In April this year, the Rotary Club of Windward Oahu in Hawaii provided Rs. 350,000 through the Rotary Club of Colombo North and the Peace Secretariat to a group of seven women. Each woman received a no-interest loan of Rs. 50,000 to be repaid over a period of two years. The Trincomalee office of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce in Sri Lanka was asked to manage the project because it has an effective follow-up mechanism and a good reputation for handling micro finance. Indeed, timely repayments have already permitted Rs. 50,000 loans to be given to an additional two women.
The Peace Secretariat caught up with one of the project beneficiaries a few days ago. Dedunu Jeewanthi, who runs a furniture shop, confirmed that the assistance had been a tremendous help.
Dedunu had been facing great difficulties in providing even the basic necessities for her family before joining the sustainable livelihood development project. She has two children - a three year old son and a daughter attending school in Grade Three. The family was affected by the tsunami as well as having suffered from decades of conflict in the Eastern Province. Expenses had been going up, and they had found themselves unable to manage on her husband's income from a small job he does in Colombo.
Having received the Rs. 50,000 loan, Dedunu found the strength to build up her life again by developing her shop. She is now able to buy more furniture, and she feels that business is pretty good. 'It is very profitable,' she said, 'I can even cover the loan - there is now only Rs. 32,000 to be paid off out of the Rs. 50,000 that was given to me a few months ago.' Dedunu has plans for the future too. 'I hope to buy better furniture and expand my business with the profits. I also want to improve my small house into a better living space,' she explained.
Dedunu is a courageous woman. She explained that although life could be difficult, we could overcome many of our problems with commitment and resolve and a little help from others. She called for more donors to get involved in projects like this so that more women and families could have a better future.
Delighted with this progress, the Rotary Club of Windward Oahu in Hawaii has now agreed to provide a further Rs. 100,000 through the Rotary Club of Colombo North and the Peace Secretariat to be given to another two women from the Trincomalee district as no-interest loans. They will receive the money as soon as funds are transferred from Hawaii, which is expected to happen within the month of November.
The sustainable livelihood development project is going well and the women involved are determined to start a new life with the assistance provided. They are very thankful for the support given by all parties to forget their sorrows and look forward to a better life for themselves and their families.
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process