The MJF Charitable Foundation (MJFCF) has commenced yet another initiative aimed at providing children from underprivileged and disadvantaged backgrounds with the possibility of empowerment through education. A new 20,000 sq.ft Vocational Training Centre, complete with a state of the art Culinary Training Unit, was declared open amidst applause and cheer by Dilhan C. Fernando, the son of Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando, and the Managing Director of the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS), Chef Ragnar Fridriksson on 4 July 2015 at the MJF Centre for Dignified Empowerment in Moratuwa.

The Training Centre, which will primarily focus on training youth in the field of commercial cuisine and hospitality, commenced operations with the triggering of the first flame in the Culinary Unit's kitchen and the boiling of milk in a clay pot over a firewood flame, true to Sri Lankan tradition. The occasion was also marked by the attendance of a team of world renowned chefs and internationally recognized culinary professionals including the global finalists of the prestigious Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge 2015.

The eco-architectural structure will house a commercial kitchen cum bakery equipped with the latest technology and kitchenware to train 18 -20 students at a time including trainees with physical disabilities. It is expected that the trainees will mostly consist of students from the North and East who have been exposed to the prolonged conflict that prevailed and, youth from rural communities and the plantation sector in Sri Lanka.

Approximately 100 culinary students are expected to graduate from the facility each year with the allocation of 3 months per training course. Training lessons will be conducted by MJFCFs own Training Instructors/Chefs supported by culinary training professionals and WACS certified chefs from across the world.

The addition of a well-equipped vocational centre to the existing facilities at the MJF Centre Moratuwa offers disadvantaged youth the opportunity to harness, train and utilize their skills, primarily in the field of gastronomy and hospitality. It will also include educational and interactive classes for the MJF kids, a library, creativity room and the Curtiss Graphics Institute and computer training centre. A multipurpose auditorium for group activities and events, and an open-meeting and fellowship area with ventilated roofing will also make up its interior space.
 
Speaking at the occasion Chef Ragnar said, 'I thank the Fernando family -Mr. Merrill J. Fernando and his two sons, Dilhan and Malik- for the amazing things that you are doing in the industry of gastronomy and hospitality. We are very proud to be in partnership with you, not only for the quality of your product and the leadership you show in pushing that product, but for your efforts in giving back to the community, sharing your profits and giving back in business. So, thank you very, very much for what you do. Thank you.'       

The objective of this new initiative is to provide opportunities for students from underprivileged and war-affected homes to gain employment opportunities as future chefs in the tourism and hospitality sector, in both local and international kitchens, bakeries and patisseries.