History of PALM
The mother organization PALM Foundation, was initiated in 1985 by Ms. Natascha Sennema together with a group of Dutch volunteers who were moved by the poor and isolated living conditions of the plantation workers in Sri Lanka. Activities such as the construction of houses, dispensaries & schools, were combined with health & educational programs. Funding was received from individual donors, simultaneously a small partner foundation was formed in The Netherlands, called: Stichting PALM, who supported PALM Foundation with funding for about ten years.
During the beginning of the 90s the organization began to realize that long-term sustainability could only be achieved if more emphasis is put on strengthening the local component both in the organization as well as among the target groups.
A technical coordinator was employed in 1991 to coordinate and assist in the design and construction of the water supply schemes. Basically this employment became the cornerstone for the rapid development in the years to come. An evaluation in 1992 clearly proved that health, sanitation and the supply of pure drinking water programs where going hand in hand and the health promoters soon became mobilizes who looked into the total livelihood needs of the target groups, requesting more programs which could sustain them in many ways. The vision and input of the mobilizers, who derived from the target groups added to a new and effective holistic approach of the organization. In which one development aspect could not be seen isolated but in a total context of the well-being, this resulted in uplifted living standards of the target communities.
During the year 1994, community mobilization activities evolved as an added mechanism to unite and strengthen the people’s marking. As well as creating small loan schemes by collective saving programs towards a more sustainable development process.
Organic agricultural programs commenced initially in the Walapane villages in 1993/94, but later this program expanded successfully to the tea plantation sector as well. The management of the plantations gave small plots of land to the local community to promote organic farming within their estate, this resulted in some managers even starting to produce organic tea.
In 1995 the organization developed its first 5-year plan and completed this successfully. This initiated in a long-term cooperation with external development organizations such as Novib (The Netherlands), Helvetas (Switzerland), Norad (Norway), etc. This five-year plan was a major milestone for PALM Foundation in terms of its institutional development, where the organization grew up to be a systematic and leading development organization till today.
An external evaluation was carried out in 1998 assessing the outcome of the first long-term plan. Based on this evaluation and results of the five-year plan, the second phase plan was formulated for 2000 – 2005 and successfully completed.
At the organization level a major change happened in year 2000 as the founder member of PALM and first team leader Ms. Natascha Sennema withdrew from her position and was succeeded by a local member, the former Deputy Team Leader.
PALM Foundation’s development program was continued as an extension of the five-year plan. During the year of 2004, the past program was evaluated by an external team, in which the outcomes were analysed and amalgamated into the new phase and clearly show the relevance of PALM’s development approach to the plantation sector and healthy expansions according to the resources available.
In 2005, after the Tsunami Disaster of December 2004, PALM Foundation expanded its program to the eastern province. In 2009 the PALM board passed the resolution to form PALM Community Development Services Company (Guarantee) Limited, also know has PALM East. Which is functioning independently with a separate board of directors and also is registered as a NGO.
The integrated development program, which was implemented in the marginalized community during the past period, has clearly contributed in disseminating a “Community Driven Development Approach” to the marginalized community, which has now been widely accepted at the local and national level.
The understanding and collaborative partnerships of the funding organizations of past phases, namely: NOVIB, HELVETAS, NORAD, OXFAM, WORLDBANK, STROMI Foundation, Mercy Corps, Practical Action, Diakone, Give2Asia, BARNET, CARE Australia, International Labour Organization (ILO), Big Lottery Fund and USAID were a major strength to the organization. In due time some of the funding partners changed their development scopes and continuation of the partnership was found difficult.
PALM keeps emphasizing their attention on the marginalized communities with alternative development approaches.
PALM’s Development Intervention
PALM Foundation emerged about two decades ago by implementing an alternative effort to contribute to the improvement of the livelihoods of marginalized people considering their vulnerability. This initiative matured into a major community development program within the sector, which has a national level recognition today.
According to the learning’s of the initial stage of PALM, it realized that project based approaches are not sustainable and need the aspects of integrity & long term based planning.
A remarkable impact in terms of social empowerment due to the successful dissemination of PALM’s development program could be noticed amongst the marginalize communities within its working area. Therefore, continuation of the program needed to be critically analysed for further justification of PALM’s development model.
The year 2004 accommodated adequate time for analysing this marginalized development context, which included an external evaluation, carried out by Prof. Sinnathamby from the University of Peradeniya in Kandy and Ms. Zia Niazi from Pakistan on the ongoing program. Outcome of the evaluation strongly emphasized the relevance of “holistic participatory development approach” of PALM to the sector and continuation of its integrated development program. The evaluation also highlights the necessity of actions towards the mainstreaming this model.
PALM’s integrated development program has mainly focused in addressing the social poverty which being the most deprived in the sector through a systematic empowerment process. These main programs are:
1. Social Mobilization & Training
2. Infrastructure Development
3. Natural Resource Management
4. Empowerment Support Education
These were implemented in an integrated manner complementing the sectional goals and ultimately contributing to PALM’s development vision. By analysing the input, the organization has been convinced in enriching its approach by recognizing the social empowerment as the core program in the future.