get us through any fallow times. Other charities in the areas we work have not planned so well and we have been approached by several for help, as funds from their European sponsors have dried up. Earlier this year we had started working with “Smile” (pictured below), a wonderful VTC supporting some 50 young adults with disabilities, by providing a food programme for them, but all their funding has now dried up.  So to the end of 2020, we have offered to keep the place going and will actively seek a sponsor to fund the project, that amazingly only costs about £1500 a month to pay for teachers, admin staff, electricity, resources, food etc. There is so much to tell, so we will send a separate email about this project..

It goes without saying that we need donations to keep all this work going and we would be delighted to receive any today, but will understand completely if that is not possible as life is just not easy for so many people at this time.

Thanks for being interested enough to read this far!

All the best

Matthew, Jill and Robert
www.extracover.org.uk

To donate: 
Go to: Extra Cover’s Virgin money giving page
Or go to: ExtraCover.org.uk/donate
Or email: matthew@extracover.org.uk

Covid situation report from Sri Lanka (Oct 2020):

With the onset of the virus in March and consequent lock-down, government encouraged people in the villages to grow more rice and vegetables. As usual government failed to provide the farmers with free fertilizer etc. as promised, and the campaign was not a great success story.

As you are aware, many people living in Galle interior such as in Extra Cover school villages own a small piece of land where they grow tea as a cash crop. As they do not employ labour and all the work from weeding to plucking buds is done by the family members, they are able to derive an income by growing tea although it is insufficient to meet their day to day needs. Some young boys and girls in these families work in the city mainly in Tourist industry, construction field and the girls especially in garment factories. With the pandemic most of these young people have lost their jobs. However, as most of the villagers have their own place to live and with their basic life styles, they somehow manage to make a living with their meager income.

Government gave Rs.5,000/= (£20) per family per month for three months. Some complain that they received this only for two months. People with disabilities too received the same amount.

The worst affected were those involved in the tourist industry. Hotels, guest houses, restaurants and gift shop owners, tour operators, drivers and guides and hotel employees come under this category. Normally, the hotels employ the workers on a temporary basis. The employer sends them home during the off season thereby discontinuing their service so that they need not pay them certain benefits and can fire them at any time they wish. As such many young people who contribute to the family economy have lost their jobs. Most of the hotels, guest houses and restaurants have closed down keeping a skeletal staff just to do the maintenance work. Some of these people are paid only 50% of their salary. Hotel employees normally get a low salary and they depend mostly on service charges and tips. Under any other circumstances, such as the tsunami, these men had the opportunity to go for Middle East jobs. This is an entirely different situation.

Only the tourist drivers and driver guides who are registered in the government received Rs.20,000/= (£80) each for the whole period, but the drivers such as those at the Flower Garden Hotel were not entitled to this. There are many drivers and driver guides who have bought vehicles with loans from banks and financial institutions. Government has arranged with these lending institutions to give them a six to twelve month grace period to pay back the loans, but they still have to pay the interest.

All companies, especially small ones are going through a hard time. Some have closed down thereby all employees losing their jobs and some places keep going with a minimal staff, paying them only half the salary.  Meanwhile many people who worked in the Middle East have lost their jobs and come back. Chances of getting new jobs for these people either here or abroad are very remote.

So, generally almost everybody in the low to mid income category are going through a difficult time. To make things worse, price of all basic food items from rice to dhall and all day to day needs have shot up.

People had high hopes that Covid will be soon over and things will be back to normal at least by the beginning of January. After two months, with the appearance of a Covid infected woman from a Brandix garment factory close to the airport (outside the free trade zone) this week, we all are devastated. This is worse than anything we experienced since March. They carried out PCR tests on all employees of the Brandix factory and by last night the number of infected people has risen, increasing the cluster to 1040. Two days ago, they imposed curfew in the area and directed the patients to various hospitals and their families to quarantine centres. Some of the infected factory workers have been travelling to various parts of the island over the last couple of weeks. Worst thing is they say about three hundred workers are missing and the authorities fear they will spread the virus from their hiding places.

Some of the beach hotels have been converted to quarantine centres where you have to spend 14 days paying Rs,7500/= (£30) per person per night. You will have to confine to your room and are not allowed to use hotel facilities. Food is brought to the room. Those who are unable to pay are sent to very basic quarantine camps. Anybody coming from abroad will have to spend 14 days at a quarantine centre and another 14 days at home on self quarantine monitored by the health authorities.

