Sri Lanka: background
on Project Hope Rising

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By Benjamin Weatherston

By Benjamin Weatherston

The club

The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor West was chartered on Dec. 12, 2012, and its 25 members mostly live and work in the city. It’s part of Rotary International, with 1.2 million members worldwide.

The local club’s mission is to educate and empower girls, locally and globally, through an initiative called Project Hope Rising. The overseas effort has been focused on the Grace Care Center in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. One of the club’s members, Dr. Naresh Gunaratnam, helps run the center, home to 35 orphaned girls, ages 6 to 21.

Over the past three years, five members have made at least one trip to Grace and have gotten to know the girls and support staff personally.

Staff graphic

Staff graphic

The country

Sri Lanka is an island country off the southern tip of India. It’s still damaged by more than 25 years of violent civil war between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority, which finally ended in 2009.

Sri Lanka was also among the countries hit by the devastating December 2004 tsunami that resulted from an Indian Ocean earthquake. More than 30,000 died in Sri Lanka.

The dream

Members of the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor West have made a priority of career training for the orphans at the Grace Care Center — specifically in Trincomalee’s growing hospitality industry.

Several new hotels have been built there and others are being planned, and there’s a need for skilled hospitality workers. A team of local Rotarians, along with two recent U-M Ross School of Business graduates, Alex Papo and Ursula Jessee, recently traveled to Sri Lanka and met with local hoteliers, government entities, U.S. and European aid organizations as well as the Trincomalee and Colombo Rotary clubs. They formed partnerships to develop an on-site hospitality-training center at Grace. Part of the  arrangement is that 10 to 15 percent of the program’s spots will be reserved for Grace girls, and their training will be at no cost to Grace.

Part of the funding will come from the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor West via a grant through Rotary International. The club hopes to raise more than $35,000 to be used for equipment, educational materials and facility renovations, and to have the training center up and running in 2016.

To learn more or to volunteer visit srilankaorphanage.org. For more information on the club and Project Hope Rising, visit rotaryannarbor.org.


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