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Hemas Outreach Foundation Celebrates International Day of Down Syndrome

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Hemas Outreach Foundation, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm of the Hemas Group together with AYATI National Centre for Children with Disabilities marked International Day of Down Syndrome on March 16 at the Ayati Centre in Ragama. Held with the goal of raising awareness about their social movement ‘(Treat All Alike)’ the event also launched a new song that lends a voice to Down Syndrome children. ‘එItමු’ is aimed at empowering children and families with Down Syndrome by providing a forum to acknowledge their rights and advocate inclusion in today’s society.

“The social movement was created to raise awareness for Down Syndrome children, who are often overlooked in society. We as Hemas believe in an inclusive society where no child is left behind and our initiatives at Hemas Outreach Foundation focuses on achieving this goal. It is estimated that approximately 20% of children in Sri Lanka have some form of a disability. The Ayati Trust Sri Lanka seeks to create an inclusive society to prevent persons with disabilities from facing prejudice and a lack of access to specialised services. As we mark the World Down Syndrome Day, it is critical that we all work together to break the stigma. As a company that promotes ‘healthful living,’ we look forward to making the world a more inclusive place by creating a platform for families to air their concerns and receive much-needed community support. These children have special talents that needs to be recognized. We have to celebrate them and treat them as equals”, stated Shiromi Masakorala, Executive Director, AYATI Trust Sri Lanka and Hemas Outreach Foundation.

The ceremony was graced with the presence of many special guests standing together in support of creating an inclusive world. Past Global President of Rotary International K. Ravindran attended the event as Chief Guest of the event. Further English, Sinhala and Tamil instructional pamphlets on Down Syndrome were handed over to the Director of Social Services, Chandana Ranaweera Arachchi, which is to be distributed to the 331 Divisional Secretariats in the country.

“From all the facilities I have seen around world, AYATI ranks as one of the best. Hemas is living true to the tagline ‘business goes beyond profits.’ It is also important that we celebrate the carers; each circumstance has its own group of heroes who we should recognize. The need to integrate children into society is vital, integrating children into the mainstream enhances everyone’s learning. It fosters a giving atmosphere; expectations increase on both sides – to rise to difficulties, and the other children also rise to become more compassionate” added the Chief Guest of the occasion, the Past Global President of Rotary International, K. Ravindran.

Hemas Holdings PLC is aiming to create a world that encourages a society that ‘leaves no child behind’ while promoting ‘healthful living, because we believe every family deserves a better tomorrow’ This fundamental objective will inform the cause and aid in the eradication of the stigma they experience daily. The new song launched on the day by Amila Jayaswarna focuses on treating children with Down Syndrome with love and respect.

Roshan Mahanama, Brand Ambassador for Hemas Outreach Foundation and Trustee of Ayati Trust Sri Lanka had this to say at the event: “As a society we must treat everyone equally. Parents must engage and include their children in all activities. I feel the Ministry of Education should do more to foster an inclusive atmosphere. We need to show these children greater love and kindness and play a part in making the communities see the special talent they have.”

Join the Social Movement of the Hemas Outreach Foundation to educate the public and eradicate the stigma attached to children with Down Syndrome: http://web.facebook.com/ekasesalakamu

AYATI National Center for Children with Disabilities is a partnership between theFaculty of Medicine of the University of Kelaniya, Hemas Holdings PLC, MAS Holdings, Roshan Wijerama Foundation, Sri Lanka Army and the Rotary District 3220

Established under Hemas Holdings PLC, the Hemas Outreach Foundation has been leading the Group’s purpose of promoting ‘healthful living’ through transformative corporate social responsibility. The mission of the foundation is to champion ‘Healthful Living’ for a better life through holistic interventions for Sri Lankan Families where no child is left behind. The foundation operates as a Trust, managed by an eminent board of trustees.



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Pelwatte Dairy conducts O/L Seminars as part of its CSR campaign

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Pelwatte, a local dairy brand with international standards and an unwavering promise of delivering quality fresh milk to its customers recently organized a series of seminars for the GCE Ordinary Level students. This was done with the intention of furthering Pelwatte’s corporate philosophy of uplifting livelihoods through sustainable methods. The seminars commenced during the last week of March and concluded in the 1st week of April 2022.

