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Empowering the differently abled

Watawala Plantations take the lead in people business
Watawala Plantations PLC won the Bronze Award at the recently concluded JASTECA CSR Awards Competition organized for the first time in Sri Lanka. The Vocational Training Center for the differently abled, of their Kenilworth Estate was recognized for its sustainable approach in serving the community within which they operated.

august-news-thumbThe Estate established the Vocational Training Center back in 1998, with the intention of providing aid to the differently abled and their care givers, to ease the challenges and socio economic issues they face living in a plantation atmosphere. Since its establishment the Centre has provided aid not only to people with disabilities on their own estate but also to those living on surrounding estates.

The Kenilworth Estate’s Vocational Training Center, currently houses 12 of their differently abled associates, training them to produce envelopes, environmentally friendly paper bags, tea sample bags, factory container bags, greeting cards and the like, all of which has developed a ready market. Majority of the produce is sold within the group and the income generated, distributed amongst the differently abled associates as a monthly remuneration, helping them to stay self-sufficient.
Going a step further, Watawala Plantations has also introducing them to the concept of saving, by opening savings accounts for each of them and setting aside a percentage from their monthly income, which would accrue interest.

Another important aspect of this sustainability effort by the Company is the use of recycled products as raw material at the Vocational Training Center. Extending their efforts in conserving and protecting the environment, the plantation has set an example to the community as well as its employees by going Green. Waste material is recycled as raw material and discarded newspaper is used to produce paper bags as well as products such as, greetings cards and décor created by their differently abled associates.

“Watawala Plantations operates in a paradigm where worker associates are given considerable priority. The economic independence the project brings to the differently abled individuals provides much sort after recognition for them and also for their families within the community, helping them to confront the socio-economic issues they face. It also acts as a dropping center for the associates to spend the day while their caretakers are occupied with their jobs on the estate,” says Binesh Pananwala, General Manager Plantations of Watawala Plantations PLC.The JASTECA CSR Awards organised by the Japan Sri Lanka Technical and Cultural Association, and held for the first time in Sri Lanka, placed much importance on the criterion of Community goodwill, Social integration, social and environmental impact, Public-Private Partnership and sustainability in assessing the competence of each CSR project.

“Managing a Plantation is not only dealing with the environment but also with the community which is a part of it. Therefore our management always believes that Watawala Plantation PLC is not in the tea business serving people, but in the people business serving tea. We consider it our responsibility to look after the families of our associates whereas they also contribute to our success in many ways. Being with the community is a part of our business. We initiated this project by identifying the requirement of treating special people with special attention,” the General Manager emphasized. Watawala Plantations which was recently awarded the Rainforest Alliance Certification for environmental conservation and protection and for uplifting occupational health and safety, places vital significance on the people and community they are involved with. Through the Vocational Training Center project Watawala Plantations has been able to produce a well trained and skilled set of people who were once dependent on their families. The Project was a process to convert disabled people to become differently abled people, adding value to their lives in an effort to uplift the living conditions of their community.

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Date : 11 th August 2014