Horizon BPO – Providing Jobs for Rural Sri Lankan Youth

Horizon BPO – Providing Jobs for Rural Sri Lankan Youth

Maniyanthoddam is a small fishing village close to Jaffna in Nallur Divisional Secretariat Division and its inhabitants lead just a hand to mouth existence. The underprivileged villagers who had faced the brunt of the thirty-year-long Civil War that raged along the Jaffna peninsula and left most of their houses razed to the ground, are always wondering where their next meal is coming from and a good education for their kids is merely a luxury too exorbitant even to dream about. Many youngsters leave school just after or even during the middle school to join their fishermen fathers in the battle for life in the rough seas.

Even though things are slowly getting back to normal with the restoration of peace after the end of the bitter war, poverty lingers hauntingly behind denying them of many basic needs such as education and jobs for the youth. 

Reverend Father Santhiapillai Sebastian

It is to such a desolate place Reverend Father Santhiapillai Sebastian brings love and hope through his mission to eradicate poverty and provide proper education to the village kids with the assistance of Horizon Lanka Foundation (HLF.) Father Sebastian, riding his bike all around the village serves the community as best as he can, without limiting his love and generosity to his own congregation.

Father Sebastian with some of the students of Horizon Academy – Maniyanthoddam

Horizon Academy – Maniyanthoddam was established in the year 2018 with generous support from local and foreign volunteers.  Quite a number of foreign volunteers have offered their services in teaching the village kids and youth English, IT, sports and fine arts.  The deprived but smart kids have shown their talents in learning fast and persevering to excel in both studies and extra-curricular activities.

Horizon Lanka Foundation (HLF), founded in 1998 in Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka by a young and innovative teacher, Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka – who prefers to identify himself a coach, an artist and a social entrepreneur; all of which he is, of course – has a lot of experience and expertise in managing community development projects and has provided consultancy to many other organizations and even Sri Lankan government in the best practices and proper management in such ventures.  The HLF has accumulated a lot of ardent fans, well-wishers and supporters both in Sri Lanka and overseas who provide financial, material and service level support and assistance.

BISTEC Global’s CEO, Mr. Johann De Cruz is a longtime supporter and admirer of Horizon Lanka who went an extra mile to provide BPO job opportunities for past students of Horizon Academies through their CSR activities. Recently BISTEC entrusted Horizon Lanka with a Data Extraction Project based on Google Maps.  Currently 10 Horizon Lanka past students are working on the project guided by Horizon Lanka’s former Model e-Village Project Manager, Mr. Ranjith Gunarathne who rejoined as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the HLF, especially to lead its BPO wing.  BISTEC is quite happy with the performance so far and they are planning to extend the BPO work by adding a couple of new projects for which Horizon BPO is eagerly awaiting with high hopes of a long and mutually rewarding relationship.

Ranjith Gunarathne training the youths at Horizon Academy – Maniyanthoddam, Jaffna

To appreciate and recognize Father Sebastian’s hard work and commitment to the children and the youth in the area the HLF decided to start the BISTEC-supported BPO project at Horizon Academy – Maniyanthoddam, Jaffna. The performance of the youths there are amazingly satisfactory in the BPO work assigned.

The Horizon Lanka Foundation expects to extend the BPO work opportunities to all its 10 Horizon Academies in Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya, Jaffna, Ampara, Kandy and Kurunegala districts in the coming months.

Other clients also are encouraged to contact us if they have BPO work to be given to the youth in the above districts where Horizon Academies operate.

Contact us on info@horizonlanka.org | Mobile and WhatsApp 0094-777702678

Nanda Wanninayaka’s Presentation on “ICT and Automation for Rural Development.”

Nanda Wanninayaka’s Presentation on “ICT and Automation for Rural Development.”

Nanda Wanninayaka – Chairman of the Horizon Lanka Foundation

Following is the succinct transcription of the presentation on ICT & Automation for Rural Development made by me (Nanda Wanninayaka),  at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo on December 22, 2018 at the International Conference on Information and Automation for Sustainability (ICIAfS) – 2018.

