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Dilmah family opens new centre to help women and children in need


December 10, 2009/23.57

The family behind Dilmah tea has spent over NZ$27 million on the first stage of a complex in Sri Lanka that will care for abused women, differently abled children and marginalized children from urban slums in Sri Lanka, it was announced today.
   The first phase of the MJF Centre has been opened by Merrill J. Fernando, Founder of Dilmah and Settlor of the MJF Charitable Foundation, at Moratuwa, a large and heavily populated seaside town close to Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo.
   The MJF Centre will eventually house four charitable projects. The first, the Centre for Women, has been established in partnership with the Diri Piyasa Trust Fund to offer a much needed residential care facility for abused women.
   The Centre will provide free legal, medical, law enforcement and counselling services to women and their families who are victims of violence. It will provide for their rehabilitation and also perform a wider role in creating awareness among families and communities on the extent of violence and its impact on women and their families.
   Work has now begun on the second and third stages: two centres for differently abled children, including Down syndrome and physically disabled children. Once complete, more than 100 children will enjoy specialized therapy, care and education at the Centres for Children.
   The fourth stage of the project is MJF Kids, a replica of the highly successful MJF Kids programme that already assists over 120 children from deprived neighbourhoods in the suburbs of Colombo. The Moratuwa MJF Kids programme will focus on rehabilitation of vulnerable “street children” by assisting them to excel in their education and in nurturing creativity.
   Dilmah Tea and its associate companies contribute a minimum of 10 per cent of their profits to supplement the contribution that Merrill and his sons make to the foundation. The MJF Foundation designs and implements over 100 different projects each year with the objective of empowering marginalized and underprivileged people in the community in a sustainable and dignified manner. The Foundation’s Small Entrepreneur Programme has been hailed as a model for practical and respectful assistance to the poorest.
   Other areas in which the Foundation is active include education, nutrition and health care, care for the elderly, rehabilitation of tsunami affected communities, empowerment of the differently abled and emergency assistance to marginalized communities.

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