Gilkanda and Ravi Kumar

Gilkanda School

On the suggestion of the Elpitiya Zonal Director, Robert visited Gilkanda School over the Easter holidays. The school Is located in an oil-palm plantation and none of the 21 pupils has ever left company land.  The principal told Robert that most of the children are malnourished and live in “line-houses” – holdovers form the oppressive colonial era, in which families occupy a single room in a building that has no electricity or running water. As well as a morning meal, the principal has asked us to consider repairing the boys’ toilet which is not functioning, and perhaps provide the school with some much-needed classroom resources. Robert did the maths and the whole project should cost in the region of £500 a year. The Zonal Director said that there are several similar small but desperately needy schools in the area. Certainly Gilkanda seems to a project that is right up Extra Cover’s alley – a small, but viable school with poor, marginalised children.

Ravi Kumar

Although Sri Lanka’s a Buddhist country, the government offices were all closed on Good Friday, or Black Friday as they call it, and so on that day Robert made several private visits with Thishantha to people’s homes. On one visit, he met Ravi Kumar and his family. Ravi Kumar was an estate work who has become paralysed from the waist down following a fall while working on a plantation. He and his family all live in a wattle and daub – basically clay and stick – two-room house. To keep the family afloat while her husband remains at home, his wife Sandumali works two jobs – tea plucking from 7.30 to 2.30 and then in a tea factory from 7.30 pm until after midnight.

Before his accident, Ravi Kumar had started on building a larger house on another plot of land across the road – still wattle and daub, but this time with an outdoor loo, a kitchen, and a separate bedroom for the kids, Hiruni and Rashan. Robert spent some time with Ravi Kumar and his family, chatting about school and medical concerns, and he learned that to build this wheelchair-accessible house from its current state will cost around 100,000 rupees, or £400.

The Vegetable Growing Project: 1st Phase Report:

Sri Lanka Charity

When it comes to growing food, Sri Lankans really know their onions … not to mention their manioc and their okra. Whereas the British all like to voice their opinions about the weather, Sri Lankans like to share their strongly-held views on the growing of vegetables and rice … and, of course, tea. And now all their words are being drastically translated into action.

In response to the current financial catastrophe besetting the island, government officials have decreed that everyone should focus on their personal agricultural output – in other words, to do everything they can to “grow their own”.  And following the advice of our Extra Cover colleagues in Sri Lanka; Newton, Roshan, and Thishantha, who have collectively underscored just how desperate the situation was for the children and families we serve, we recently asked you to dig deep and contribute towards the funding of this new “agricultural revolution”.  Many of you have been (yet again!) extraordinarily generous, and we are pleased to offer a preliminary report on how your cash is being spent.

Sri Lankan Cuisine

We pride ourselves on being a charity that listens, and when it comes to the specific needs of small agricultural projects, Matthew, Jill, and Robert are more than happy to be informed and guided by the expertise of our Sinhala colleagues.  And so it was that in October 2022 Thishantha and Roshan took Matthew and Robert on a whirlwind tour of a) current model examples of how small parcels of land (private or state-owned) can be used to produce high-yield crops and b) potential agricultural projects which, with a small cash injection, can rapidly produce simple harvests  that, in these devastatingly difficult times, will keep the wolf from the door for many marginalised communities.
Thanks to your monies, we see our particular contribution to the “agricultural revolution” coming in three specific, but overlapping categories.

Accompanied by the late Mr Chandrasiri (who we sadly lost recently) we visited several schools where land has already been appropriated for the growing of fruit and vegetables. One Buddhist monk/school principal of a non-EC school near Yakalamulla proudly showed us his sizeable school garden, containing 1) irrigated plots of manioc, yam, cucumber, and squash, 2) wooden pergola-like frames from which various gourds (“snake”, “bitter” etc.) were hanging, and 3) waist-high slatted wooden boxes protecting more delicate produce. While this is the monk’s great passion, and certainly cannot be replicated across Extra Cover schools, he did explain that what all schools would need more than anything else was netting to protect the above from pests (such as peacocks and monkeys) and large rice bags, too thick for porcupines or rats to gnaw through, for the growing of smaller items, including spices, such as turmeric and chilies. Similarly, Thishantha showed us around the “farm” at “Hellabeem”, the community for physically-disabled boys that he manages, where every available space was seemingly given over to the culture of food, much enjoyed by the children at mealtimes. We were given a delicious lunch including manioc and large, fried spinach leaves – fresh, local produce of the highest order.

