Not all play, there’s been work too!

I had a pretty busy start to my time here in Sri Lanka, thrown in at the deep-end, that’s for sure.  Within a day’s arrival, I had a 5am start to attend a training session for BIZ+ partners, on productivity principles.  The session was in Matara which is what allowed us to scout around and find my home away from home over the next month or so.

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As you can see the session was well attended and included a partnership with the Sri Lankan Government’s Dept of Productivity – making it easy for the businesses to establish and maintain important connections long after the BIZ+ project finishes.

As part of my Great Place To Work Certification preparation (GPTW), I visited a few businesses in the north and east of country – a whirlwind two-day tour with about 20 hours of traveling for 4 hours of meetings – phew!  There is no other way to get there other than by car or bus ….

2 weeks in

We visited a soya meat producer and a polysack manufacturer among others during this trip and of course I took some photos.  I’ll be returning to a few of the businesses again this week to commence preparation for GPTW certification.

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On Friday, I was asked to do an assessment of HR practices along with any obvious health & safety concerns at a few of the local businesses in Matara.  Ajantha  and I traveled with Dishan a digital marketer who will assist these businesses  secure an online presence for their products.  Very interesting to visit these small family run businesses, to learn how they started their businesses and the challenges they face:  from cashflow to hiring skilled staff to connecting to markets.  It;s the same issues all over the world.

Although I do not claim to be a health & safety expert, I posses oodles of common sense and this was put to good use, identifying areas for immediate fix at these factories!!

My visit to the shoe factory is up first.

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Natural cosmetic business is next.

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And finally the family run batik operation …. a tad primitive but really, just gorgeous work!

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Long hot days is the trend, thank goodness for the opportunity for a cooling swim at the end of the day.  And the business owners make my heart melt – they are passionate in what they do, are keen to learn and do better and treat their staff so well.

Sri Lankans really have hearts of gold, there is no doubt about it.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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