The seminars focused on maths in particular as it was found that many students either struggled in maths or were highly doubtful about it. Pelwatte, being a responsible brand took initiative to help these students in this time of need. With Education being at a critical juncture and O/Ls being a critical stage in a student’s career, this program was initiated. The Managing Director of Pelwatte Mr. Akmal Wickramanayake said “Pelwatte is a brand that goes to every extent to ensure that our communities are treated well. This includes ensuring that the next generation is well versed in their education”.

He said this while commending his in-house experts, Mr Asela Sampath who is a mechanical engineer and Mr. Kavinda Umesh who is a chemical and processing engineer attached to the Pelwatte Engineering and Technical team. These two individuals led the seminar and took the students through not just the entire syllabus but also through several model papers. They made sure to answer and clarify any and all doubts that these students had before they wrapped up.

These series of seminars were conducted mainly in Buttala with the participation of schools such as Pelwatte Mahavidyalaya, Kukuranpola Vidyalaya, Dutugemunu Mahavidyalaya and Pelwatte Ranjan Wijeratna Vidyalaya. Students in the Hundreds attended these seminars which lasted for a day. Students from the respective schools got to learn from two qualified engineers who not only showed them how to solve mathematical problems but also gave them an idea about the type of career they can go into in the future to develop the engineering field in Sri Lanka.

Pelwatte received many blessings from both the students and their parents who were present for carrying out such programs. The current situation of the country is such that many corporates have either completely scrapped their community welfare programs or have limited it. However, Pelwatte aims to continue doing such activities to not only uplift communities but to also boost morale. Education is a very important focus area for Pelwatte as it has continuously done many activities to uplift education especially in rural areas that are in need of programs like this.

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‘HNB continues to demonstrate resilience under stressed conditions’

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In the backdrop of turbulent market conditions, Hatton National Bank PLC continued to demonstrate resilience, strength and stability, posting a profit before tax of Rs 5.9Bn and a profit after tax of Rs 4.8Bn for the first quarter of 2022 recording a YOY growth of 7% and 3% respectively. At Group level PBT and PAT were at Rs 6.4 Bn and Rs 5.4 Bn respectively.Commenting on the first quarter performance, Aruni Goonetilleke Chairperson of Hatton National Bank PLC, stated that “as Sri Lanka goes through unprecedented times, HNB has yet again demonstrated resilience. At this critical time, I wish to reiterate our commitment to all our stakeholders. As a responsible Domestic Systemically Important bank, ensuring safety, stability and sustainability is our prime focus.”

With the tightening of the monetary policy since August 2021, the AWPLR increased by nearly 400 bps over the 12 months up to March 2022. This enabled the Bank to record a 59% increase in NII during 1Q 2022 compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. The Net Fee income grew by 42% YoY to Rs 3.2 Bn for the first quarter of 2022, driven mainly by improved cards transactions and trade income.The significant devaluation of the rupee as at March 2022, compared to the previous year, resulted in trading gains of approximately Rs 7.5Bn in 1Q 2022. The Bank also, booked an impairment of Rs 7.4Bn against the impact of the currency devaluation on foreign currency denominated loans and investments, which was set-off against the position revaluations.

The Bank’s net stage III loan ratio improved from 2.55% as at December 2021 to 2.41% as at end March 2022 while stage III provision cover increased to 59%, maintaining its position as one of the best in the industry in asset quality. However, considering the significant volatility in macro-economic factors in 1Q 2022, the Bank recognized a higher impairment charge of Rs 13.4Bn. This included an impairment of Rs 6.7Bn on account of investments in foreign currency denominated government securities, subsequent to the announcement made by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in relation to suspending the repayment of external foreign currency debt obligations of the Government and the sovereign rating downgrade.Operating expenses increased by 21% in 1Q 2022 driven by salary revisions, relatively higher card transaction volumes with the pickup of economic activity and general expenses increasing in line with higher inflation. However, the stronger growth in income, enabled HNB to record a cost to income of 25% during the first quarter of 2022.