Sri Lanka Food Culture

Thirdly we saw the “garden” at Nawala School where, for many years, Mr Chandrasiri had recognised the central importance of his children acquiring a practical, as well as academic, education. His philosophy was that since most of his charges will remain living locally for their entire lives, and not move into the cities, they will need to know the intricacies of horticulture as much as details of national history. Using whatever materials available, and impressive Heath-Robinson engineering, the teachers and pupils had created a complex of irrigated plots and vegetable patches – all on a steep hillside – to supplement the meagre school rations.

Extra Cover Charity

Our visit to these three “institutional gardens demonstrated that for many, the “revolution’ is nothing new. Where there is the passion and the will, vital food can be grown. Comparisons are odious, and there are Extra Cover schools that simply do not have the resources or indeed the time to copy such examples, but from their visits Matthew and Robert took away the fact that Extra Cover can do a huge amount of good by supplying netting, rice bags, seeds and simple construction materials to schools and communities that were already undertaking, or contemplating, such gardens in these desperate times.

Sri Lanka Gardening

Sri Lankans know their onions, and Thishantha knew that the best place to acquire used fishing net was in Kalutara, on the shore south of Colombo, and we have already purchased several large rolls. Second-hand rice bags, meanwhile, can be found at numerous agricultural warehouses across the south, and again Thishantha has been working his magic, sweet-talking various managers to offer him their best deal. We have now distributed netting, bags and other essentials to a variety of schools. Where space is at a premium, the use of large rice bags is proving a godsend.

Matthew Hansford

To the women’s agricultural cooperative of Paranatanayamgoda (the village where Extra Covers head office, Suhada is based) Newton Perera who ran Extra Cover for many years, is a man to be revered. His support of their cultural endeavours when he was overseeing Suhada, and his encouragement for them to use the property for their meetings won a place for him in all their hearts. Thishantha warmly introduced us to them on our visit to the village, and we listened to their ideas as to how a little money might go a long way in helping them feed the community.

As with the institutions outlined above, some private houses in the village already had significant, impressive gardens, where spices, fruits and vegetables grew in abundance. One house we visited could easily have found a place in the Chelsea Flower Show or an exhibit at Kew for ingenuity, beauty, and variety of produce. Other members of the cooperative, on the other hand, have little, if any, land and so they grow their veg exclusively in rice bags or in the crevices between rocks.

Agriculture In Asia

Collectively they have been inspiring each other to cultivate, where possible, fast-growing, protein-rich vegetables such as yam and manioc, rather than anything slow-growing or decorative. The village, and most of its inhabitants, are very poor, and what the cooperative needs most of all are raw materials – from seeds and saplings to construction materials – and with Thishantha’s keen and caring oversight, this can be carried out without too much of a problem.
There are, of course, many individuals not in a cooperative who are known to Extra Cover who can and will obviously benefit from our assistance in their attempts to grow as much healthy food as possible, and with the advice of Thishantha and Roshan we are helping them on an ad hoc basis.

School Food

Childrens Charity

Matthew and Robert’s trip to Sri Lanka last October was, as usual, eye-opening, and not least in our consideration of the food made available to children at the various Extra Cover schools. The quality and quantity at some schools (see the other articles on Kaluwalagala and Ganegama) was exemplary, with children eating a full, nutritious, meal every school day, usually comprising of rice, vegetables, and dhal (and sometimes an egg). Other schools, on the other hand, were giving each child just half a cupful of rice. The discrepancy was not just alarming but utterly unacceptable, and we have tasked Thishantha to ensure all Extra Cover schools provide their pupils with a decent meal. This will require the schools finding willing, purposed cooks (possibly parents), and this may prove tricky, but we are confident that we can ensure all the children we help get at least one nutritious bowl of food every day. The monies that have been donated to help us in our “agricultural revolution” will be used, in part, to enable all school cooks to grow vegetables at no charge.

