Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Education and Life Skills Centre at Kathaluwa, Sri Lanka

Originally posted on facebook's group 'Kathaluwa' on Oct.27, 2007
By Mrs Sharmini Mathew

Kathaluwa is a tiny sleepy little seaside fishing village where fishermen survive by taking their boats to sea during season. During monsoons they cannot cross the reef out to sea as waves are big and dangerous. They survive by whatever they get from casting nets within the reef lagoon where the sea is calm.The six months they have no work is extremely difficult for them financially.

We have done whatever we can to lift up the community after the tsunami which effected families on beaches not protected by coral reefs. Many of the families are still traumatised. We have given men fishing boats with 15 hp engines, fishing equipment and gear, casting nets, diving equipment, nets and fishing rods, provided alternate employment by helping them open grocery shops, farms, mechanical garages, communication centres, eating houses, cobbler shops and tailoring establishments, cement block making units etc etc

And given women in the area means of supplementing family incomes by providing them with skills and machinary such as lace making machines, coir making machines, sewing machines, helped them to start small cottage industries to make sweet meats and catering orders, to name just a few.

Now that the centre is almost ready, the parents of children begged me to start classes so that children could start learning english. To please the lady who teaches english to children very kindly agreed to start teaching at the centre.The day it was announced we would start with a very soft opening, 5 children were waiting for her from early morning before the doors were opened.

Two days later there were fifty children and now we have 73 children. We cannot take anymore as we do not have sufficient desks.The teacher works for 8 hours each day, six days a week to teach these children in several classes as the children are graded according to their ability.It is wonderful to see how enthusiastic they are.

I need to find funds for teachers . Basically I need to pay approx USD 190/-per teacher as they spend the whole day at the centre, teaching. Many school leavers and adults too have taken advantage of out classes.I am so grateful that George has kindly set up Kathaluwa facebook group to help me. I do get help from South Point Villas which helps me maintain the buildings, which is very costly.

The Education and Life Skills Centre at Kathaluwa is over 6000 sq.feet, has two large classrooms and two lecture rooms which can be used to teach other skills. Rooms to teach domestic sciences to women who will be taught sewing, cooking, first aid and hygiene practices when we have the funds to furnish the rooms and pay the teachers who will train students in such skills.

The sewing section will teach professional sewing, training in the use of Juki machines so that women can be gainfully employed in factories in the FTZ close by. In fact, one factory has promised to employ all the young women trained by us.The Cretche and pre school which is being constructed by our dutch friends will help women to keep their children in a safe place providing a basic education and good hygiene practice till they return from their workplaces.

We are looking for volunteers who would like to combine social work with a holiday. All activities in the centre will be strictly in accordance with existing Child Protection Laws of the country and will be monitored to make sure that children will be cared for and protected at all times.

Thank you once again for your support

Sharmini Mathew

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Facebook Group now open

Two days ago, November 26th, I decided to open the facebook group Kathaluwa in order to attract more attentions and more members.

The group had managed to obtain 150 members from direct friends and friends of friends.

This morning we have 264 members. This happened because the first 150 members had the chance to invite some of their friends & online connections on facebook.

Members have been asked to donate 2 US dollars per week and engage in helping the lives of children and adults in this area of Sri Lanka.

Reaction has been hectic from most members, but not all. It will take a while as results appear and become facts.

But money is not the only way to help this project. A fine example is an artist from Croatia, Vlado Franjevic. He is based in Liechtenstein and offered me some of his paintings to be used as logos or as e-cards or for any other commercial application for fund raising.

Vlado's unique painting called 'STAY WITH ME' has already attracted the attention of many members as a masterpiece, which I made it to be the project's main logo.

Even just being a member, a name in the drop-down member's menu in this group encourages me and others to keep our hope alive.

Many friends ask me why I do this. I tell them that I am not mother Teresa and never thought to compete with her :)) I'm a business person and invest my time wherever I feel there is future. And while business is commonly known to involve only in money-producing projects, for me this initiative is like a gym for the soul, so that I can draw energy and faith for the rest of my money discoveries.

I have discovered new friends through their reactions into this initiative. I have also discovered pretenders and hypocrits. Even enemies. All in a box :)

Another example is Allan Cockerill, a family man who writes about networking, movies, reviews etc. Allan helps me by writting in several blogs and media about Kathaluwa initiative and I regard him as a great supporter.

Another friend of friend in Athens, Greece, Eileen Botsford, offered to help by designing and hosting the website .

