Even though titan companies in the garment industry initiate mass scale Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects phasing villages, districts and even provinces which are highly publicized, there are many factories outside Colombo which contribute to the communities without any publicity. These factories’ main idea is to develop the entire community through its benefits.

 

Beginning from the workers

When it comes to the workforce, garment factories such as Hirdaramani Industries Kahatuduwa, Orit Apparels Avissawella and Sanchia Bandaragama have instituted loan schemes as well as other funds and committees to assist their workers and their families.

 

In order to maintain a cordial relationship with its employees, Hirdaramani Industries has adopted an ‘Open Door Policy’ which permits workers to walk-in and speak to their superiors if there are any issues or complaints. “There is a lady who attends to the personal grievances of the workers. She keeps everything confidential and takes measures to resolve them,” Hirdaramani Kahatuduwa General Manager J.N. Gunasena said. With the agro community the factory commenced and it has also organized the ‘Vavamu Dinamu’ contest which awards prizes ranging from Rs.2,000-10,000 to farmers with the best gardens. Gunasena added that this scheme is not only a CSR project but also to enhance ties with the people of the area.

 

During a media tour the Daily Financial Times learnt that there are initial requirements at garment factories such as providing transport, basic healthcare and certain meals. At Sanchia Bandaragama Consultant Eksith Fernando revealed that their foreign clients had demanded the prohibition of giving out loans as it would lead to bonded labour. However the company had pointed out that the employees had nowhere else to turn to for short term finances as the loan sharks charge very high interests.

 

From Coconuts to Computers Olaboduwa Soysa Maha Vidyalaya is a small school of 388 students. Their target is to win the Productive Award for schools in 2009. In order to obtain a computer the school sought help from the political parties however as the building was situated on an electorate divisional border neither parties have helped. Thus the Principal of the School Mahinda Uduwana together with the students collected coconut husks and sold them to Hayleys. The money received from this venture had been enough for two computers and they obtained two more computers from Hayleys who made the donation having after seeing their spirit and confidence while Hirdaramani Industries Kahatuduwa spent approximately Rs. 2 million for an entire computer laboratory. At present the school has around 35 computers.

Meanwhile Lakmini Perera, the librarian of the Sri Saralankara Maha Vidyalaya revealed that Sanchia Bandaragama has helped the school in many ways and that when they had approached the factory it had immediately provided them with Rs. 40,000 to purchase books for the library. Lasanthika Chandraratne, a prefect of the school conveyed that books are essential for children nowadays and that through Sanchia’s contribution they have been able to acquire a lot of valuable books. This factory is also credited with the reopening of a primary school which had been shutdown under a government policy. Walgama Saddhatissa Maha Vidyalaya Principal Weedagama Kassapa Thera said “The joint preschool was closed for two years until Sanchia assisted us to reopen it.” This school is now equipped with a computer lab and is to expand with more students.

 

CSR at temples

The garment factories are now gaining merit by supporting various temples in the surrounding areas since they are involved in many activities of the temple. Mannikkawattha Sri Wijayaramaya Chief Prelate Gonagala Somaloka Thera divulged that Orit Apparels Avissawella has helped the temple conduct many programmes as well as construct a new building and the provide assistance for the temple’s ;perahera’ and ‘pinkama’. Hirdaramani Kahatuduwa in the meantime has donated Rs.7 million for a two storey building with a computer lab and a ‘dharmashalawa’ to the Undurugoda Sri Vijayanandaramaya.