The astounding amount of money we have received to help in the “agricultural revolution” will go a long way. Netting and rice bags are not hugely expensive, construction materials can be acquired at a fair price, and most saplings and seeds can be bought in bulk. As such, this is a project not for the immediate crisis, but for the long term. We envision this revolution continuing for several years as the government twists and turns in a chaotic vortex. So thank you – thank you for helping us deal with the pests that are peacocks and porcupines. Thank you for supporting the ongoing, crucial work of women’s cooperatives in rural communities. And thank you for giving us the opportunity to focus on every single child in our charge – and for trusting us to work like Trojans to keep them happy and healthy.

Thank you for making this project a reality, we look forward to visiting again soon, and reap the harvest.

Matthew, Jill and Robert
To donate: Click here  

Asian Cuisine

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Sri Lanka Flooding

Robert writes: The current fiscal devastation in Sri Lanka was mirrored during our trip in October 2022 by devastating rains. In all our trips out to the country, neither of us has experienced just so much rainfall in such a short period of time. For several hours every day – and in some cases all day – torrential rain prevented us from venturing outside. And while this was a frustration for Matthew and me, the adverse effect on the families in the interior whom we serve was far, far greater. Homes were damaged, roads were impassable, and school attendance was accordingly sharply reduced. The planting of saplings and seedlings had been suspended. Whether this was a meteorological anomaly, or a new pattern created by climate change, remains to be seen.

Donate Sri Lankan Charity

We were told that the sun shone incessantly for the two weeks before our arrival and that some rain was very welcome. For political and economic reasons, there were very few tourists in Unawatuna – almost all Russian – and for them, any hopes of a beach-based holiday were dashed.



Robert writes: One of the frustrations of charity work is why a programme that is wonderfully successful in one place can’t be universally replicated. The Extra Cover funded food programme at Kalugalawagala is a case in point to.


On our trip in October, the principal of this remote primary school explained how he has set up a fortnightly rota, in which each day four different women arrive at 6.30am and prepare the two daily meals for the forty pupils. The first meal is the simpler – perhaps herbal porridge – while the second will inevitably include rice and dhal and vegetables.

Helping Schools In Sri Lanka

Twice a week the children each are served a protein-rich egg with their food. On the day of our visit, the women cooked half a dozen eggs in a large pan over a fire, and then put them to one side. They then fried some finely diced garlic, added onions, leek and carrot, and a hint of chilli, before returning the egg, to create a sort of organic dish of vegetable fried rice. Delicious! The children were allowed to eat as much as they wanted, with the parents sharing any leftovers between themselves and fellow villagers.

With a variety of vegetables and spices growing on every square inch of available land, Kaluwalagala is a model of commitment and passion for the wellbeing and flourishing of the children. It is of little wonder that the pupils at this remote village school (the Hustler only just managed to get us there) punch far above their weight in regional exams. The principal is a visionary who has inspired his parent body to put his plan into action, and we just wish the same could occur in every school we serve.

Feeding Children Sri Lanka

The Children With No Birthdays

Sri Lankan School Children

Robert writes: “I asked a young girl in a small classroom of pupils how old she was, and she said she didn’t know … and I thought it was just nerves. And so I asked an older boy his age, and he said he didn’t know either. The teacher then explained that none of the children in the room had a birth certificate … and therefore the government doesn’t officially recognise their existence … and so they can’t come to school. Welcome to the Kafkaesque world of Sri Lankan non-formal education.

These are the children with no birthdays, no birthday parties, no birthday presents. They are the sons and daughters of Tamil parents who, in the main, work as casual labourers on the tea plantations. At the time of their birth their parents didn’t register them for some reason – perhaps because they weren’t married which is (supposedly) a requisite, or because they were moving from one estate to another a long distance away. And now, even if their mum and dad have settled down in the one place, or have married, there is no means by which their births can be officially recorded. And so they inhabit a twilight world where a civil servant is appointed to oversee their wellbeing but has no money to help them … since they don’t exist.

