Hambantota Chamber partners with HIPG to teach Chinese to the Local Community
The Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce (HDCC) has joined hands with the Colombo University China Language Center and the Hambantota International Port to provide Chinese language lessons to Hambantota district residents. The Chamber began the language learning programme 4 years ago, with the goal of educating the Hambantota business community, especially the tourism sector, on Chinese language and culture. They believe that locals learning Chinese, would ensure ease of doing business, considering the number of China based projects in the district. The first phase of the programme was launched with technical assistance from the China-Sri Lanka Vocational Training Centre, and the support of the Chinese Embassy.
When the Training Centre faced closure, they reached out to Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) for help. Sudhammika Wickremanayake, Operations Manager of HDCC says that HIPG was happy to come on board to revive the program, because it was in line with their corporate social responsibility vision to empower the community.
HIPG provides the physical needs such as accommodation, food and transport, while Colombo University has supplied them with two Chinese teachers Ms Yi Yingzi and Ms Ma Lijuan who joined the programme in 2018. “With HIPG coming on board and support from the Colombo University China Language Center in sourcing teachers, the second phase of our Chinese language teaching project was a great success.”
The Hambantota business community and students from the area had been keen to participate in lessons. The Operations Manager says “During the first phase we had around 50 students in each class and conducted two courses for 100 students. During the second phase, we had to limit the number of students per class since we went for categorized lessons where each class had various activities such as games, role plays, singing and dancing. We had 12 students per class for office staff, 10 each in classes for children and 25 students in classes conducted for tourist vehicle drivers.
The one year study programme has benefited over 150 participants so far and has been extended to HIPG employees as well. The Chamber together with the Colombo University China Language Center, conducts classes structured for the Hambantota district community’s public sector officials, school kids, tourism sector and the business community. Ms Wickremanayake says their teachers and students are passionate about their lessons.
The HDCC suffered a setback when the pandemic hit, “although we began online lessons on WeChat during the lockdown, it has not been very successful where school kids are concerned, since parents are reluctant to send their children for lessons. Classes for tourist drivers are also at a standstill because tourism has not commenced.”
She says online lessons are continuing successfully on WeChat for the business community, and they hope to become fully operational with lessons for all communities soon.
Jeevan Premasara, General Manager HR of HIPG says they will support the chamber to keep the Chinese classes alive as they have been of great benefit not only to the community but also their staff, who are learning to communicate more effectively in Chinese.
HDCC, which has been in operation since 1993, is dedicated to supporting commerce within the district and has many programmes to benefit the business sector, tourism as well as the community at large. The chamber conducts Chinese and Japanese classes, management, marketing, and digital marketing courses and a number of business related programmes. Recognised as the first District level Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka, HDCC represents over 350 direct business members and 132 women entrepreneurs.