For the last six months, GFF Representative in Sri Lanka, Tharaka Munidasa, has been identifying new opportunities for GFF in this brand new location for the HELPS programme. One of the areas of need he identified was the lack of resources at a local SANASA Campus to train local youth in information technology (IT) – a much sought after skill in this region.
Sarah McLaughlinOpening of the Information Technology Department in Sri Lanka
Image: Pavithra Gunasekara (right) and first Sri Lanka GFF Representative, Tharaka Munidasa (left) standing at the entrance to SANASA Campus.
Hi there, my name is Pavithra Gunasekara. I am a recent graduate from SANASA Campus, Kegalle, Sri Lanka, having completed a Bachelor of Science in Regional Science and Planning. My degree programme was based on community development where I got the opportunity to engage and work with a SANASA Primary Society (local cooperative community groups). With their collaboration, I developed an “Integrated Rural Development Plan” for four years under five pillars: community empowerment, uplifting the low-income families, developing infrastructure facilities, improving education & health and developing the local cooperative community groups. The second project was on encouraging small to medium entrepreneurs in Makola South area by aiding credit finance.
Sarah McLaughlinIntroducing Pavithra, GFF Sri Lanka
Image: Tharaka Munidasa, front centre, and GFF India Saom Namchu, back centre, pictured here with children from the rural community who are involved with a SANASA Campus programme.
An introduction to Tharaka
Hi there my name is Tharaka! I am a recent graduate from the University of Auckland having completed a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with First Class Honours. I was born in Sri Lanka but moved to New Zealand when I was 6 months old. Growing up with two different cultures, I was determined to fuel my curiosity to develop my global mindset. I gained secondary schooling experience in Hiroshima, Japan through my Asia Student Exchange Scholarship, a semester abroad at Pennsylvania State University, USA through the 360° Auckland Abroad Exchange Travel Award and finally, professional experience where I completed an internship abroad in Shenzhen, China through the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia.
Having reflected on the wonderful opportunities I have had abroad, I set a goal to give back to communities in Sri Lanka before engaging in my career. I connected with the Glenn Family Foundation (GFF) through the University of Auckland Business School, where I proposed the idea to expand GFF’s global reach by coming to Sri Lanka to facilitate a partnership with a local NGO and establishing a new location for the HELPS programme. I believe I can make a greater impact on my hometown if I can create the opportunity for volunteers to get involved for years to come! My current volunteer involvement involves teaching English communication skills to first-year students at SANASA Campus and looking to transfer these skills towards children in the village. Furthermore, I am consulting on an IT Development Programme to build IT skills for students and the community.
Image: GFF Representative Tharaka Munidasa (right) and GFF India Manager Saom Namchu (left) at the entrance to SANASA Campus in Kegalle
In early 2019 GFF visited Sri Lanka with GFF Representative Tharaka Munidasa to facilitate a partnership with local NGO, SANASA, and establish a new location for the HELPS programme.
SANASA is a large NGO with a high standing in the community and a tremendous reach and expertise. They follow a cooperative philosophy and one of their main goals is to uplift communities in a way that encourages local empowerment and local ownership. It’s SANASA Campus is a community-based, non-profit co-operative sector university. GFF HELPS will be working closely with this campus.
Some of the broader needs identified in these communities are economic empowerment, health services and education programmes. Specifically, there is a need to develop more income generation opportunities in local villages to retain skilled youth who opt to leave the community in search of better opportunities, causing a skill drain in the area. There are also not many educational opportunities, particularly for learning English, IT and business.
In March GFF visited for a five-day exploration of the rural villages and the work of SANASA. The extensive discussions were fruitful and together we identified some good introductory projects:
Teaching English to campus students to transfer their skills onto the village community and assisting the Centre for Cooperatives and Community Studies (CCCS) to educate the wider community
An IT skills development programme for students and the local community
Village projects including digital learning, environmental awareness and recycling, heath workshops, first aid training and educational workshops
This month we officially opened the new IT Department, sponsored through GFF and made possible by the efforts of Tharaka and his network of professionals willing to offer their pro bono skills.
We have also appointed our first local Project Coordinator, who will guide the work of our incoming volunteers. If you would like to join this programme, see our vacancy advert.
The beginnings of a productive partnership: signing the MOU with SANASA