This month, Kane had a chat with Empower Sri Lanka Director Skyamika Peeligama. Have a read to see how Shyamika has seen Empower grow and what drives her each day!
Kane: Hi Shyamika! Looking forward to having a chat! So tell me, how did you get started with Empower, and what is your position now? Also what are a few things that some of us may not know about you?
Shyamika: Well, my name is Shyamika and I have worked with Empower as a Director for the past 4 years. Shanil, who is also my cousin, talked me into taking on the role over a plate of Churros and chocolate one fine day in 2010. I am glad I said yes as it has been a great journey thus far.
I am more than a little obsessed with food. Especially if it comes on a stick or in steaming bowl from truck or street side joint! I also love travelling hiking and watching movies.
Kane: That is an interesting introduction to Empower! So I know it may be hard, but if you narrow it down to maybe 2 or 3 things, what aspects of Empower have you seen grow or transform the most since starting?
Shyamika: I think the vision of Empower has really developed over time and crystallised to a point where it genuinely reflects the values of the people within the organisation. I remember in the beginning we were feeling our way through what we stood for.. Were we trying to be strict social enterprise? Were we about community development? Was it an model that represents an antithesis to charities? Over time we realised that our vision was a simple but powerful one.. We are about investing in the potential of individuals and communities to create their own paths towards development.. and we believe all individuals and communities have potential irrespective of their social and economic circumstances.. They just need some opportunity and assistance.. That’s where Empower comes in.
The growth of the organisation by having some amazing people join as staff, partners and volunteers has been really rewarding to see. Under Shanil’s leadership we have been able to gather an incredibly talented groups of people to form the organisation in Australia Malawi and Sri Lanka and we have some great supporters across the world including in the UK and Brazil.
Of course the biggest area of growth and progression has been in the context of the scope of the projects that empower has been working on. From working with one community in Zatuba with a focus on the provision of solar lighting to the expansion of our project in Malawi to include 38 neighbouring communities, the creation of a community bank, the development of a regional development community, the creation of several successful micro businesses and adoption f of permaculture on large scale. It’s been a wonderful journey that we never quite foresaw in the beginning.
It’s been awesome!
Kane: Awesome stuff, it must have been an amazing experience to see the organisation develop over the years. In regards to the work you do for Empower, is there a particular underlying reason or motivation that drives you on a daily basis? I mean, in those particularly tough weeks, what is that something that pushes you through?
Shyamika: My motivation comes from wanting to be part of something that is bigger than my everyday lived experience here in Sydney. The buzz you get from seeing the incredible progress of the communities we work with in Malawi and Sri Lanka and the knowledge that the little bit of work you did on this document, or on that event or through that conversation assisted in making it happen is pretty cool.
Kane: I really like the idea of becoming part of something ‘bigger’ than your immediate everyday life, and I think that is something all people should work towards. Now I’d love to hear one of your favourite quotes, and why it means something to you!
Shyamika: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
Love this excerpt from a Rumi poem. Reminds me of all those things that are sometimes challenging about human interaction. Suspending judgement, being present and conscious. The ‘field’ sounds like a place where some pretty awesome conversation and connections happen.
Kane: Thank you so much Shyamika! Has been great getting to know a little bit more about what drives you day to day, and how you’ve enjoyed your time with Empower!
Shyamika: Thanks Kane! That was fun