Rotary support pushes Ipswich woman Melissa Day’s fundraising efforts ‘beyond wildest dreams’

Melissa Day says Rotary's support for her fundraising to help impoverished Sri Lankan tea plantation

Melissa Day says Rotary's support for her fundraising to help impoverished Sri Lankan tea plantation communities has been a game-changer. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Businesswoman and campaigner Melissa Day is celebrating the success of an initiative that will transform the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.

The project, inspired by Melissa’s reunion with her Sri Lankan birth family 25 years after she was adopted by a British couple, has raised more than £57,900.

Melissa, who lives in Ipswich and runs Niroshini Cosmetic Acupuncture, originally had a £12,000 target to buy a 52-seater bus for Tea Leaf Vision, an education project run by a UK-based charity to help young people escape poverty on Sri Lanka’s tea estates.

But thanks to a Rotary International grant, the project will also fund a new mobile library to help literacy skills in 25 schools, pay for bus maintenance, a driver and three teaching staff for a year.

Melissa’s link-up with Tea Leaf Vision came after she tracked down her birth family on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka and learned poverty had been a major factor in her adoption.

“Had I not been adopted as a baby I would be one of those workers struggling with back-breaking seasonal work for very low pay,” she says. “Meeting my birth family was incredible but it was heartbreaking to see their poverty and how lack of education imprisons generation after generation.”

Melissa’s brothers, Ashok and Arun, started a Tea Leaf Vision programme in 2015. Ashok has since become supervisor of a direct trade plantation, with which Melissa is working to launch her own Niroshini Tea. Arun left early due to poor mental health but has since set up his own farming business.

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Melissa’s work was supported by Sarah Brown, wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown, and comedian Romesh Ranganathan. She was also shortlisted for a Women of the Future Award in 2016.

Through Rotary International’s Global Grant scheme, the £8,500 she originally raised was leveraged to almost £58,000.

““The project has become so much more than a bus,” says Melissa. “I cannot thank the Rotary for making this project into something beyond my wildest dreams.”

Tea Leaf Vision founder Tim Pare added: “To date, Tea Leaf Vision has struggled to meet the huge need from tea plantation schools - this mobile library will make a huge difference.”