HNB’s total tax charge increased by 33% to Rs 2.8Bn for the first quarter. The effective income tax rate increased from 31% in March 2021 to 37% in March 2022 due to the YoY reduction in interest income from foreign currency denominated government securities.Jonathan Alles, Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer of Hatton National Bank PLC stated that, “Sri Lanka has been travelling through a tough terrain over the past few years commencing from adverse weather conditions experienced in 2017-2018 to, unfortunate Easter Sunday attacks in 2019 and then the most unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic which impacted the entire globe. The banking sector of Sri Lanka and HNB has weathered these challenges and emerged strong and stable. Today, Sri Lanka as a nation is facing one of the most challenging times in its history. The next few months would be even more challenging. As such, it is extremely important that we play our part as responsible Sri Lankans at individual, organizational and country level. We believe that the authorities would take necessary steps to ensure political, social, economic and financial stability enabling successful conclusion of discussions with International Monetary Fund, the multilateral organizations and supporting nations to secure much needed funding.”

“It is equally important that we focus on the real economy and sustainable foreign exchange earning avenues that will support us over the medium to long term. Providing necessary support to drive exports, remittances, tourism, manufacturing and industrial development would be key. At the same time, diversifying foreign exchange earning sources would also be important. Focusing on Sri Lanka as an education hub, promoting agri-preneurs, IT, KPO, BPO industries would also be vital in this regard. We need to be cautious about our spending, and purchase local products to support our micro, small and medium enterprises, while at the Government, institutional and corporate level, adopt very tight cost containment measures and slash budgets.”

“As we encounter many obstacles in our day to day life, I would like to place on record my sincere gratitude to each and every member of the HNB team for their continuous commitment and dedication in delivering essential banking services to our valued customers.”(HNB)

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SLIIT launches CODE with the country’s first free AI/ML online course

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Ushering a new era of online learning, SLIIT unveiled its Centre for Open and Distance Education (CODE), a fully-fledged, independently developed online platform offering a range of self-paced courses. CODE aims to fill skill shortages in the industry by enabling youth to equip themselves with highly sought after skills.The Centre, established by the Industry Engagement Unit of the Faculty of Computing, SLIIT, held its virtual launch event recently under the patronage of Prof. Lalith Gamage, Vice-Chancellor, SLIIT, senior management, and staff from SLIIT with industry professionals and prospective students in attendance.

The inaugural course offered by CODE is ‘Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Engineer Stage 1’, which has been developed for anyone aspitring to become an AI/ML Engineer. The next two courses lined up are in Cyber Security and Cloud Computing. . The comprehensive courses, molded with hands-on exposure to cutting-edge technologies, will seek to maximize the employability potential of the youth.Prof. Chandimal Jayawardena, Dean, Faculty of Computing SLIIT, said, “SLIIT developed CODE as a free learning platform designed to offer courses and learning materials for those who wish to develop skills needed by the industry within a short time period. Courses offered by CODE are self-paced and will be equally relevant for school leavers, university students, as well as industry professionals. . The first course in CODE, the AI/ML Engineer stage 1 course can help anyone who wants to develop a career as an AI/ML engineer. This will be followed by two other courses covering stages 2 and 3. We are proud to launch this distance education platform as part of our mission to provide useful and relevant education to a wider audience, reaching beyond traditional university education. Being a platform open for free courses, CODE platform also illustrates SLIIT’s commitment to addressing and contributing to the needs of the society.”

The SLIIT AI Course, which is the first course to be offered to students via the CODE platform, consists of fundamental, intermediate, and expert levels, with the initial Stage 1 covering fundamentals relating to artificial intelligence and machine learning, with an understanding of how each area of expertise is used in the industry related to AI.The course has been designed with a practical and hands-on approach that will introduce the learner to the industry’s most innovative tools and technologies, including TensorFlow and PyTorch. Courses are designed to ensure an individual can gain exposure to programming basics since a certain knowledge of programming basics is required for the course.

Lessons related to the course will be introduced weekly and participants need to study the content, complete the assessment components such as available quizzes and achieve sufficient marks to complete the course and gain the certificate. Upon completing the course, participants will receive a ‘Certificate of Completion’ from SLIIT.CODE invites school leavers, non-IT graduates studying IT-related programmes and IT enthusiasts to enhance their skills and knowledge to enrol in the AI/ML Course. All courses are free of charge, and there is no restriction on the number of participants for each course.SLIIT believe the courses offered via the CODE platform will empower students to maximize their potential for employability while enhancing their capabilities of gaining foreign employment, engaging in remote work, or even working for reputed IT companies in Sri Lanka.

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