Looking Back - How we're gently shaking the world.
I blogged this piece back in 2014 when Without Borders had just started. Over the past two years we learnt, changed and achieved. This is to the Team. The crazy ones.
Till the age of 4 I was raised up in a quaint little village by the name of Deraniyagala , 3 hours off the capital city. It was an isolated yet mesmerizing piece of earth. I lived there during an era when televisions were a rarity and when telegrams replaced mobile phones. A time when the corner shop was the fastest source of information and Colombo seemed like an entirely different continent altogether . It was beautiful yet the gruesome shadows of the Black July were still stagnant in the deepest corners of peoples’ hearts. The class divide was fueling a more sensitive ethnic divide. Ganesh and Rama will always enter the house through the back door. I would remember Selvi dropping out of school at 16 and come back home a few weeks later with an unknown man and red Sindur on her forehead. Little incidents of high magnitude like these impacted me deeply.
Two months after my 2nd birthday my father was brutally murdered by the underworld for his valiant struggle against a thriving drug trade. Things changed and my mother left our beautiful ancestral home behind to the capital city. For us, life in Colombo was all about making it through each day as it came by. I know what its like to live in fear that you will be kicked out of school the day after for not paying your school fees. I know what two meals per day looks like. I have lived through the thrill of shifting through over 10 houses during a span of 14 years. My mother’s strength and resilience was unbelievable. Something she always told me was that she was educating me not just to ensure that I am successful in life but to ensure that I will help others to be as successful as I will be.
15 years later when I went back home to Deraniyagala I saw a repetition of exactly what I had gone through as a child , but in a much worse form.I was itching to do something but didn’t know where to start or to whom to talk to. I had envisioned what change would look like but didn’t know the “HOWs” and “WHATs” of it. Over one life changing gap-year I realized a few good things.
I learnt that it was pointless to comment and criticize if you aren’t a part of the solution.
That for policy makers “Changing the World” was the most naïve thing ever heard.
Thus on the 19th of July this year , without a penny in our hands – Without Borders was born. It was just a simple language skills program. Since we realized that the lack of English was moving the community further away from opportunities that they deserved. On the first day we around 35 children who filled into the dilapidated hall of the Temple. We had a wonderful set of around 15 volunteers that day. It was a 3 hour bus ride to and from and I was stunned by the response to a simple Facebook advert put up by Sakie ( My Co-Founder )
Day 2 just blew us off. We had over 200 children streaming into the hall. The volunteers were outnumbered that day. It was then that we realized the impact we were creating. We quickly scaled up. From then on things just started to happen.
What Do We Do ?
Without Borders aims to create sustainable, community-owned education models with a vision of equipping communities and individuals with the needed resources, skills and training to become their best selves.
Lets break it down – We conduct a SWOT analysis for the communities that we work with. We create a linkage between their existing resources and strengths and their requirements. Subsequently we create a development model catering to the most pertinent issues that they face. This is entirely community driven hence with time to come we handover the model back to the community for operation. Had the end of the day there is no dependence on us.
What Happens In Deraniyagala ?
This is where our pilot project operates in. We cater to 5 different communities around the area. Here we have a four legged model :
Learning Facility – that deliverers language skills + Capacity building through Arts , Theater and Cinematography.
Enterprise Scheme – Where we provide the start-up capital, training and marketing processes to kick start home-based enterprises.
Job Bank – One to One Mentoring facilities along with ICT and English crash courses.
Are We Expanding ?
Absolutely ! But not right now. But we are more than happy to help groups create and run models for other communities.
No you don’t need money to start something. When you implement disruptive solutions the money will find you. Currently we have no permanent donors but we are in search of ones.
How Can You Get Involved ?
Volunteer – Its tough but the experience is truly rewarding. We try to match volunteer skills and strengths with opportunities most suited for them. From 2015 on we will be introducing project based volunteerism – basically short term commitments where you implement and complete mini-scale projects.
Partner and Collaborate ?
Nothing works better than collaborating with like-minded organizations and projects that share the same vision.