Giving back to the community is an integral part of our culture,
beliefs and values. Every year, the Company’s bottling partner in Sri Lanka,
Coca-Cola SABCO, ensures they benefit the community in a unique way – through
an employee volunteerism team.
The ‘Say We Care’ (SWC) team, is a group of employees who work to raise funds and collectively make a difference to the lives of people around them.
In March, the SWC team unveiled a water supply system that benefits 60 households in the village of Athulekanda in Kalutara, impacting more than 280 people in the village.
The water supply system consists of a 20-foot (six metre) well at the bottom of the mountainous terrain and an adjacent pump house facility. The pump house pushes water from the well to two 10,000 litre community water tanks on the mountain top. The tanks are linked to pipe systems in every house to permanently provide villagers with water. The facility will be maintained by Sri Lanka’s National Water Supply and Drainage Board.
Two associates from Coca-Cola Sri Lanka, Neelika Tillekeratne (NT), Public Affairs and Communications Manager, and Asela De Mel (AM), Management Accounting and Finance Manager, spoke about their unforgettable experience.
Have you taken part in Say We Care’s volunteer activities before?
AM: Since the inception of the Say We Care team in 2007, I have participated in all the fundraising activities and conducted onsite visits where there is construction taking place. I have helped out on arduous parts of the projects as well.
NT: I joined CCBSL in 2008. Since social work has always been in my heart, I was really happy to join the Say We Care team and support their efforts. The personal joy I feel when I bring a smile to someone’s face is immeasurable.
What was your first impression when you visited Athulekanda village at the start of the project?
NT: Athulekanda is a beautiful village with a scenic view of rubber estates and mountainous terrain. The people who live there are simple and extremely hospitable. However, what I saw as scenic mountainous terrain is a monstrosity to the villagers, who struggle 80 feet uphill carrying water in buckets or clay pots.
AM: The predicament of 60 poverty-stricken families made me very emotional. Two hundred and eighty people faced severe hardships as women, men and children treaded this rocky footpath several times a day to fetch water for essential needs. The schoolchildren in the village are resigned to carrying water uphill when they return home from school. Though this eats into their study and play time, the children still go about the task with silent resignation as they know they need the water for survival.
What kind of fundraising activities did you host for this project?
AM: The total cost of the project was LKR2 million (USD15,800).
Our main fundraiser was a local theatre show, sponsored by our key
stakeholders. We also sold pens, t-shirts and wrist bands to raise funds.
NT: From experience, I know that people pay a high premium for good quality, novelty items. Walking from department to department to convince colleagues and others to buy the goods was difficult at first, but when they realised it was for a good cause, a lot of people contributed and bought the items.
Did you ever think of the difficulties the villagers were facing before this project?
AM: I didn’t realise the gravity of the situation until I heard their plight and saw the tears in their eyes, as they talked about the difficulty of even getting a bucket of water. They spoke to us at length about their predicament and pleaded with us to get the necessary approvals, to make their dreams of reliable water access come true. It was quite emotional and we genuinely empathised with them.
How has this experience made you understand the precarity of our natural resources (especially water)?
AM: Even though Sri Lanka is a water abundant island, there are places where this natural resource is considered a treasure. I am determined to alleviate this issue and conserve water in any way that I can.
NT: We are so blessed with adequate water daily that we take this precious commodity for granted. We hope to create more awareness about such water issues and make a difference to the lives of community members around us.Jennifer Lai is Editor at Eight Partnership who helps write stories for The