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Volunteers from regional Deutsche Bank offices pull in to help in Sri Lanka

August 2011 │ Sri Lanka

As part of its continuing support to local community initiatives and to promote volunteerism among staff, the Deutsche Bank Asia Foundation organised a volunteering mission to Sri Lanka from 28 to 31 July 2011. A total of 22 staff from the Bank’s Singapore and Hong Kong offices travelled on their own time and expense to participate in this volunteering trip.

A varied and diversified three-day itinerary, encompassing environmental and social activities and reflecting the causes championed by the Sri Lanka branch, was organised in the district of Kegalle in Sabaragamuwa province, approximately 100km northeast of the capital Colombo.

For most of the volunteers, it was their first trip to Sri Lanka, but yet they were able to hit the ground running on the very first day despite getting only few hours sleep the night before. Battling muddy ground, hilly terrain and leeches, the volunteers were preoccupied in planting over 100 tree saplings on denuded land at Halgolla. This activity is part of the Bank’s broader programme undertaken in 2009 to protect and enhance an environmentally sensitive area rich in biodiversity. The site of the tree-planting is situated 1,700m above sea level and acts as a watershed area to one of the four major rivers in Sri Lanka on which Colombo depends on for its daily water requirements.

The second day’s activity took place in the village of Ginihappitiya, one of the poorest districts in the country, where the Bank had earlier sponsored the construction of a small community centre, to be utilized for village events as well as to house a children’s library, study and play area. A small troupe of drummers and dancers in traditional costumes gave a rousing morning welcome to the group before the volunteers took up paint brushes to put the finishing touches to the building – adding a splash of color to the otherwise grim-looking walls, doors and window frames.

On the third and final day, the volunteers were joined by over 35 Colombo branch staff who gave up their Saturday to organise an eye camp for the local community in Hemmathagama to help 2,000 elderly villagers, many of who have never used eye glasses before, to improve their vision with prescription eye glasses. With optometrists to provide eyesight checks, our volunteers facilitated the registrations which took place simultaneously at two separate locations in the community. Despite the heat and long wait, the huge crowds remained patient and calm while waiting for their eyes to be tested. Those suffering from eye ailments such as cataracts and in need of surgery were referred to one of the Bank’s supported charities, Helpage, for further treatment in Colombo. Donations amounting to 10,700 US dollars collected by the volunteers covered the cost of cataract surgeries for 200 patients. Rohan Rodrigo, Chief Country Officer for Deutsche Bank Sri Lanka, added “The hard and quality work carried out was a very pleasant and memorable experience, not just for the destitute people in rural Sri Lanka, but also for the volunteers of Deutsche Bank Sri Lanka. My sincere thanks to the volunteers for the generous contributions towards the eye camp.”

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