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.

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.

 

 

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.

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”!

The University house

Matthew, Jill and Robert have had the privilege of meeting some of the most aspirational people in Sri Lanka – men, women and children dreaming big dreams – but none more so than the Sandaya family of Nawala village. The family live in a shack (immaculately kept, of course) with the floor space no bigger than two ping-pong tables. Despite the cramped conditions and the regular hazard of flooding, let alone grinding poverty, the two children of the family have studied so hard that they have both been offered places at university. Except they can’t afford to go … the money needed for accommodation and basic food are way beyond their reach.


Extra Cover has stepped in to pay for their transport, housing and food … and has also been able to begin work on building the family a proper home. As well as dreaming big dreams for their children, Mr and Mrs Sandaya dreamed of building a house on their small plot of land, and even managed to lay the foundations. But then the money ran out.


Thanks to a shockingly generous donation, the “University House” as it is known is starting to take shape. Everyone in the village is wishing the family well, as they see the children get the education, and the mum and dad the housing, they richly deserve.

UK. College Visits for Extra Cover

Yes, there were elephant safaris and train rides, yes, we ate like royalty in ramshackle curry houses, and yes, we drank banana milkshakes at the Lucky Tuna beach bar, and danced the night away at the “Happy Banana” on a Friday night … but what made this year’s two trips to Sri Lanka truly meaningful, and truly magical, were the children.
On behalf of the charity Extra Cover, which began at Brighton College in early 2005, a record number of 51 Lower Sixth pupils travelled out to the southwest of the island this July. There, in the more remote pockets of the region, they taught some of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable children – children who live in the most rudimentary housing, children who are vulnerable from a lack of food and sanitation, children who live hand to mouth at the mercy of a disinterested government.


The teaching was taken seriously; every evening College pupils learned which age group they would be teaching the following day and how many children would be in their class (and two pupils teaching 40 children wasn’t unusual) and prepared lessons accordingly, with subjects ranging from geography to maths, from arts and crafts to human biology.
Some pupils at the larger schools we visited were studying for their A-levels, and College pupils discussed complex maths or engaged in advanced conversational English with students older than them. The academic ability of many of the Sinhalese students was genuinely astounding, given the lack of resources. On another day, College pupils would visit a Special Education Needs unit, and teach young children who, in many cases, had spent much of their lives hidden away at home. Both trips visited “Suhada”, the new headquarters of Extra Cover in the country’s interior, where they mingled with leaning disabled young men and women, who were learning trades at the one of the charity’s two Vocational Training Centres.


The “Sri Lanka’s Got Talent” competition that usually followed the morning’s classes, was taken a little less seriously. Here, College pupils were responsible for teaching a song and dance routine to some fifty children of varying ages, and then performing their act to the a panel of “celebrity judges”. Some brave souls attempted to teach “Hey Ya” by OutKast – renditions of songs by Abba and The Beatles, or a medley of nursery rhymes, proved more successful.And after the serious lessons and the less serious singing and dancing, it was play time. For hours and hours in the sapping humidity of the subcontinent, pupils ran around, giving piggy-back rides, playing tag, or “catch” or cricket, dancing, skipping or just having a good time on the slides and swings – being the big sisters and big brothers the children so long for.


Ask any pupil who went out this year, and yes, they might tell you about the beach or the turtle hatchery, but what they will remember for the rest of their lives will be the children, whose lives they touched.

Extra Covers’ New Home

It is nearly a year ago now that Extra Cover started a new adventure: the acquisition of a property that will not only become a “home” for the charity and a hub for the volunteers, it will also be used as an amazing vocational training centre for young adults with disabilities. The property is called Suhada in the native language, which is translated as ”kind hearted”: a perfect reflection on what is happening there!

In addition to teaching sewing, wood crafts and other skills, there is also space on the 1.5 acres of land to grow tea, pepper, cinnamon, fruit and vegetables. The students will learn how to plant, tend and grow the crops, as well as how to prepare, sell and cook all the produce


There will be three rooms available for people to stay at this unique place. It is milesfrom anywhere so when you wake up all you can hear is birdsong, peacocks and sometimes rowdy monkeys!
Newton, who runs the Charity in Sri Lanka for Extra Cover, lives at Suhada. He has spotted over 45 species of bird around the property and recently proudly showed me the incredibly rare ‘hanging parrot’ that pops in to a specific tree every morning at dawn! The property is also a place that will welcome many who just want to see and feel the serendipity that Suhada offers.


Suhada is the 2nd Vocational Training Centre that Extra Cover has started; the other has been helping 20 wonderful disadvantaged young people not only gain skills that may well help them earn a living, but has also given them valuable life skills. These young adults have all manner of disabilities and in the past had often been hidden away or just been kept out of society. With the help of Extra Cover, they are now gaining social skills that are vital to help them become part of that society and, irrespective of whether or not they become employable, their lives will be enriched by making friends and understanding the joy that brings.


Extra Cover also runs three Special Education Schools for children with disabilities, six pre-schools and provides a large number of extremely remote village schools with the basics of food, clean water and toilets. It also provides text books and, as funds allow, renovates classrooms, installs playground equipment, runs tea and cinnamon-growing cooperatives and provides extra food for those in dire need. But there is always more we can do to help!