The Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) marked the symbolic beginning of its flagship community development project, “Hope Village”, which has a budget of over Rs. 60 million. Speaking at the ceremony, Ambassador for China to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong said: “The friendship between China and Sri Lanka dates back over twenty centuries. It is deeply rooted in the hearts of the two nations no matter how the domestic and international situation changes. China and Sri Lanka have been helping each other during difficult times and China will continue to do so in the future. In addition, China wishes to assist Sri Lanka in poverty alleviation. The ‘Hope Village’ initiative towards uplifting the wellbeing of villagers will be successful with a mutually beneficial partnership.”
It will, in its initial stage, include a community centre, health centre, agriculture centre, and playground facilities, as well as financial assistance to the village temple in Kandagasmankada, a village in the Lunugamwehera Division of the Hambantota District.
Ambassador Zhenhong was Chief Guest at the foundation-laying ceremony held at the project site. The management team of HIPG attended the event together with the representatives of Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) and the Nirmala Foundation. Kandagasmankada Rajamaha Viharaya Chief Incumbent Galapitagala Premarathana Thera; Chinese Ambassador Qi Zhenhong; CICT CEO Jack Huang; representatives from the Divisional and District Secretariats; Lunugamwehera Police Officer-in-Charge (OIC) C. Wickramaratne; HIPG CEO Johnson Liu; HIPG COO Tissa Wickramasinghe; HIPG CFO Raymond Mu; Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) CEO Ravi Jayawickreme; senior staff of HIPG, and villagers participated in breaking ground to lay the foundation of the project.
The Ambassador presented the IT lab of the village community centre, which will be named “China-Sri Lanka Friendship IT Education Centre”, with preliminary IT equipment, which was a highlight of the event. He also distributed toys amongst the village kids. In addition to the “Hope Village” sponsorship, the HIPG and CICT teams made a cash donation to the village temple.
HIPG CEO Johnson Liu said: “I always believe it is our duty to look into our immediate neighbourhood at both micro and macro levels to see how we could be of service. Our aim is to develop the ‘Hope Village’ concept into a desirable residential level with fully fledged facilities and help villagers develop their livelihoods under a co-operative model. The purpose is to uplift the rural community and improve living conditions of people in the area. While being mission-driven to become a customer-centric seaport and a platform for business excellence, we at HIP are pleased to connect our business success with our local community. This is the foundation of our Green Development concept, and I truly believe the ‘Hope Village’ project will be a positive contribution to the local community.”
The CEO outlined the objectives of the project to the Ambassador and delegates in the ways in which the “Hope Village” would benefit approximately 2,170 residents of Kandagasmankada. He said that amongst the many reasons HIPG selected the village for their pilot model was it being the highest-populated in the Hambantota District, and the largest contributor to the agricultural sector within the Lunugamwehera Division.
The Ambassador and entourage were then invited to visit a village home where they spent some time getting to know the residents. The ceremony ended with the residents of Kandagasmankada treating the invited guests to a display of their agricultural produce and homemade refreshments.
The “Hope Village” concept, a development model village that will benefit marginalised communities, is a collaboration between the China Merchant Foundation (CMF) – the corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of HIPG’s and CICT’s global partner, China Merchant Group – and the Nirmala Foundation, a non-profit organisation working for positive change. CMF is the sponsor of the project which will be owned by the Nirmala Foundation, and monitored by the Divisional Secretariat of Lunugamwehera. The HIPG and CICT teams are the facilitators of the project.