pledge support to children
Close to 100 CEOs of some of Sri Lanka's top corporates came together
last week at a crucial meeting in Colombo to pledge their support
towards needy children in Sri Lanka.
by the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce
and UNICEF, the CEOs including business leaders like Mahendra Amarasuriya,
Chandra Jaya-ratne, Tilak de Soysa and Chrisantha Perera listened
to appeals from prominent personalities urging a committed effort
towards providing for underprivileged children.
speaker Greig Craft, founder-president of the Asia Injury Prevention
Foundation who flew down from Vietnam for the event, said investing
in children made business sense, perhaps the biggest and most fervent
appeal came from Dawn Austin, director at Nisol and an exporter
of fruits and vegetables.
decided to speak off the cuff as her prepared text contained much
of what had been said by previous speakers, made a passionate plea
for the business community to help in providing for children. Speaking
of her own experiences, she said her company was helping a children's
home in Jaffna and "the effort, I must tell you is extremely
She spoke at
length on ways in which the private sector could help needy children
in the country and said she was prepared to do her mite in bringing
the community together. Speakers, while acknowledging the support
by individual companies towards social causes in recent years, said
the private sector could do much more as an organised group.
are many humanitarian needs of children. Take those children who
walk to school without shoes, in a poor village in Anuradhapura.
What of the nutritional needs of children in a village in Jaffna
or drinking water for a family in drought stricken Hambantota? Health,
nutrition, education, emotional needs - the list is endless,"
said a CMF spokesman.
Making a plea
for help, he said; "children from affluent homes get a decent
education and good care. The children of poor families will always
struggle, unable to get out of that vicious circle, unless we make
an effort to change it for them."
summit which was a brisk, 90-minute presentation of key issues facing
children in Sri Lanka like education, social and humanitarian needs,
followed a UNICEF-organised summit in Kathmandu last year which
brought together children, business leaders from the South and NGOs
working with children.
An action group
or steering committee, guided by the chamber, was announced at the
Colombo meeting which would work towards mobilising the business
community towards issues like education and other needs.
Renton de Alwis,
Chamber CEO and Secretary General, while thanking the CEOs for their
presence announced the list of volunteers on the action group. They
include Hemaka Amarasuriya, Dawn Austin, Ken Balendra, Shiromal
Cooray, Raaj de Silva, Shehara de Silva, Hussein Esufally, Chandra
Jayaratne, Ranjith Page (as facilitator), Kavan Ratnayake, Dr. Hans
Wijesuriya and D.A.S. Wijeratne.
CEO willing to join this group is most welcome," he said adding
that interested people could also express their views and support
through the e-forum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
in Colombo, Ted Chaiban said Sri Lanka had successes in social needs
while the challenges that need to be addressed are malnutrition
as well as the quality of education. He said the conditions of children
in the war-affected northeast were a major source of concern.
Lankan business community's immediate priority should be improving
the quality of education with child-friendly schools as well as
promoting conflict resolution among the children to prevent an ethnic
conflict in the future," he said adding that by 2015 South
Asia would be home to the poorest, most illiterate and most malnourished
children in the world.
"Helmets for Kids" initiative is getting recognition across
the world, said he was a once a CEO working for profit but decided
to go the other way by setting up a not-for-profit organisation
towards preventing kids from injury or death due to rapid motorisation
has set up a non-profit (motorcycle) helmet factory in Hanoi which
is "a truly successful business. Profits from the factory are
sent back to the foundation to support public education and advocacy
programmes and are also helping provide some 50,000 free helmets
to kids. Craft is also Vice Chairman of the Asia Pacific Council
of American Chambers of Commerce.
of Commerce Chairman Tilak de Zoysa stressed the need for a focused
and concerted effort by the private sector to resolve issues affecting
children. He said there was a need for an alliance of business leaders
for children. "We may be taking small steps but those must
be taken by all together," he said. The Colombo conference
was preceded by a concert of country and folk music on Sunday night
organised by the CMF in association with UNICEF.
mission towards protecting kids
When Greig Craft, a US businessman who has travelled across the
world, went to Vietnam in the late 1980s looking for business opportunities,
he ended up founding a charity for kids that's spreading its vision
not satisfied with what I was doing. I got up one morning realising
that I wanted do something for society," he said, recalling
how he first started setting up the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation
or Asia Injury as it is called. Craft, keynote speaker at the historic
CEOs roundtable on children held last week in Colombo, said Mother
Teresa was responsible for pricking his social consciousness.
astounded when Mother Teresa sought my support to establish her
operations in Vietnam in the early 90's. She needed my intervention
with the government, my organisational and implementation expertise
and my ability to marshall all the necessary players to realise
her vision. In short she needed my business acumen and experience,"
he said, adding that he was able to support the Nobel laureate's
dream and vision.
Craft Corporation led to the development of Vietnam's first direct
reduced iron plant - a $300 million project which was the first
US involvement in Vietnam's emerging steel industry in 1990-, is
now a fulltime charity worker bringing in his business skills to
run a charity as a successful business venture.
that I could never change the world like Mother Teresa but that
I could instead focus on a few issues that were impacting society
around me. In my case it was motorisation in a developing country
and its devastating effects on the lives of children and the nation."
the ability to do the same thing. Beyond financial contribution,
I respectfully challenge all of you to consider using your considerable
skills and expertise to change conditions here," Craft urged
Sri Lankan business leaders at Monday's meeting.
A personal friend
of President Bill Clinton, he was able to persuade the latter to
visit Vietnam and initiate the "helmets for kids" programme
which has now provided 50,000 free helmets to children as a safety
is involved in raising awareness of the social, economic and human
impact on children of the rising number of road accidents in developing
countries. Craft, also a long-time business consultant in Hanoi,
is planning to set up offices in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and other
Asian countries in working towards curbing traffic-based disasters
to help needy kids and the business community can do it. Investing
in children makes a lot of business sense," he noted.
Airlines adds Colombo to network
Czech Airlines (CSA), the national carrier of the Czech Republic
represented in Sri Lanka by International Airline Service (Pvt)
Ltd, a subsidiary of Expolanka Group, will add a new destination,
Colombo, to their route network from October 29.
is one of the oldest in the world and has a modern fleet of aircraft
comprising Airbuses and Boeings with state of the art cargo terminals
Czech Airlines Cargo flies to 54 destinations in Europe, USA, Canada
and the Middle East. Czech Airlines flies to all major cities in
Europe. CSA Cargo is a member of the 'Sky Team' comprising Air France,
Delta Airlines, Alitalia, Aeromexico and Korean Airlines.