Sustainable Livelihoods

Vulnerable communities and families with whom we work face constant stresses. Helping people develop livelihoods that can recover from and thrive after unexpected shocks require longer-term support.  We embrace the life-circumstances of those we work with and together enhance their capacity to develop and sustain self-managed micro-enterprises.

Kunchukulam Forest Retreat – a youth-managed guesthouse that brings the tourist experience back to basics and grounded in nature. Situated on the northern tip of Wilpattu National Park the Forest Retreat is a springboard to rich flora, fauna and cultural experiences. Encounter wildlife, swim in pristine waters and engage in village life – https://kunchukulamtourism.com/

Kunchukulam Responsible Tourism – in close proximity of Wilpattu Forest we focus on three isolated villages where the youth unemployment rate is a staggering 49%. As an alternative to illegal livelihoods – logging, sand and gravel mining and killing of protected animals – we are developing a legal and responsible career path through ecotourism ventures with local young people. Guided forest walks, cultural immersion, visits to ancient sites and local cuisine are all operated by Kunchukulam’s youth.

Cafe Arokkiya – is a multipurpose community hub centred on a commercial kitchen and cafe operated by a group of valiant, resilient women. The hub’s vision is to encourage the war-affected community of Adampan to embrace ‘arokkiya’ (Tamil for ‘wellbeing’) – encouraging better nutrition, providing livelihoods for vulnerable groups, trialling organic agriculture, providing English and IT education and a recreational outlet for young people. A comprehensive skills capacity building program was funded through the Australian Government’s Friendship Grants Program.

Sasi’s Laundry Service – a micro enterprise to supplement the household income of a local widow. Sasi provides a laundry service for the cafe, the rooms for rent and for people in the community who need their clothes washed and ironed.

Manthai DS Canteen – a canteen for the many staff of the divisional secretariat office operated by Stela and her band of women. Their food hits the spot of hungry workers wanting an early breakfast or tea and short eats at break time. Stela and her small band of widows having been ‘holding the fort’ for five years now and run quite independently from Bridging Lanka.

A Holy Gig – on 14th January, 2015, Pope Francis, the 266th pope, visited Madhu Church in Mannar District. Our widows were invited to cater for the Pope’s guests. It was their largest job to date and a scary proposition. Thousands of meals were prepared using very basic facilities to the satisfaction of the consumers. Pope Francis’ presence was revered as he pleaded for trans-ethnic and religious trust and understanding. Over 600,000 people gathered in the jungle sanctuary to pay homage to a leader whom even the Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists admire.

A Return to Sri Lanka and Fishing – the returned asylum seeker Bridging Lanka is supporting to rebuild a livelihood has bought nets, an outboard motor and boat. Angelitto goes out to sea each day, his fortunes are on the rise and the business is providing employment for other locals. He was one of nine asylum seekers supported by Bridging Lanka when their boat capsized leaving them stranded in Indonesia. Enroute to Australia, the people smugglers abandoned them. The nine hid from the authorities without shelter, food and medicines. For nine months we provided for them until each returned to Sri Lanka. We are in constant touch with six of the nine returned asylum seekers and help with education and livelihoods.

Pavan Grinding Mill – a rice and spice grinding facility that services the needs of paddy farmers and women from villages in a fifteen kilometre radius. The mill was established to cut out the ‘middle-men’ who exploited the locals by milling these products outside Mannar and reselling them back to the community at unaffordable prices. The grinding mill now runs independently of Bridging Lanka.

Precursor to Trip Advisor – prior to speedy online tourism and accommodation platforms there was no means by which visitors could find out about Mannar, its attractions or accommodation options. Most local guest houses did not market their services and simply expected visitors to ‘find’ them. The Bridging Lanka team headed by Karnan Karnapathy and Ranjan Xavier compiled a directory of local guest houses. They visited each facility, assessed the quality of the premises and service and put together a document outlining essential information about each guesthouse. The directory was updated annually until the Trip Advisers and Air B&Bs took over.

Mannar’s Community Tourism Strategy – Bridging Lanka developed a community-based tourism strategy for Mannar. The ultimate goal was to position Mannar District as an alternative and attractive tourist destination. The flow on effect would stimulate the local economy and create a new employment pathway. The Mannar strategy, positioned within the Government’s Tourism strategy 2011-2016, included a suite of 22 projects that would affirm Mannar’s uniqueness, honour its rich cultural heritage and bring increased wealth to the people and businesses of Mannar District. Input was gained from Mannar residents and Chamber of Commerce and shaped by Bridging Lanka officers – Tauri Tampuu, a volunteer from Estonia, Ranjan Xavier, Kelvin Thomas, Karnan Karnapathy and Diron Eliyas. Link to the Tourism Strategy: 

IT PLatform – the brainchild of Kamal Raj, a passionate and smart young man who wanted to introduce computer and internet usage to Mannar’s youngsters straight after the war ended. He knew computers and the world wide web was the future that had to be embraced. Bridging Lanka assisted him and friend, Majuran Suseelan to establish IT Platform. Four months of full-time ICT training for 26 youngsters were funded by USAid. Twelve young entrepreneurs in their 20s commenced the social enterprise to provide computer services to underpin development in Mannar District. The first ICT kids on the block! The business outlet offers graphic and web design services, computer repairs and maintenance, printing and photocopying facilities and spare parts sales. Bridging Lanka assisted with financial support, sourcing business mentors and funding training and professional development over three years. Now IT Platform is a successful business totally independent of Bridging Lanka.