Laura Davies » Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Laura Davies

Former Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Part of UK in Sri Lanka

19th June 2017 Colombo, Sri Lanka

For services to the community – from Her Majesty The Queen

Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Honours List this month included Lynn Stanier, the founder of Their Future Today, a British charity in Sri Lanka supporting some of the most vulnerable children and families in society.  She was awarded an MBE for this work, which she describes below.

I was in complete shock!  The High Commissioner James Dauris had just rung to ask whether I would accept an appointment from Her Majesty The Queen as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Birthday 2017 Honours List.  It took a while to get my breath and my voice back.

My citation is Founder, Their Future Today, Sri Lanka. For services to the community in Sri Lanka.

I feel overwhelmed and deeply honoured to accept this award which I hope will help to promote and highlight the cause of Their Future Today (TFT), which was set up more as an act of human justice rather than charity after I visited an orphanage as a volunteer soon after the 2004 Asian tsunami.

I was horrified to learn that 4,500 children were living in understaffed and overcrowded institutionalised care, and there were no future plans to help them.

I started to fundraise alongside my job as a Sri Lankan specialist travel director, determined to spend funds directly in this one orphanage to help improve conditions there. We believed then that these children were orphans as thousands of families had lost their homes, loved ones and livelihoods.  But by 2008, I began to realise this wasn’t the whole story, and that children were being abandoned because their families couldn’t support them.

Children are abandoned every day.  Over 80% of the eight million children in institutionalised care around the world have at least one living parent or extended family who love them, but are too poor to support them.  This affects more than 21,000 children in Sri Lanka.

So TFT’s focus has evolved.  We still partner with institutions. We employ ten trained carers and a physio/speech therapist in one institution for babies and under-fives.  In two institutions for older children, we are providing accredited vocational training  in sewing and computer skills.

But above all, we now work to strengthen families in the community and keep them together.  We reunite institutionalised children with safe families and support them. We are looking forward to partnering with the Southern Provincial government to introduce a foster care programme.

We want to break the cycle of poverty and abandonment, so we enable education by providing schoolbooks to 2,000 children annually in the Southern Province. In 2015, we opened a TFT International Preschool in a poor rural area.  The preschool allows parents to leave their children in a safe place while they go to work, and also enables the children to learn language skills: we start teaching English at age three.  The preschool has been awarded a Grade B status by the Ministry of Education. TFT will support these children throughout their education if necessary.

TFT International Preschool

The recent floods have caused even more adversity to already poor families, and our TFT Project director immediately worked closely with the police and air force to give donations of milk, water, rice and dhal to affected families.   We are now concentrating on replacing schoolbooks, uniforms and shoes to ensure children still receive the education they so need and deserve to build opportunity and better futures.

Every child deserves a home, an education and a future. Since 2005, TFT has raised over GBP 500,000 and we now employ 25 people in Sri Lanka and two in the UK.  We have helped around 16,000 children and families by improving conditions and care in institutions, by reuniting institutionalised children with their families and giving them housing support, and by family strengthening through income generation to help prevent abandonment.

To find out more about Lynn’s inspiration to found Their Future Today, read our 2014 blog Their Future Today and look at the TFT website