by Tang Lu, Jamila Najmuddin
COLOMBO, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Shantha Jayasiri lives in Pannila, a remote village in western Sri Lanka, about 59 km from the Sri Lankan capital.
Jayasiri is one of the several villagers in Pannila, in the district of Kalutara, whose income is not sufficient to meet life's basic needs.
In the past, when his daughter, Vishmi Sadeesha, starts a new school year in every January, Jayasiri had to go around to borrow money from others to buy stationery and other school materials.
It is not an easy task, because almost everyone in Pannila is as poor as Jayasiri, with little or no extra money to help others in need.
However, fate is smiling at Pannila now. The village has been included in the "China Merchants Silk Road Hope Village" plan, sponsored by China Merchants Group. The project aims to transform poor villages in Sri Lanka, and put them on the road to sustainable development.
Jayasiri and other villagers no longer have to worry about their children's school supplies. The elderly too will be looked after under the plan.
On. Dec. 27, the staff of Colombo International Container Terminal Co., Ltd. (CICT) of China Merchants Group visited Pannila and distributed school bags and stationery to about 300 students, who will begin a new school year in January.
In addition, 119 elderly people aged over 70 years old also received gift packages comprising daily necessities, nutritional and health products.
At the gift-awarding ceremony held in the village, H.A. Gunathilake, president of the Pannila Village Development Committee, expressed his appreciation on behalf of the nearly 2,000 villagers, saying that Chinese companies truly understand the needs of poor Sri Lankan villagers.
Jayasiri's daughter Vishmi Sadeesha was beaming while talking to the Xinhua reporter. "I am very glad to have received new stationery and a school bag, which makes me look forward to the new semester. All my classmates have received gifts from Chinese companies," Vishmi said.
One of the elderly beneficiaries of the charity event, 73-year-old Roselin Abeywickrema, praised Chinese companies for their care and concern towards the elderly in the village.
"I have lived here for almost 40 years, and few companies have shown such concern for us," she said.
Mu Nan, chief financial officer of Colombo International Container Terminal Co., Ltd. said, "Education is key to village development. Education at the primary and middle school levels helps villagers achieve their dreams and develop their village."
He thanked the elderly for their contribution to the development of the village and local society, and said that CICT will pay special attention to improving the living standards of the elderly and caring for their health.
According to reports, Pannila is China Merchants Group's first targeted poverty alleviation village in Sri Lanka.