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The Tea Leaf Trust

Making a difference in Sri Lanka's Tea Communities

Picker's Pocket has been very fortunate to connect with the Tea Leaf Trust who are well established in Sri Lanka with projects that work to enhance the future prospects of youths growing up on Tea Estates through a focus on employability skills and English as well as developing a focus on transforming marginalised communities from the bottom up by empowering young people to become positive and engaged citizens.

By working with the Tea Leaf Trust charity we are able to help provide opportunities through education. Working with 3 schools the organisation has been able to make many positive changes.

We spoke to Yasmene, a founder of Tea Leaf Trust to gain some insights into the benefits of the trust in the tea communities of Sri Lanka.

We often get asked "Aren't you just an English school?" or "How does teaching English improve mental health?". The short answer to the first one is no, we aren't just an English school - we have a number of programs aimed at uplifting estate communities with the 1-year full-time Main Diploma Program run at our 3 centres focusing on upskilling and uplifting young people.

How does English improve mental health?

How does English improve metal health? Well, the little tea bush pic (kindly put together by Josie Mackenzie - thanks Josie!), shows that we don't just teach English, we teach a number of subjects that simultaneously provide both professional and personal development of our students.

Our English language curriculum teaches not only grammar but public speaking and advocacy - giving confidence and courage to our students to talk about the issues that affect their lives and advocate for improvement and change to estate management.

It gives equity, enabling our students to compete with mainstream Sri Lankans' for better paid, salaried employment.

Our Business and Entrepreneurship curriculum turns our students into tenacious leaders! In the 3rd term we have a business fair, where we loan students money to create a little business which they have to promote and get people from the local community to buy from that business (they have to pay back the loan - and in the 12 years of doing this, we have always seen a massive profit, which goes back to our centres!)

Success and Ethics is our 'turning lemons into lemonade' curriculum. Here, our students focus on themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, what they think is great about themselves and how they understand themselves - to really instil self-worth and self-belief, and not be defined by the label Sri Lanka society has give them ('you're just a tea picking kid, you won't amount to anything...').

Our Emotional Health Curriculum works with our students to provide positive coping strategies, to help with raft of social issues that are prevalent in their communities (alcoholism, violence, domestic abuse), so that them can positively move on with their lives once they graduate.

Every aspect of our programme has an impact on our students’ mental health, changing them into young people who feel confident in their abilities and value, demanding their rightful place as equals in Sri Lankan society. As a result, our programmes have been oversubscribed for the last 8 years, with many young people seeing it as a way to holistically improve themselves and support their families.

How do donations work?

DID YOU KNOW THAT every donation given provides THREE times the benefit to the communities we work with… ?And did you know that we have benefitted 335,737 people since 2010 with our 'service projects' SAY WHAT??????

Let us explain…

We develop our students mental wellbeing in a number of ways – one being through service projects. Our student chooses a service they feel will benefit their community in some way. It could be cleaning a school, providing a community garden, providing free English lessons, painting a community hall, clearing a footpath so it makes it easier for the elderly to get into town, whatever they feel would be of benefit.

Then, they go out and put their plans into action (COVID permitting) and report on what they have done. It’s an incredibly powerful program that boosts their self-esteem, makes them feel valued and allows them to become role models to the people they serve.

Benefit one - with funding through donations we can we continue to deliver our programs to the impoverished tea estate youth that we serve.

Benefit two – Students come to the school, plan and execute a service project and increase, confidence and self-esteem, understand their value in the community, which improves their mental health.

Benefit 3 – the community gets an essential service that they need for free! Tea Leaf Trust was created for the impoverished young people on the tea estates, to improve their self-worth, confidence and mental health.

Thank you for all you do, we are fortunate to have teamed with such an authentic charity in the tea community.