Patterns are hard to break. Especially for teenagers growing up on tea plantations in Sri Lanka. They’re isolated from other Sri Lankans, have few prospects for alternative occupations, and can easily get stuck in a cycle of economic dependence on tea plantation owners. That’s why WUSC works with teens who show an interest in gaining new skills and further education. Udayakumar’s story shows how WUSC is improving lives.
Like many other estate youth, Udayakumar, now 19, studied up to grade nine before he left school to take a job at a garment factory in a neighbouring village to help support his parents and two younger brothers. After five months in tough working conditions, he returned home unhappy and feeling helpless. He knew he wanted to work somewhere other than the tea fields, but saw no options - until he crossed paths with WUSC. Soon he was enrolled in a six-month welding course. Udayakumar completed the course successfully and earned a Level 3 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) certificate.
He has joined hundreds of local youth who have completed vocational training and secured good jobs working in the local welding, construction, hotel and garment industries. During the course, he also received life-skills training, career counselling and a monthly travel allowance. After graduation, he was hired as a welder in a workshop near his parents’ home.
Every month, he brings home the equivalent of $54 (that’s a little more than approximately 14 per cent of the population earning $1.25 per day), which helps pay for his mother’s medical bills. He also saves a small amount each month. Udayakumar says with more experience, he’d like to go abroad where there is the potential to earn more. WUSC ushered Udayakumar into a new world which was unknown to him.
Today he feels like he has a promising future, one where his strong work skills will secure a better life for him and his family. The success of this project depends on a strong partnership between WUSC and a variety of partners including various local community-based organizations, tea plantation managers and the Government of Sri Lanka. It is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.
Learn more about WUSC's Plantation Communities Project.