John Lee, right-hand officer of Jim Luce's Orphans International sent me some new fotos from his visit to Kathaluwa Learning Centre. John is back and forth in Sri Lanka during the past one year for the local operations of OIWW and now has bridged our initiative with this great NGO.
You can spot John in the photo playing spinwheel with the children and teaching them art lessons.
Another great supporter is Diogenis Venetopoulos, an offspring of a family who established cruises in Greece in early 50's. We are now considering to offer our members cruises in Greece and in the Red Sea and if they book through my companies, not only they will get a good discount, but a small percentage from the profit to go to Kathaluwa project.
For this you may visit either my relevant group on facebook 'Cruises in Greece' and follow posted instructions.
As Jim Luce says in his recent article published in the NY Times, I will do anything to help these children.

That's all for today folks !!
Thank you for visiting this poor blog and for reading this poor article.
If you would like to involve with any means, please contact me through facebook and I will be very happy to talk with you.
George Karahalios

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Kathaluwa & Orphans International Worldwide

Kathaluwa learning centre, founded by Mrs Sharmini Mathew, and the supporting group on facebook are working closely to reach a full agreement in joining forces with Orphans International Worldwide .

Kathaluwa is a small village in the south of Sri Lanka, an area affected by the tsunami.

Jim Luce, founder or OI and I are in constant touch in order to best serve this wonderful initiative and overpass great difficulties that appear along the way.

John Lee, appointed officer of OI in Sri Lanka is having meetings with Mrs Mathew and other supporters so that we see more success being achieved and more children and people being helped.

If you would like to take a taste of what we are doing, or even better, if you would like to donate 2 dollars per week, you will be surprised what can be achieved!

George Karahalios

Sunday, 18 November 2007

English class report

The following report was made by the teacher of english in the Kathaluwa skills & learning centre.
English Class – Report

Commenced classes on 15th of September 2007

Two students were registered on the first day.
“Nadun Vihagana” of Grade 2 was the first student.
We started classes with one student on the same day.
Mrs. Sonali Gunaratne taught the first student.
She explained how to conduct classes and we discussed future plans.
On 17th September 20 students were registered.
The number of students gradually increased day by day and on 23rd of September there were 35 students in all classes.
Mr. Maithri Gunaratne, Mrs. Sonali Gunaratne and Mrs. Shamini Matthew called daily to get to know about the classes and they made many suggestions how to continue the classes successfully.
First we thought to charge Rs.100 from each student, but most of the students were unable to pay that amount.
I discussed this with Mr. Maithri and he asked me to continue the classes free of charge.
I bought some grammar books, reading books and painting books
I received some grammar books, reading books, painting books, white boards, marker pens etc. on 25th September from Mrs. Munasinghe .
I received some Lady Bird story books and comprehension books from Master
Gunaratne Charitha Gunaratne and Master Migara Gunaratne.
After 3 weeks altogether there were 62 students from Grade 1 -13.
On 6th October Mr. Maithri, Mrs. Sonali, Mrs. Mathew and my self discussed a possible visit of Lions’ Club members.
On the same day Mr. Maithri made many suggestions to encourage students to speak English fluently.
On 15th October, 1 month after starting the classes there were 78 students.
There are 2 classes on weekdays and 3 classes on Saturdays.
School students are more interested and very few attend the adults’ class.
Many parents have requested me to concentrate on teaching children their school text books.
Most of the students have a very poor knowledge in English. They are gradually improving.
I teach English grammar, reading, comprehension and also spoken English.
Mrs. Sonali was very interested in teaching the students. Many times she gave extra lessons to them and the students were very happy.
Mrs. Mathew and Mrs. Sonali visited the class many times while I teach. They watch while I teach.
I got many new ideas from Mrs. Sonali, Mrs. Mathew and Mr. Maithri.
On 15th November there were 102 students and on 16th November another 30 new students came.
I spoke to Mrs. Mathew and registered them too.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Kathaluwa Project

It is almost a month now that I got involved with the philanthropic work of Mrs Sharmini Mathew, owner of South Point Villas in Sri Lanka, and the feeling is rewarding.

On facebook some 200 friends have gathered to help in the group that I created for this purpose.

Anyone who would like to know more about this wonderful project that provides education to children who were affected by the tsunami, please visit either our new website:

or, if you have an account on facebook you may visit our group there:

If you wish more information or a way to help, please email us at:

George Karahalios
Mass Media Communications Expert, Entrepreneur