Rasiyapriya Udayakumar is a young woman from Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka who longed for a chance, an opportunity to have a better life and to lift herself out of poverty. She was one of many young people looking for help at a time when conflict and other crises devastated many industries in Sri Lanka. These children were born into and grew up in a war zone. The older children, especially those from rural marginalized communities, faced tough odds finding and getting jobs that offered any type of career path. There were no real prospects for work in the north and these young people were considered unemployable by many, which only accelerated the downward cycle for them. The average age of death among them is 31.
The nonprofit Jetwing Youth Development Program (JYDP), which helps fund training for children of war in northern Sri Lanka, was launched in 2006 with the opening of Jetwing Vil Uyana property in Sigiriya. The Spirit of Big Five Foundation was attracted to this project because it offered hands-on help to young people in the area to encourage them to consider careers in the hospitality industry.
The JYDP puts young men and women through tourism training and finds them jobs in hospitality within Jetwing hotels in Sri Lanka. The program focuses on improving socio-economic wellbeing in rural and marginalized communities through employment in tourism. It also positively influences the country’s reconciliation efforts. The training is free to students, who earn certificates equal to internationally accepted NVQ standards, and have employment opportunities at Jetwing hotels.
Rasiyapriya discovered the JYDP and joined, hoping to find a brighter future. She went through the six-month program that included professional and personal development, encompassing theoretical and practical training. She took courses in English, tourism and hospitality, hotel operations, general etiquette and health and safety at work. The final phase of her apprenticeship was on-the-job training, which she completed at Jetwing Yala, a property in southern Sri Lanka. She perfected her culinary skills, which was her primary interest. She now works in the kitchen of Jetwing Jaffna, supporting her family, and is on her way to fulling her dream of becoming a professional chef.
The Spirit of Big Five Foundation is proud to partner with Jetwing Youth Development Program (JYDP) to help young people like Rasiyapriya discover a positive future much like the country itself is working to reclaim its place on the international stage.