Gemidiriya Community Development & Livelihood Improvement Project has changed the lives of thousands of people who lived in abject poverty. The story of Thilakapali in Ella Ihalagama village in the Galle district is one such example.
Thilakapali and her family had to undergo many hardships as the sole income earned by her husband, as a labourer was not sufficient for the upkeep of her family including her twins.
This was the time Gemidiriya came to their village and she also observed the way it operated. “It was different to other programs we have experienced in the past where the politicians and the officials were decided and selected beneficiaries. In Gemidiriya the villagers got together and decided who should receive assistance”, she said.
Thilakapali was surprised when she was selected as a beneficiary to get a grant given for the poorest families in the village to start income-generating projects. With this capital she decided to start a domestic industry to manufacture bottle lamps and ekel brooms, because her husband knew the art of manufacturing these two products.
They had the skills as well as an idea about the market. “As our village doesn’t have electricity, we knew this would become a lucrative venture. Today we produce about 100 bottle lamps for a week and each lamp is sold at Rs 15” she said.
She said that a simple bottle lamp has illuminated their lives as today they get a sufficient income from the venture. Now she has much needed capital to expand her business, because the VSCO fund of the village is strong. Today Thilakapali is the treasurer of the VSCO.
Thilakapali is a role model of courageous rural entrepreneurs. She has invested the money they earned together with a VSCO loan and started a venture to manufacture ekel brooms. Now they produce 200 ekel brooms for a week.