The Horizon Lanka Foundation (HLF) was established in 1998 due to the determination of Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka and a group of children from the rural village of Mahawilachchiya. The origins of the Foundation can be traced back to a handwritten English language newspaper named Horizon, started by Mr. Wanninayaka and his students of Saliyamala School. Copies of the newspaper were sent to government agencies and foreign embassies in Sri Lanka. Only the United States Embassy, based in Colombo, replied. They were so impressed by the newspaper that they donated Horizon’s first computer, a Zenith 486, and an electronic typewriter, so the newspaper could continue in printed form.
Soon after, Mr. Wanninayaka had to leave his position as an English teacher at the public school due to some irreconcilable differences he had with the school, but it wasn’t long before his former students came knocking at his door, asking him to continue teaching them privately. Their thirst for knowledge and educational advancement led them to the door of Mr. Wanninayaka, their former English teacher in the public school.
Thus began an after-school supplementary educational class under a huge mango tree in Mr. Wanninayaka’s garden providing children further education in English and computers. It became a popular place for many children of the village.
A Sri Lankan couple named Mr. and Mrs. Donald and Bhadra Gaminitilleke assisted the Foundation immensely in its infancy. They hosted the village children in their residence in Colombo many a time during their trips, donated a brand new dot matrix printer in the year 2000 and informed Sanjeewa Wickramanayake from e-WIS Company of the great work being carried out at Horizon Lanka. Mr. Wickramanayake was so impressed that he donated the first computer (a used IBM Pentium computer).
Since 1998, the Horizon Lanka Foundation has branched out. As well as providing an all-round education to the village children at Horizon Academy, they have expanded into the Information Age and served the entire community with their computer lab. In 2001, the website www.horizonlanka.org was launched by the children of Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya opening a window to the world.
By 2004 the Horizon Lanka got 24/7 internet access using RLL technology, the first Sri Lankan rural village to get such a facility even before any fixed line or mobile telephone coverage came to the village.
Horizon Lanka Foundation was also responsible for beginning a project called ‘Digital Butterflies’ which brought PCs to the homes of the villagers of Mahawilachchiya. Around 400 homes were furnished with a used computer. There were more than 50 used and brand new laptops as well provided to the senior students through Horizon Lanka’s ‘Digital Ambassadors’ project.
Horizon Lanka’s innovative ways of teaching English resulted in scores of students getting A’s and B’s for English language sometimes, with better passes than for their mother tongue at national level exam, the Ordinary Level. Horizon Lanka’s innovative ways of teaching English has resulted in scores of students getting A and B grades for the English language portion of the national level exam, sometimes even higher than their grades for their mother tongue, Sinhala!
A few scores of students also were able to get into national universities and other higher educational entities.
By 2005 December, Horizon Lanka Foundation had a student population of more than 500 students at the height of its golden age. There were around 10 staff members by that time.
Sadly in January 2006, after the departure of Mr. Wanninayaka from the village of Mahawilachchiya, the HLF underwent some management and financial challenges. Still the organization functioned as he visited the village periodically and supervised and guided the staff and the senior students.
In 2006, Horizon Lanka moved to a two storied building constructed in two acres of land as a result of the generosity of Mr. Chas and Mrs. Lovina Charles, a family living in the United Kingdom that has both Sri Lankan and Indian roots.
In November 2006, Horizon Lanka Foundation was able to secure a grant from the UNDP to build Sri Lanka’s first mesh internet network connecting 28 students’ houses and 2 public schools with Internet.
In 2006 December, Horizon Lanka was able to persuade Sri Lanka’s biggest mobile operator Dialog Axiata to cover the village with a mobile telephony network at a time some bigger towns were not given the facility.
With all these new technologies coming to the village Horizon Lanka was also able to start a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) venture called OnTime Technologies Pvt. Ltd. in May, 2007.
By July 2008, the Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka studied the Horizon Lanka model and started replicating the model islandwide in all 9 provinces with the professional support from Mr. Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka.
In 2009, Horizon Lanka was able to secure another grant from Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC) to rectify existing problems with the mesh network and expand it to the rest of the village too.
In 2010 Horizon Lanka partnered with Plan Sri Lanka to start a ‘Blogging for Education’ program with 4 public schools in Mahawilachchiya and the project was successfully completed by the end of the year.
After struggling for five years since Mr. Wanninayaka’s departure from Mahawilachchiya, in February 2011, the HLF had to be closed down its operations in Mahawilachchiya. For the next three and a half years the children of the village were left without the extra educational resources the HLF earlier provided. The foundation returned the new property where Horizon Lanka was donated by the Charlses too. The Wi-Fi mesh network that provided internet to the village was also shut down after the return of the facility to the Charlses.
To the delight of the people of Mahawilachchiya, Mr. Wanninayaka returned to Horizon Lanka after 8 long years in July 2014 and reopened Horizon Lanka with the determination to regain the institution’s old glory and go beyond that.
In 2015, Tissa Jinasena Group funded more than a half of the project budget for 2015. Horizon Lanka was able to buy new computers, other equipment and the furniture with this donation.
By the end of 2016 around 50 students studied English and computers at the Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya. 23 foreign volunteers visited the Horizon Lanka and taught the students.
Two students visited India, one to make a presentation on sanitation and the other for an exposure visit. Another student was selected to make a presentation in South Africa on sanitation.
During 2017, 60 foreign volunteers at Horizon Lanka Foundation. With the constant influx of volunteers, the Horizon Lanka Foundation was able to start 4 new Horizon Academies in 5 villages in Anuradhapura, namely, Tantirimale, Ranpathvila, Ralapanawa and in Anuradhapura City.
Horizon Lanka was able to get 4G coverage from Dialog Axiata in December, 2017 for the whole village much earlier than their original plans to expand the facility to Mahawilachchiya as they admire the project a lot and has been supporting it from time to time.
In 2018 three more Horizon Academies were opened in Kirimetiya in Nuwara Eliya, Maniyanthoddam in Jaffna and Ukkulankulama in Anuradhapura.
In 2019, two new Horizon Academies were opened in Kandy and one in Ampara.
Since 2004, we have hosted over 200 foreign volunteer teachers of English and ICT and a range of other skills.
The main strength of the organization was its innovative ways of teaching English and IT and getting the foreign volunteers to teach. But in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the various parts of the country in April 2019, the Foundation feared that the influx of foreign volunteers would decrease and this would affect the organization seriously. But the volunteers kept coming even during that adverse time and Horizon Lanka continues its journey to provide education to the children in rural Sri Lankan villages.