Caritas-SETIK (Social and Economic Training Institute, Kandy), the social arm of Kandy diocese, organized a program of first-aid training for young volunteers from poor families working on tea estates, in a three day course that finished yesterday. The 40 participants learned how to use primary health care in first aid. “It takes more than one or two hours to take someone to hospital, possibly on foot,” said Dinesh Kumar, 17, explaining the importance of first aid practices on estates. “My parents are estate workers [and] face many troubles and often they fall sick,” said Kumar from Dickoya. He added “This is the first time I took part in a first aid training program.” Tea workers are among the poorest paid workers in the country. Large families face social, economic and psychological problems while many estate children are forced to work as domestic workers in the cities. “I believe we can help not only our relatives but all the others too,” said Kumar. “People who work in tea factories face terrible situations." He said he had witnessed workers having fingers or hands cut off while working with machinery. "While my brother was working, he cut off two of his fingers, we could fix only one,” said Kanpathi Kanaraj from Hapugasyaya in Matale. The second finger was beyond saving by the time he reached hospital. Many farmers commit suicide, said Kanaraj, and most are dead by the time they reach hospital although some of them could have been saved by local first-aid knowledge. "I and my sister are going to teach these things to the children at our Sunday school,” he said. Many tea estate workers in Sri Lanka are descendants of South Indians brought by the British during the 19th and 20th centuries to work in tea, coffee and rubber plantations. Tea plantations currently earn billions of dollars for Sri Lanka. "We have planned to create volunteer groups and we also encourage them to have a first-aid box in each house,” said Roshan Nawarathne, 39, a youth animator, of Kandy.
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