The Children With No Birthdays

       On the encouragement of the Udugama Zonal Director’s Office, Matthew and I were introduced to two groups of non-formal students on our trip to Sri Lanka in October 2022. In one school we found twenty or so children sitting behind desks, but with only a few books between them. In the other, the children didn’t even have desks and were sitting on the floor, eager to show us their pastel drawings of houses and rivers and butterflies.

We looked around. Not a crayon, nor any other writing implement was in sight. And there weren’t any toys either – no dolls for the younger ones, no books or sports equipment for the older children. Tamils are often considered inferior to Sinhala people, and it was interesting to learn that some of the Tamil children in the second school did actually have birth certificates – and indeed attended our beloved Bemboda school – but then spent their afternoons with their “non-existent” Tamil friends in a sort of Spartan, “After-School” club.

Sri Lanka Charity Chichester

     Since we have been asked to intervene by the government, we can now try to support them openly. As a first foray into their care, we delivered some stationery and toys to both programmes, and I will write to a relative who works for UNESCO, for her advice. This is more of matter of human rights, however, and I will also seek advice elsewhere within the UN.

Sometimes the indifference and cruelty of grown-ups to children takes your breath away, both in the UK and Sri Lanka. It is our genuine privilege to help in whatever small way we can, and should you wish to contribute in any way, do let Matthew or Jill or me know.

Childrens Charity Sri Lanka

Matthew Speaks To BBC TV South Today About Extra Cover

When it comes to Charity, raising awareness is crucial in make sure people get the help that they need.

On 8th August 2022, BBC TV South Today presenter David J Allard spoke to Extra Cover charity founder Matthew Hansford. They spoke about the current struggles in Sri Lanka as well as the future plans for the charity. When asked the rise of inflation in Sri Lanka and how that impacts what Extra Cover is able to do, Matthew said “The price has gone up enormously. Last year we were paying 20 rupees per child, per day. That went up to 50 rupees last month and, it’s likely to go up to 65 reasonably soon.”

With hurdles such as the rise in inflation, the fuel crisis and of course, the Covid 19 pandemic in recent times, your help is more vital than ever. If you are able to donate, you can find all the information you need to donate here.

You can watch the full segment via the media player above. Thank you to BBC TV South Today for talking to Matthew about Extra Cover.

New Initiative From Extra Cover Sri Lanka

Thank you for all your messages asking about how things are going in Sri Lanka and how the reported chaos is affecting Extra Cover. Sadly, the news is not good, not good at all.

You can help
I very much hope that we can raise an initial £25,000 for a new Extra Cover project. It is difficult to see when the dire circumstances in Sri Lanka will be alleviated so right now we need to help people in the area become self-sufficient and, in doing so, support others in their community. The monsoons are coming to an end so now is the time to start this initiative. Let me explain more . . .

Behind the headlines
The Sri Lankan news currently making headlines has been bubbling away for months. The lack of fuel and political chaos has been at the forefront of the news but behind the headlines are the huge food and energy problems – and it is these that have most affected the help Extra Cover has been able to give.

Sri Lanka News

Up, up, up
Food inflation has gone up in many cases by 100% over the last few months. This means staples like rice are becoming increasingly unaffordable and that is without any nutritious vegetables or protein rich foods in the mix. It is even difficult to afford some vital foods like milk powder. Over the past few years Extra Cover was providing 1200 meals every day and this has increased to 1500 recently. The price per meal per day last year was 20 rupees; this has gone up to 50 rupees with another increase to 65 rupees looming.

Unusual ask
I don’t like asking for money particularly when so many of you are already making generous regular donations to this great cause. But these are exceptional circumstances. Please do read on and I will explain further. . .

Positive help
Extra Cover is currently supporting:

  • 16 government schools with food and resources
  • 6 pre-schools with food, resources and teachers’ pay

In addition, Extra Cover is currently responsible for all costs within:

  • 3 Special Educational Needs Units for children with disabilities
  • 2 Vocational Training Centres (VTC’s) for disabled young adults
  • And, last year, we took under our control another charity to run a large vocational training school for young adults with disabilities

Extra Cover Charity

Not open today
All these enterprises have been badly affected by the current circumstances to the extent that some are now opening only occasionally. This is mainly due to the prohibitive cost of fuel and transport for teachers and children. So, what does this mean? When they say “not open today”, children and young adults are not only missing out on their education and socialisation, they are unable to get what for many is their only – or only decent – meal of the day.

