The recently retired Director General of SORWATHE, Engineer Cally Alles first came to Rwanda in 1978 during the establishment of the Tea Industry. SORWATHE is currently the largest tea factory in Rwanda with a mega tea plantation, which was founded by Andrew Wertheim in 1960. His son Joe Wertheim, took over ownership later.
The 69-year-old Engineer was born in Colombo in Sri Lanka (former Ceylon). He is the eldest child in a family of seven. He attained most of his education in Sri Lanka before continuing his education in England.
“I am a Chartered Electro-Mechanical Engineer with specialised knowledge in tea. As a child, I always wanted to be an engineer and I thank the good Lord that I was able to acquire the highest position in the profession. I’m living my childhood dream,” Eng. Alles said.
The jovial and eloquent engineer said that living a simple life without complications has kept him strong and fit.
“I am a very optimistic person and I always try to offer help to anyone in need of it. With this kind of formula, it’s hard to go wrong. Of course, my sportsman traits help me to keep fit. I’m still the youngest soccer player to ever play for the Sri Lanka National team,” Alles says.
He also said that during his time in England he was offered to play in the English Premier League but couldn’t because that wasn’t professional soccer.
“If I played in the English premier league, I would not be allowed to play for the National team. I was a great winger,” he adds.
He attributes his exceptional engineering skills to working for a leading engineering company in Sri Lanka and manufacturing Tea machinery.
“During my practical training at the Colombo Commercial Company, the training was really broad. I was considered dynamic and hardworking hence the company sent me to England on a five year scholarship,” Alles explains.
He has worked in Africa for the last 34 years in countries like Burundi and Kenya but has spent 20 years in Rwanda. He considers Rwanda his second home.
He worked in Rwanda from 1978-1984 before heading to Burundi and Kenya, and later returned to the ‘Land of a thousand Hills’ in 1996. He has been the Director General for SORWATHE since 1996 to date.
“When I was told to come and start the Tea industry in Rwanda as a Technical Director, I asked myself about the location of Rwanda. I then got a map and looked for its position. When I reached here in 1978 it was hard to find skilled personnel. I got one person who was mediocre and trained him,” he explains.
He said that with the help of Charles Uwiragiye, whom he trained, they were able to install all the machinery at SORWATHE in 1978.
Charles Uwiragiye, Chief Mechanic of SORWATHE, considers the retired Managing Director as a friend besides being his employer.
“He always promoted team work in all departments. He is social and respects everyone. He is also a great achiever,” Uwiragiye acknowledges.
The company achieved many awards during Cally Alles time as Director General.
Prior to attaining ‘Investor of the Year for 2009’ at the prestigious Rwanda Development Board Awards, the company attained Best overall exhibitor 2010, at the 13th Annual Rwanda Trade Fair.
“If we had it our way, we wouldn’t let Mr. Cally Alles retire. We are going to miss him especially his good sense of humour and fair treatment. As a friend I’m going to miss him deeply,” Uwiragiye expresses.
“I discovered that 90 per cent of fuel in Rwanda was used for cooking so I linked up with the Rotary Club in America and a rocket stove was made. Their model was a six block sculpt but I designed a better model. It’s shaped like a boot and is popularly called the ‘Rwanda Boot Rondereza’ stove. It is made out of clay and sand. It does not produce smoke while cooking and it consumes a third of fuel. We taught people how to make these stoves through cooperatives and this is improving their welfare,” Alles explains.
Alles has also served as the President of the Imbabazi Foundation Orphanage and Rotary Club of Kigali.
“I have also given up the Presidency of the orphanage. It’s one of the projects I enjoyed the most and I’m glad that I was involved in it. Seeing children grow up, graduate and turn out to be great is simply amazing,” he expresses.
Besides being an innovative and business oriented person, he is a family man and is married to Amithy Alles with whom he has a daughter and son.
“I married my wife in 1972 and we always moved to places together as a family. She is also involved in several projects especially those that promote music. She started Kigali Music School for disadvantaged people,” he says adding, “As a family, we consider Rwanda as our home, that’s why we never feel homesick. We also go to Sri Lanka for holidays as a family.”
He said although he is retiring and going back to Sri Lanka, he will continue doing consultancy work and will also keep coming back to Rwanda.
“I am confident that the teamwork at SORWATHE will prevail; the working relationship there is simply great,” Alles acknowledges.
SORWATHE produces Black and Green Tea as well as Orthodox and White Tea. Its annual production is approximately three million kilogrammes of Black Tea, which is 15 per cent of Rwanda’s production.