Notes from the Field

The Island Profiles Inaugural LankaCorps Fellows

October 17, 2012

Lanka Corps Fellows

The 2012 LankaCorps Fellows, left to right: Sabina Martyn; Seshma Kumararatne; Sahani Anne Chandraratna; Sivashankar Krishnakumar; and Ann Selvadurai.

Below is an excerpt from an article published in Sri Lanka’s The Island that profiles the first five fellows to participate in The Asia Foundation’s LankaCorps, a new volunteer program that gives young professionals of Sri Lankan origin the opportunity to contribute to the dynamic, multi-ethnic nation’s post-war recovery through six-month fellowships at various host organizations.

For Sivashankar Krishnakumar, an electrical engineer from California who is placed with the Foundation of Goodness, organizing the Murali Harmony Cup was a stimulating experience, opening vistas hitherto unexplored. Born in Jaffna, Sivashankar left for the U.S. with his family as a young boy and graduated from the University of California at Riverside. Prior to his involvement in LankaCorps, his only direct exposure to Sri Lanka was during the ceasefire. “Today I see a totally different nation devoid of war,” said Sivashankar, whose extensive travels in many parts of the island including Seenigama, Trincomalee, Mankulam, Vavuniya, and Jaffna, has widened his horizons. “I learned many things about Sri Lanka which I would never have learned through a textbook or parental input.” Organizing the Murali Cup was an enthralling experience that gave him an opportunity to be part of the North-South reconciliation process. “LankaCorps has given me a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience this wonderful country personally and professionally. The impact it has on me is so profound, so much so I intend to return to Sri Lanka to help develop the country.”

Commending Sivashankar’s contribution to the Foundation of Goodness, Founder and Chief Trustee, Kushil Gunasekera said, “Shankar’s placement was very timely considering our on-going humanitarian work in the North. He is to be admired for wanting to help in a concrete, hands-on way. At his age, very few will come back for six months, giving up a lucrative IT job to serve his country, which to me is a real eye opener for those who are watching things happen as opposed to Shankar who is making things happen!” The Murali Cup matches were held at five venues in the North similar to a mini cricket world cup for school boys. Gunasekera said: “I cannot adequately describe the role he performed to make this historic event a great success. His passion to work at the grassroots level and his coordination of the logistics were outstanding.”

Quite different to her previous short visits to the country as a tourist, LankaCorps has enabled Sabina Martyn, from Canada, to immerse herself in day-to-day life in Sri Lanka, through work and in her leisure time. Sabina, a water engineer by profession and graduate of the University of Guelph, had relied mainly on the media and her parents’ stories and memories to shape her ideas of Sri Lanka. “LankaCorps has challenged me to develop my own perspectives and seek my own experiences. I have also been able to explore my heritage. I visited Jaffna, which I had not been able to do in past visits because of the war. It was a surreal experience to walk the same streets that my ancestors had, and to feel so closely tied to a place I had never even visited before. The opportunity to work in Sri Lanka has been an invaluable complement to my previous Canadian work experience and education. My placement at the National Water Supply and Drainage Board has been a rewarding experience and helped me to comprehend and apply my skills to the complex environmental, financial, and social contexts surrounding the implementation of water supply projects in the country,” said Sabina, who also had the opportunity of interacting with high school students from across the country as a weekend volunteer at a youth leadership conference organized by Sri Lanka Unites.

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