We all fear that there will be another lock-down in Colombo. The super markets are already being cleaned by those who can afford to do so.

Sri Lanka’s main foreign exchange sources are, 1. Sri Lankans working abroad,  2. Tourism,   3. Export of garments, 4.Export of agricultural produce such as tea and 5. Foreign investments.

Covid has destroyed all the above avenues. The economists say that the government will have to borrow again to pay only the interest for loans already taken, coming up before the end of the year.

I know that economies globally are suffering due to Covid, but the problems here were created long before and Covid is now driving the last nail. The tragedy is the poor and the innocent will be the victims.

I hope the above account will give you a general picture of things happening over here.

 

 

 

ECSAT at Suhada

In February of this year Matthew visited “Suhada”, Extra Cover’s idyllic property in the interior, which was playing host to twenty young men and women with special needs from “ECSAT”, a vocational training centre in Galle. This was the first time that many of the urban dwellers had seen pepper growing in the wild, and they were thrilled to be able to pick and “shuck” the pepper, before laying it out to dry in the sun.

They then saw how our male Suhada-based students were learning how to use coconut shells to make table ornaments, something they want to emulate back at their centre. The day finished with a lunch of string hoppers and ice-cream, before what can only be described as a “coconut disco” in which students danced, balancing a coconut shell on various parts of their bodies – a far cry from La Havana in Chichester.

Feedback from the Galle students was hugely enthusiastic – they loved the coconuts, they loved the pepper, and they made a whole bunch of new friends along the way. This certainly won’t be the last time Extra Cover reaches out to similar charities in the region, sharing resources and ideas to help the most marginalised in the country takes centre stage.

Easter Heartbreak

The heartbreaking atrocities of Easter Sunday, in which hundreds of people, many of them children, were senselessly murdered, have rocked everyone. They have, in part, galvanised all of us at Extra Cover to continue supporting Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable and most marginalised with even deeper conviction of the importance and value of our charitable activity. Our thoughts are with all those affected at this time. As a nation, Sri Lanka has suffered so much over the last 30 years; we can only pray that life gets back to some sort of normality as soon as possible.

Will you sponsor Dilshan?

This is Dilshan, having fun with toy trucks at Mahalapitiya Pre School. On the face of it, he looks like any other two or three year-old. Except he’s four.

His mum and doctors say his physical development has been stunted by his body’s inability to absorb fat, and state that he desperately needs two pots, or 800 grams, a month, of a special milk formula called Pregestimil. Pregestimil isn’t cheap – each 400 gram tub costs £13.50.

 
Extra Cover is therefore on the search for someone to sponsor young Dilshan, to the tune of £30 a month, covering his essential medical needs, and transportation costs to and from hospital. We will happily send regular pictures of him over the months and years, showing his progress.
Might you be that someone?

No more Hole in the Ground

To our dismay, we learned that a house close to that of the Sandaya family in Nawala village, whom we have supported in sending their children to university, has no toilet facilities at all.

 
The mother (pictured) and her three children are just using an uncovered hole in the weeds, a few yards away from their door. Extra Cover has funded the building of a proper loo for this family, ensuring them a decent level of hygiene and a modicum of dignity.

2018 Reflections

During 2018, Extra Cover crossed the £1,000,000 threshold in donations, and this milestone has prompted us to remind all our wonderful benefactors what we’re up to on the teardrop island in the Indian Ocean. Our primary focus remains food, water and education.

Food
At the moment there are 29 active “Extra Cover Schools” and every school day, 1196 children receive a desperately needed free meal. While every month 69 children enjoy a protein-rich and tasty chicken meal and a further 127 children go home with a dry ration pack – a bag full of milk powder, pulses, food supplements, soap … and that all important chocolate biscuit.

 

Water
We continue to ensure that the children at our schools have a proper supply of clean water and hygienic toilet facilities.

Education
As well as providing schools with furniture, stationery, uniforms, yearly-gifts, education trips, and sample exam papers, we have also built classroom extensions, overhauled schools from grubby dirt-floor shacks to modern, brightly-lit places of learning and planted fields of cinnamon, the profits from the sale of which go straight back into the schools.
Our work with children and young adults with special needs continues apace. We have created three Special Educational Needs classrooms from scratch and support a fourth, plus have two thriving Vocational Training Centres for young adults with special needs. All the students need transport and Extra Cover has a small fleet of tuk tuk’s, generously sponsored by local businesses, making sure children make it to school every day. It cannot be emphasised strongly enough how those using these centres would otherwise, in nearly every case, be left at home, some even locked up to prevent them from wandering off.


