Harnessing Rural Single Mums’ Inner Skills in Sri Lanka
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
Building a sustainable future, one micro-business at a time
Serene Vacations Lanka Ltd.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of rural communities everywhere. Here in Sri Lanka, we, at Serene Vacations Lanka Ltd are working to help rural single mothers start and run small, sustainable home-based local businesses. Our success shows what can be done with small amounts of funding through donations from people like you to build viable businesses from the ground, up.
Vulnerable groups, like our single mothers, are often overlooked by society, especially in times like these when many businesses in the tourism value chain have been destroyed by the pandemic. With your help, they get an opportunity to improve and expand their skills and contribute to the sustainability of their communities with their newly formed micro-businesses. This type of small. targeted assistance produces tangible, visible impact.
Before we tell you our story, here’s some background.
Setting the Stage
First, we conducted a survey of single mothers and community attitudes in rural areas to give us an insight into the physical and mental barriers that single mothers deal with on a daily basis. Through face-to-face interviews and questionnaires, we found that the majority expressed a feeling of loneliness and even hopelessness of their situation. They had virtually no sense of identity and this only reinforced an overwhelming lack of confidence. Because they avoid social interactions that can subject them to prejudice their feelings of isolation leads to depression which is reflected in a poor diet and choice of dress, further separating them from the community.
The cycle is difficult to break since, as a single mum, she is required to be able to manage everything by herself, including balancing limited finances, work when available and providing nurture time for her children. At the same time, they must deal with a societal attitude that for blames them for a situation they largely did nothing to create.
Many of these mothers were involved in the tourism sector value chain, but when tourism collapsed as a result of COVID, they were left with little to sustain their family. So, we set out to help.
Then we did our due-diligence by identifying their skills and capacity in general. Rather than re-invent the wheel, we then targeted their existing skills and practical dreams and provided training to amplify their abilities – think sewing, making natural culinary snacks, working with herbs and spices, home gardening and the like.
Once we’ve narrowed the scope to manageable areas, with the help of small donations and our own funds we provided business start-up costs, helped them develop and implement their plans and gave them financial management training to grow their new micro-business. The result is a sustainable income based on community needs and local culture making them again an integral part of their community.
We have four participants in our initial project and plan to add more depending on donations and funding.
First, meet Lemini Habarana from central Sri Lanka close to the UNESCO world heritage site of Sigiriya is a 42-year-old single mum with two kids. Her home village adjoins a wild-life sanctuary near Sigiriya and we worked with her to establish a mushroom business in
November 2020. We arranged for her to attend the government run mushroom cultivation training center and provided the startup cost of about 800 USD.
By February 2021 she harvested her first crop and began selling mushrooms to local families, restaurants and hotels. Her income from this new home-based venture will support her two young sons, allowing them to attend school on a regular basis.
The income she earns has given her self-confidence and courage to grow her business and take an active role in the community.
Next, introducing Yoga–Kandaopka from the city Nuwara Eliya, located in the tea growing hill country in central Sri Lanka and hosts the forested Galway's Land National Park.
Yoga is a mother of three girls, who are still small and need to attend school. Although not a single mother, her husband lost his tourism job after Covid-19 struck leaving them without any income and has yet to find work.
Not to be deterred, she wanted to earn money to support her family and was really good at making wade – a popular vegetarian street food for snacks or tea breaks. There are two main varieties ulundu or dhal. The ulundu wade are soft while the dhal wade is crunchy.
We helped with her start-up costs of about 200 USD, bought a small gas stove, electric mixer and the ingredients to make her delicious snacks. Her first order was in April 2021 from village shops. Now, she plans to expand her home-based business to help with her family and make a profit to support her kids.
Our third participant is Shiromi from Lunugamwehera, Tissamaharama in southern Sri Lanka known for its bird and elephant sanctuary.
Shiromi, 42, is a single mum with one daughter. With excellent skills and adept at sewing clothes, we arranged for her to buy an industrial type sewing machine on an installment basis.
To improve her skills, we have covered the cost of a professional sewing instructor living close to her home for three months. Her plan is to make clothing for the local shops in the city.
Unfortunately, we can’t finance everything so we are reaching out for donations to complete the balance of the installment payments – about 250 USD and a similar amount to buy the material for her first orders.
Finally, we met Sapna at our own Agri-Land project in Tissamaharama where she comes to
find day-work. This was a completely unplanned meeting and while talking with her she started to tell us about her three kids and her business dream.
Her goal is to set up a small organic spice business selling homemade, organic spices to nearby households and local shops.
We are really excited with the entrepreneurial spirit and dedication of our mothers to improve their lives and contribute to their communities. Each produces and sells local products that are an inspiration to others in Sri Lanka’s rural areas.
We could only do this with the small donations we have already received and which produce real, on-the-ground results. To expand the success of this project, we do need additional financial support. If you can contribute, please contact me, Susan Eardly on our site at Serene Vacations Lanka Limited.
Remember to come visit with us in our beautiful, serene island home!
Susan Eardly, Director
Serene Vacations Lanka Limited
Marine City Business Complex
No. 46, 1/8 Station Road, Dehiwala, Sri Lanka
M: +94 777 751 788
SRDI is pleased to support the efforts of Susan Eardly at Serene Vacations Lanka Ltd., and urge you to contribute to her efforts to help vulnerable people in Sri Lanka. Small contributions can create a multiplier effect and have significant impact on the lives of rural communities.
Sustainable Rural Development International, Ltd. (UK)