The Horizon Lanka Foundation (HLF) was established in 1998 as a result of the determination and vision of Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka, a young English teacher from the 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 the students of Saliyamala School in 1998. 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, but it wasn’t long before his former students came knocking at his door, asking him to continue teaching them privately. Thus began the Horizon Lanka Foundation an after-school club providing children with further education in English and the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Horizon (Lanka) was established in August 1998.
A Sri Lankan couple named Mr. and Mrs. Donald and Bhadra Gaminitilleke assisted the Foundation immensely in its infancy. They hosted some of the village children in Colombo, donated a brand new dot matrix printer in 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 then, the Horizon Lanka Academy has been an educational anchor for many children of the village and they have continually reaped the rewards of attending our establishment. As well as providing comprehensive education to the village children at Horizon Lanka, the institute has introduced them to the “Information Age.”
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 group of students have also gone on to study at national universities and other higher educational institutions.
Sadly in January 2006, after the departure of Mr. Wanninayaka from the village of Mahawilachchiya, the HLF underwent some management and financial challenges. After struggling for five years, in February 2011, the HLF had to be closed down. For the next three and a half years the children of the village were left without the extra educational resources the HLF earlier provided.
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. Currently the Foundation serves the entire community with its computer lab and other facilities.
Digital Butterflies – Project that brought around 300 used PCs to the homes of the villagers of Mahawilachchiya.
Digital Ambassadors – Educational project that led to the acquisition of a dozen laptops for senior students.
Horizon Lanka Website – in 2001, Mr. Wanninayaka and the children of Horizon Lanka created the foundation’s website, opening a new window to the outside world at a time when only the most elite schools in Colombo had their own website.
24X7 Internet Access – in 2004, Horizon Lanka acquired 24/7 internet access thanks to RLL technology provided by LankaCom Services, a leading Internet Service Provider in Sri Lanka. Mahawilachchiya became the first Sri Lankan rural village to get such a facility at a time when telephone access was still not available in the village.
New Facility – 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. The new facility was well equipped with the USAID-Geneva Global joint budget acquired by the Foundation. Unfortunately in February 2011 the Charleses insisted the donation be returned to them due to irreconcilable internal differences.
Mesh Internet Network – In November 2006, Horizon Lanka Foundation secured a grant of 30,000 USD from the UNDP to build Sri Lanka’s first mesh internet network connecting 28 students’ houses and 2 public schools to the 24X7 Internet. The network covered half of the village. The project was carried out by the Enterprise Technologies Pvt. Ltd. in Colombo.
Phone Coverage – By December 2006, Horizon Lanka was able to get Sri Lanka’s biggest mobile operator, Dialog (Axiata,) to cover the village with a mobile telephone network, putting Mahawilachchiya, once again, ahead of other rural Sri Lankan towns.
E-Village Replication Project – In the summer of 2008, on the recommendation of the then President’s Secretary Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, the Ministry of Education of Sri Lanka became interested in Horizon Lanka’s initiative and it was decided to replicate its educational model in all 9 provinces of the country with the assistance of Horizon Lanka’s founder, Nanda Wanninayaka. 100 million LKR ($~700,000 USD) were allocated to the project, and between 2007 and 2010, 50 rural villages of Sri Lanka were invested with the ICT and the English educational program started by Mr. Wanninayaka at Horizon Lanka 9 years earlier. However, none of this 100 million LKR was given to the Horizon Lanka Foundation as promised by the then government.
In 2009, the Horizon Lanka Foundation was able to obtain another 30,000 USD grant from the ISIF to rectify the then existing problems of the mesh network built in 2006 and further expanding it to the whole village with a more advanced Wi-Fi mesh network. This project was carried out by the LankaCom Services Pvt. Ltd. in Colombo.