2015 LankaCorps Fellows - Rapti Ratnayake, Nithya Thiru, Suram Edirisinghe, Sanjay Pathmanathan, Jessica Udayakumaran, Ruvani Fonseka
2016 LankaCorps Fellows with Dr, Naj Nagendran - Savini Ganhewa, Nina Fernando, Hema Sridharan, Sheraanya Pillai, Sindu Sivayogam, Melinda Yogendran
Each year, the Asia Foundation selects young leaders of Sri Lankan origin to experience, explore and enjoy the country of their heritage for a period of six months. These millennials hailing from the USA, Canada, UK, South Africa and Australia are all high achievers, most with multiple masters and a complex plethora of extracurriculars which has heralded a deeper understanding of the opportunities as well as challenges facing this economically burgeoning nation. The LankaCorps Fellowship has just completed its fifth cycle and in each cycle, the Fellows have either returned to their countries of residence with a renewed vigour and understanding about Sri Lanka vowing to cascade the message that Sri Lanka has moved beyond its war years to one of promoting peace, while others have opted to stay back and contribute their impressive pool of knowledge and skill to projects and programmes in the country. This too etches a strong positive message to the diaspora. The fact that these young people see Sri Lanka as a land of prospects, opportunity and free from strife is very optimistic. As each of the Fellows have detailed at the various forums they have been speaking at, growing up in an expatriate community can be challenging. Country Representative of The Asia Foundation Dinesha de Silva says, “Depending on the circumstances under which these young people or their parents left the country, ideas and views are frozen in time and memories are naturally coloured, by their own unique experiences. We do feel that the Fellowship has piqued their curiosity, enabling them to explore their parents’ past and their heritage while not compromising their career aspirations and professional development. By living and working here, they are able to form their own perceptions and views about the country and have a direct connection.”
Within the institutional framework of The Asia Foundation, Fellows have been placed in entities that would encourage them to contribute towards Sri Lanka’s development, while maximising on their education, background and skill sets. From the Foundation of Goodness, to the Carbon Consulting Group, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, ICES, Center for Poverty Analysis, National Water Supply & Drainage Board, Emerge Lanka Foundation, Family Planning Association, Family Rehabilitation Center, the Chitrasena-Vajira Dance Foundation and some who have returned to launch their own organisations like Suneyra Lanka and Qualia Solutions, these Fellows are truly living and breathing the experience of the current day Sri Lanka. However, the sustainability of the LankaCorps Programme currently hangs in the balance. Purely funded by the good offices of committed expatriate Sri Lankans including Los Angeles physician and ardent proponent and supporter of the LankaCorps Fellowship, Dr. Naj Nagendran, De Silva urges the private sector to partner with The Asia Foundation as it is imperative that the nation as a whole takes ownership of the core vision of the programme.
While the country is looking at an aggressive development plan, the LankaCorps Fellowship allows the astute use of these millennials’ expertise and knowledge for the country’s advantage. Given the significant pool of talent and vast experiences collated within this cohort of young people, the country can not only maximise their resources for economic development, but also for social development in the context of post-conflict reconciliation and thereby nation building.