Suhada
Much of our energy this year has been spent on the development of “Suhada” (Sinhalese for “good-heartedness” or “friendship”). Extra Cover now owns a house, some out-buildings and more than an acre of land, a few kilometres from the town of Mapalagama, in the centre of the Galle Educational District.
Newton Perera and his wife have moved into the property, from where he coordinates the Extra Cover Foundation, the Sri Lankan NGO offshoot of Extra Cover UK. The location of Suhada enables Newton quick and easy access to the majority of our schools. We have developed the outbuildings into a Vocational Training Centre for students with special needs who are learning all about the newly planted tea saplings, cinnamon, pepper and vegetables.
Suhada now also acts as a volunteer centre, with two well equipped bedrooms, a perfect place to experience the real Sri Lanka and either just visit or get more involved with the charity.

Individual projects
From ensuring that Lakhindu and Bilhan receive life-saving medicine, to providing Lakshman and Udelangani with new prosthetic equipment, from building new houses and installing new toilets to supporting budding scholars with transport costs and stationery, we pride ourselves on our particular individual works of charity.

And that’s why Matthew, Jill and Robert travel out to Sri Lanka so often – and will continue to do so, even after the worrying events of Easter Sunday. For us, it’s personal – literally. We know the names of those who receive your donations and we are able to prioritise where your money goes, with minimum-possible overheads and maximum efficiency – and love.

Fundraising
To achieve all of the above, fundraising is at the forefront of our minds. 2018 proved to be another year where we found so many people to be so amazingly generous. Our annual golf day as ever raised a huge amount and we had our first Pier to Pier walk, from Bognor to Brighton, a “mere” 27 miles, where all 46 mad fools collected over £12,000 between them! Brighton College and Hansfords Menswear have raised money in all manner of ways and various Rotary Clubs, businesses and individuals just keep giving, it’s just fantastic.

To all our supporters, a massive thank you!


All the best
Matthew, Jill and Robert.

If you would like to donate please go to https://www.extracover.org.uk/donate/ to find out how.

 

 

Weihena School

Over the past twelve months, our relationship with the small state-sponsored SEN unit in the village of Weihena has deepened significantly. Originally crammed into a tiny (and bizarrely, glass-windowed) room, the children now have a lean-to extension, with wooden flooring and space for tables and chairs, as well as a place to play when it rains. Next to the extension is a refurbished toilet that meets the needs of these special, special children.
 

 
On their visit in February, Matthew and Robert brought a collection of toys, one of which caused much surprise and delight. What looked (and felt) like a rather heavy, cute-looking parrot, turned out to be a battery-powered “speaking” parrot, repeating the last words spoken to it. Imagine their surprise when Weihena pupils said “Ayubowan” or their name to the parrot, and heard the parrot – in their voice – greet them back. This will no doubt prove a terrific learning tool for the children over the years, and help in speech therapy.

A Bicycle for Maheshika

Following their hugely successful trip to Sri Lanka this March (see our story “The Magic of the Met”).Several students of The Met went on a sponsored walk this June and raised a magnificent £100 for the work of Extra Cover. Robert spent the money the following month at a school they visited, played cricket at, … and loved.


Maheshika lives with her family in a tiny “line house” – the most basic of habitations built by the British in the colonial period for their indentured servants,so that they could live close to the plantations they worked on.


Some 140 years later and the same arrangement is still at work – Maheshika’s dad works on the local tea plantation, in return for which he and his family can eke out a living in their squalid (but immaculately tidy) two rooms.

There is no running water, no toilet, and the electricity is intermittent, by the light of which Maheshika struggles to do her homework .

Maheshika is a new girl in year 6 at Nawala School, having recently left her local primary school of Telambura Vidya Khanti (also supported by Extra Cover) and has been identified by the principal as a true scholar in the making.


Since the start of the year, she has been walking the four kilometres to and from her slum of a home to school, and Extra Cover was told that a new bicycle would be a worthy present to such a talented, but impoverished girl. And so it was with great delight that we were able to present her with her “Met Bike”!