Social Programmes

Receding waters of the tsunami that devastated
the South West coast on 26th December 2004

KBT response to the tsunami –
Sir Cyril de Zoysa Housing Complex, Balapitiya

A family ‘resurrected’ from the devastation
of the tsunami at their new home in Balapitiya

Post-Tsunami Housing

The devastating tsunami that struck Sri Lanka on 26th December left an estimated 35,000 people dead and a staggering 500,000 displaced. KBT’s present Chairman experienced first-hand the raging waters as he was in Kalutara at a meeting of the Trustees when the tsunami struck.

26th December was also Unduvap Poya or the full moon day of December, a day of religious significance to Buddhists. As is customary on all Poya Days, KBT had organised religious events and had prepared meals and refreshments for devotees visiting the Kalutara Bōdhi. In the aftermath of the disaster, these meals were augmented and were utilised to provide relief to the tsunami victims. While this action met a most immediate need, efforts were made to regain the use of ancestral lands of the de Zoysa family in Balapitiya (in the Southern coastal belt of Sri Lanka), which had been acquired by the Government in the 1970s. This was successfully accomplished and in June 2005, KBT commenced the construction of a complex of 51 houses comprising 44 twin house units and seven single house units.

The major contribution of Rs. 20 million to this project was through the generosity of Mrs Ursula Beier of Germany – which is testament to the trustworthy reputation enjoyed by the trustees of KBT in being able to muster support of such magnitude.

KBT action is not usually unilateral, but is often co-operative and co-ordinated. The beneficiaries in this exercise were selected by the Government Agent. In addition to the housing project, other measures were also adopted to render assistance to the victims of the tsunami such as the provision of relief material and counselling services. KBT also set up a fund to assist the victims to which devotees and well-wishers were encouraged to contribute, thereby widening the scope of aid. The housing scheme was an impressive act of philanthropy, which will stand out in the annals of the history of KBT, and the private sector humanitarian efforts in Sri Lanka.

Tsunami Scholarship Fund

KBT provides scholarships to 25 students who lost their parents or guardians to the tsunami. Compounding the great psychological trauma of their tragic loss was the impact it had on their future prospects. Effectively, the loss of their parents and guardians also brought about an abrupt end to their support and funding, which neutralised their aspirations for ongoing education. The scholarships therefore made it possible for these students to continue with their education so that they may fulfill their potential later in life. KBT continues to receive donations for the education of these students to ensure continuity of an effective and meaningful system of support.

The Visākha Children's Home

The Home was the brainchild of our founder, Sir Cyril de Zoysa. It provides sanctuary to girls below the age of 18 from single parent homes or those referred by the Government’s Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services. A sponsor for each child is sourced. Each sponsor contributes US$ 15-20 per month. This funding is utilised to meet the cost of food, clothing and other requirements. Additionally, each child receives a monthly stipend of Rs 1,000 which is deposited in a bank savings account. These savings are released to them when they leave the home as young adults. KBT supplements the funding received by meeting expenses that arise over and above what is contributed by the donor. KBT also organises English language classes to improve the childrenʼs levels of employability down the track, and has also introduced training programmes in needlework and typing for children who show aptitude in these areas.

Sir Cyril de Zoysa Elders' Home

Shelter and care for the aged is a prime necessity in Sri Lanka to supplement the response of the State to meet the needs of the aged and the infirm. The ancestral home of our founder, Sir Cyril de Zoysa sits on a picturesque hillock, 10km east of Kalutara town. In 1991, this property was brought under the management of KBT and was transformed into a home for senior citizens. KBT has undertaken to care for them for the rest of their days.

Mrs. Violet Yakandawela, Chairperson, National
Forum of Visually Handicapped Women of the
Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped,
addressing a gathering at the Kalutara Bōdhi when
a copy of the Dhammapada in the Braille language
was ceremonially presented to the Federation by KBT.

The Dhammapada in Braille

A key project of KBT that was particularly satisfying was the transcription of the Dhammapada to Braille in 2002. This was inspired by the entry of the first blind woman, Violet Yakandawela, into the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, in 1965. She read History for her Degree and was awarded Honours. Violet taught at the Ratmalana School for the Blind and continues to live a vibrant life. The project was undertaken in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped and was implemented in three languages – Pāli, Sinhala and English. Six volumes covering all 423 stanzas have been completed through the untiring efforts of a member of the Bōdhi Trust and three visually impaired persons. The Federation is making this work available beyond the shores of Sri Lanka by posting the work through Braille computers. The Tun Sutra or the three main discourses of the Buddha too were transcribed in Braille along with Seth Pirith or the stanzas that confer blessings and protection.

Disaster Relief

KBT has an ongoing programme that is in readiness to provide assistance to those adversely affected in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Some examples are donation of dry rations to people in the drought-affected Hambantota district, and similarly, to the people of the Polonnaruwa and Medirigiriya districts, all of which are in the designated ‘Dry Zone’ regions of Sri Lanka. Kalutara too has encountered natural disasters from time to time, though usually of the converse problem – flooding. This usually occurs during a particularly active South-West monsoon period. In such circumstances, KBT provides assistance to those affected and also works closely with other organisations such as Associated Motorways Ltd., which collaborated with KBT to provide flood-relief at Galpatha, Kalutara.

The Yatiyana-Agalawatte Elders' Home for Women – Kalutara

The Yatiyana-Agalawatte Eldersʼ Home for Women was established in December 2001 on land received as a generous donation from a patron. The Home provides care and a dignified quality of life to the elderly ladies as they pass through their twilight years. The Home is also unique in that it has captured the hearts and the imagination of the local community who play a central role in its day-to-day operations on a voluntary basis. All daily meals to the Home are supplied by the local community in an organised undertaking and has contributed to an enhanced culture of caring and sense of responsibility evolving within the community. The Home is maintained and its overall operation overseen by KBT. The close participation and collaboration of the community in its running has resulted in the Home becoming a showpiece and has received numerous accolades from both local and overseas donors and visitors.