The economic empowerment of the poor  would be more meaningful if it is coupled with spirituality. A Catholic Priest is involved in dealing with this kind of economics – direct human development – and through 15 years of investing around Rs. 250 million. The project has seen success in reshaping the lives of around 1,000 [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan priest transforms lives of thousands of people in 15-year journey


Rev Fr. Jude Nicholas Fernando, crosses Paranaganga to reach Naguleliya fishing village

The economic empowerment of the poor  would be more meaningful if it is coupled with spirituality. A Catholic Priest is involved in dealing with this kind of economics – direct human development – and through 15 years of investing around Rs. 250 million. The project has seen success in reshaping the lives of around 1,000 youth providing education, employment and then settling them.

Though there is  no mention of spirituality, one of the goals of the World Bank too is ‘to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity in a sustainable way’.

Rev Fr. (Dr.) Jude Nicholas Fernando hails from a poor family in Kammala, Bolawatte and was ordained in 1985. He served in the National Seminary Ampitiya for a short time and then went abroad to obtain his PhD, to serve the church and utilised all his free time to work and earn for nearly 10 years.

He returned to Sri Lanka with the savings and floated Dimuthu Foundation in 2002 at Pambala, Kaakkapalliya to ‘give a fishing net, than a fish to quell the hunger’ and to make a living, of course spirituality in the backdrop to create total economic, social, psychological spiritual and intellectual development of the most underprivileged, marginalised, vulnerable and undefended sectors of the society.

He attends to pockets of families almost abandoned by the society in remote villages. In some cases there are couples as young as 13 to 14 years who have eloped and had children out of wedlock. While the priest works to formalise their marriage when they reach 18 years, he is also working to obtain birth certificates for the children born outside wedlock, arrange to provide them formal education, train them in various trades, get employment for the youth in these villages who are otherwise engaged in various nefarious activates, such as drug use and sales, adultery, etc.

Fr. Fernando purchases stretches of land, blocks them up, gives them to the landless, homeless abandoned families, builds houses, settles them and arranges to obtain employment where possible. In this manner he deals with more than 10 such pockets of families or villages. His most ambitious human development programme is to house 300 almost abandoned and neglected small children in the building now that he is completing at the Foundation.

It was Sunday, early morning, last week that Fr. Fernando accompanied the Business Times (BT) to two such places of his mission. The first one was Naguleliya – turning off from Puttalam main road from Wairankattuwa near Aarachchikattuwa to a 5 km extremely rugged road.

Reaching Paranaganga (river), village resident Ms. D Jacintha steered the group one by one to the other end in a dingy boat, and then after a walk of about two km reached the ‘Paaru Ela’ and she again steered the group to the other end to reach Naguleliya – a fishing village of 15 cadjan thatched and roofed huts with 24 families.

Being a Sunday, Fr. Fernando said Holy Mass in the tiny Rosa Mystica Church and discussed the problems of the villagers – no proper accessible road, huts washing out to the sea, etc. There he organises extra education to the children and youth formation leading to finding employment.

Fr. Fernando counselling the youth and the children at Seemaweliya.

Passing Puttalam, turning off and passing a distance the BT team reached Seemaweliya which was earlier a scrub jungle. Fr. Fernando purchased a 4 ½ acres  of land there and settled 40 families. For some families Fr. Fernando himself built houses while other families built their own houses. Now it is a complete settlement, with water and electricity. He has employed a couple to oversee the children’s education and to assist the families in their cultivation.

Girls are provided dress making training with sewing machines. Children have to travel 16 km to attend school in Kanndapoowa. Children in the settlement are studying well and Fr. Fernando has arranged some AL students to attend Loyola International School.

Apart from these two villages, Fr. Fernando said that there are several other pockets of families in several different areas who are almost neglected and abandoned and he strives to rehabilitate them.

In Kawatiyawatte (Chilaw) there are 125 families with more than 200 children. Many of the adults are uneducated and unemployed. He has organised six volunteer teachers to see to the education of the children.

At Manuwangama bordering Deduruoya there are 350 families. During the last 25 years poor people have been located there and Fr. Fernando said that among them there is no unity and they are divided. He is trying to arrange youth vocational training and for the women,  some self-employment.

At Karukupone – Koreapura (Chilaw) with 25 poor families – unemployment, there are problems in educating children, etc. In Kanndathoduwawa, Madurankuliya there are 100 families and 60 to 70 per cent of the children there are physically handicapped. In Sudupiyagama close to Kalpitiya the people do not have land and they live on marshy land and the church is trying to  find some land for these families. Fr. Fernando is organising youth formation and providing education for the children.

Another spot he said he is dealing with is in Kekirawa and attending to the needs of around 40 children. Near Anuradhapura, Fr Fernando said that he is dealing with a Wedi Gammaaanaya – Moragoda -where there are 25 families where around 40 children are taken care of with their education and also guidance on youth leadership.

Fr. Fernando said that his work is somewhat similar to what Mother Theresa did in India of course in a much milder form. He noted that the large amount of funds and the long time spent is not in vain as society has got richer with large numbers of youth moulded on the right path and provided jobs.

Fr. Fernando says his funds are now dwindling and fresh avenues of income have to be generated to continue his mission.

He is now poised to utilise all the land he has and transform it to cultivate crops like Cavendish Banana, Gherkin, vegetable and horticulture. He also intends to embark on an organised programme of growing orchids with the ultimate aim of exporting. Also he is soliciting  public support and could be contacted on the telephone numbers: 032 2051817 and 0773285133 or on
email –

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