17-year-old Vinothini lives with her parents, two teenage sisters and 10-year-old brother in a small one-room home on a tea plantation.
“I study from 4.00-6.00am before walking nearly 5km to school. My parents struggle to educate me and my siblings; I attend weekend classes so I can get good results and get into university. I dream of being a lawyer, but I wonder with all these challenges, will my dream come true?”
Girls who live in the tea plantation area of Sri Lanka face a lifetime of picking tealeaves for a meagre wage. The work is backbreaking. Women are only paid if they pluck over 18kg per day, but without an education they have few other options.
The harsh conditions on Sri Lankan tea estates have barely changed since Tamil workers were first brought over from Southern India at the beginning of the 19th Century. In fact, 90% of workers currently employed in the plantation sector are direct descendants of the first influx of migrant workers. Low pay and few educational opportunities fuel an intergenerational cycle of poverty.
Schools in the tea-growing region have the highest drop out rates in the country. This is due to a myriad of reasons: extreme poverty, parents who are focused on survival, low value placed on education and a common expectation that children work to help support the family.
Only a handful of students from the plantation sector have ever made it to university, and less than 5% of girls progress past ‘O’ Levels (year 10).
The Social Cup donates 50% of the profits from our internationally sourced products to fund scholarships for children in Sri Lanka’s tea estates. Our partner charity, ChildFund Australia, is working hard to improve educational opportunities in the tea-growing region.
In addition to better informing the community about the value of education, ChildFund is providing regular training and support for teachers and parents. The idea is to empower teachers to implement student-centered learning activities and encourage students to participate in the classroom. It’s also important for parents to understand the value of education so students are not pulled out of school to assist with plantation work.
In partnership with a local NGO, supplementary after-school classes are also provided on tea estates. These classes provide math and literacy support and gives ample time for the students to interact with the teachers to reinforce what they have learned at school.
At the end of December, less than one month since The Social Cup launch, we were able to give three scholarships to girls like Vinothini. Each scholarship provides a child from a tea estate with extra-tuition to help them pass their high school exams as well as books, a bag and other school essentials.
These three girls now have the opportunity to follow their dreams, and it was all made possible by your consumer choices. We think that is pretty amazing.