Help Sri Lanka Children

Let’s look forward with hope
After much deliberation with our trusted colleagues in Sri Lanka, we believe that initiating and developing home vegetable gardens will be the best way in the current circumstances to help the families become self-sufficient and help within the wider community.

It works
At one of the Extra Cover schools – Kaluwalagala Primary – they already use vegetables and herbs produced in the school vegetable garden as part of the Extra Cover daily meals. We have seen it work. We have seen how, with your help, these poor communities are proud and happy to make it work . . .   if we can provide the resources. We now need to expand the vegetable garden idea to other schools and to the hardest hit parents of the Extra Cover children so more people can produce their daily requirement of healthy fruit and vegetables.

The plan
The Sri Lankan economy is going to take many years to recover. Over and above what Extra Cover already does, we need to invest time and money into alleviating the lack of basic foods and nutrition in a sustainable way. To achieve this we are aiming to raise an initial lump sum of £25,000 to kickstart the vegetable garden initiative to our schools and 200 homes (initially to single parents and those who have a child with a disability). We will use this money to provide advice, heirloom seeds and saplings, fertilisers, garden tools, wire mesh, fences and more (see bottom of this email for details).

Extra Cover Sri Lanka

We need you
Only very small expenses (less than 4% of donations) are incurred by Extra Cover because Hansfords Menswear pays the vast majority of the administrative costs. This means that any donation you are able to give goes directly to those Sri Lankans who need it most. If you feel you are able to donate towards the initial £25,000 to kickstart this specific initiative, we would be so very grateful. We are hugely appreciative of any size of donation but if you can see your way to setting up a regular donation, it gives us the confidence to make this a long term project.

I do hope you don’t mind me asking but I feel this really is an occasion where we need to go the extra mile to help. I am hoping to travel to Sri Lanka (paid for out of my own pocket) very soon and I will report back to you with all the latest news on the Vegetable Garden Initiative.

Thank you for reading this far! If you are able to donate, Extra Cover’s payment options are below, or please do contact me directly.

Best wishes and many thanks

Matthew Hansford


Go to: Direct bank payment to Extra Cover
Or contact:
Or: Scan

Extra Cover QR Code

Details to be discussed
By Thishantha and Newton

To initiate and develop a school or home vegetable garden, the following items are likely to be required:

  • Garden tools: mammoties, spades, forks, hand held sprayers, water sprinklers, rubber hoses


  • Seeds or saplings (not imported hybrid seeds)


  • Fertiliser: a few kgs of compost to start. For subsequent requirements, families will make their own compost or liquid fertiliser using freely available leaves, kitchen waste etc


  • Weedkiller and insect repellents: families can make insecticides and fungicides using various kinds of leaves, banana peel, onion and garlic skins etc


  • If a family does not have space or a garden, Extra Cover will provide grow bags and relevant tools


  • Wire mesh for making fences to protect plants from animals like porcupines, large rodents and peacocks

Suggested crops for school and home vegetable gardens:

  • Herbs – kankun, gotukola (centella), thampala (amaranthus family), mukunuwenna (amaranthus family)
  • Spices – ginger, turmeric
  • Fruit – papaya, banana, sweet melons, pineapple
  • Vegetables – egg plants, tomato, okra, long beans, wing beans, sweet potato, chillies and capsicums, radish, spinach, various gourds, cucumber and winter melon, yams – manioc,  kiriala (taro)

Suggested vegetable garden initiative rules

  • Always adhere to organic cultivation practices such as planting only heirloom seeds instead of imported hybrid seeds


  • Use only organic fertilizer such as compost, cow dung, chicken manure and home-made organic sprays


  • Never to use chemical fertilizer, insecticides, fungicides or hormones normally used by commercial growers


  • Grow only vegetables and fruit that gives the yield in a short period.

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 The Previous Year 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!


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.


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

To donate: 
Go to: Extra Cover’s Virgin money giving page
Or go to:
Or email:

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.