One of the big financial burdens for our mothers is the start of the new school year every January. Although education is readily available for their children, the cost of new exercise books, pencils and if possible a new school bag is beyond the budget of most of our plantation mothers.

Last year Manori, our facilitator, suggested we help the Mia network women with the back to school burden. This was an opportunity to make an impact in the lives of the women we were preparing to work with in the plantations. By meeting the cost of the school essentials, it was a simple way to set a positive and optimistic tone for the new year ahead.

Some of the happy recipients of our first Back to School programme

This year we are planning to go much bigger and kit out all 450 school children within our plantation network with exercise books and a new bag.

By doing so, we will have given a small but meaningful sense of relief for all the women in the network. Additionally, the new kit should uplift the spirits of the children so that the start of the 2020 new school year (although no child ever looks forward to it) will be a brighter one than 2019.

Now we just need to make sure our suppliers meet the delivery date – never a sure thing around here…

As our third micro finance program draws to a close we are very excited to share another woman’s story, this is Thamara’s story…

Thamara is a widow living with her two daughters and elderly father in the Shanthipura village in the chilly hill country of Sri Lanka. Her children are attending school and since her husband passed away she has been relying on her fathers meagre income as a casual welder.

During this difficult time Thamara heard about the loans being offered by the Mia Fratino Foundation. She decided that she would restart her husbands’ business using the 25,000 Rs loan funds as seed finance to buy the raw materials. She paid casual labourers to make the bricks, and oversaw the operations.

When Thamara’s husband was living, he had a small scale business producing concrete bricks (they are commonly used in Sri Lanka for building as a substitute for clay bricks). When he died she used her savings for his funeral expenses, and had neither the money or the will to continue his business.

As the bricks were sold she used the proceeds to buy further raw materials and the production continued in this way. Thamara now has a steady income to provide for her households basic needs and for the education of her children. She is now thinking about how she can market her business, and obtain more orders. The loan has been the start of a new chapter of her family’s life, she has confidence in the future and takes pride as a new business owner.

Beatrice with her stall

Beatrice is 60 years old and living with her husband in the Kalapura Village in the hill country of Sri Lanka.  Her three sons and one daughter are married and living separately.

Beatrice and her husband were surviving off the goodwill of their children, and it troubled them greatly that they were a burden to their children.

Beatrice became aware of the microfinance loans being offered by the Mia Fratino foundation. Beatrice joined the women’s group and obtained business development training. She decided to start a small business near her home using an abandoned lorry as a shop.

In the beginning, she had only a small number of customers, she bought and sold grocery items for a small margin. After a short time, she had expanded her business, introducing lunch packets, hot food items and fresh foods. She prepares good quality food at home and her customers keep coming back to her little shop.

She now also sells flowers and plants grown by the other women in her group. This extra sales avenue is a support to the women in her group and another product she can offer to customers and visitors passing through the area.

She has received friendship, guidance and support from the groups’ community facilitator and the other women. Together with the loan from Mia Fratino, she has newfound independence, confidence and financial security.