Nanda Wanninayaka

 “Good evening everybody. I am not certain as to why Dr. Thrishantha Nanayakkara invited me to do a presentation at an Engineers Symposium as I am not an engineer but only an artist.

I usually do not do my presentations with Microsoft PowerPoint because
Edward Tufte said, “Power corrupts and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.” Therefore, let us watch this video made by volunteer Pakistani artists who visited the Horizon Lanka Foundation in 2015 as it is played in the background, with a reduced soundtrack while my speech goes on.

We started Horizon Academy in Mahawilachchiya 20 years ago and now, we have branched out to 5 villages in Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya and Jaffna districts providing English (and other languages), ICT (and other technologies) while entertaining extracurricular activities such as playschool, fine arts, and sports.

We utilize local and foreign volunteers’ contributions extensively in our teaching. Local university students, young professionals from the IT industry and other areas of interest teach the students free of charge during weekends and also, scores of foreign volunteers teach the students during weekdays. These are still largely untapped talent that has enormous potential to take education in Sri Lanka to the next level.

At Horizon Academies we offer “edutainment” rather than the boring teaching methods used in traditional classroom-based education offered at public schools and at private tuition institutes. There is no point in repeating the public-school syllabuses, textbooks and past examination papers targeting term tests and national level exams which are once again repeated at a faster pace at private tuition classes all over again. We do not even touch those at Horizon Academies. We don’t assign homework to the students. We teach in a natural environment outside classrooms. Kids play, walk around the village, go bathing/swimming in rivers and lakes, go shopping, watch movies, go on field trips & so forth with the teachers and they learn languages and technology while doing such entertaining and exciting activities. Horizon Academy’s tagline is “The Edutainment Academy of Sri Lanka.”

Thanks to these non-conventional methods, the sons and daughters of farmers, laborers, fishermen & traders ended up being software & network engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers and professionals in other fields. Now I am very happy to hear them speak better English than I do. They have built houses, purchased vehicles and have married early (unlike waiting till the mid-30s like me), they have become totally independent at a younger age.

We at Horizon Lanka, use a lot of modern technologies for teaching. We use the internet, emailing, Instant Messenger (IM) programs, smartphones for teaching in innovative ways. We covered Mahawilachchiya with a village-wide free unlimited Wi-Fi mesh network way back in 2006, 10 years before the present government introduced limited free Wi-Fi to some hotspots in cities in Sri Lanka.

Wi-Fi Mesh Network in Mahawilachchiya – English

Wi-Fi Mesh Network in Mahawilachchiya – Sinhala

We invited Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, the then Secretary to the President, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) since he helped getting the permission to deploy the network in Mahawilachchiya during the war time and in addition, he was a well-wisher of Horizon Lanka for a long time.


Mr.
Lalith Weeratunga at Horizon Lanka Foundation, Mahawilachchiya

When he visited Mahawilachchiya to officially commission the free Wi-Fi network, we trained 3 girls & 3 boys who were 11-year-olds to do the presentation in English by utilizing laptops and slides. Mr. Weeratunga was pleasantly surprised and reported this to the then President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa about how effective & progressive Horizon Lanka Foundation was in education and technology in Mahawilachchiya. President Rajapaksa, in his capacity of the Finance Minister, included a proposal into the national budget of 2007 to allocate 100 million LKR to replicate Horizon Lanka model academies in each 300 + Divisional Secretariat Divisions in Sri Lanka. The budget was passed with a heavy majority but alas! Not a single cent came our way to Mahawilachchiya or elsewhere as a very obnoxious Sri Lankan IT professor exercised his despicable powers over the President and sabotaged the whole plan. This odious man died a few months later but did enough damage before exiting the planet.

We did not ask for the government’s help. But I know Mr. Weeratunga, in all honesty, & sincerity, desired to help and this was the reason he influenced the President. But what happened was a total tragedy for Horizon Lanka, when the government and media published this “100-million-LKR allocation” story all our regular donors came under the impression that Horizon Lanka was now well funded & taken care of, hence they diverted their help to other organizations and we were the ultimate losers.

When I was absolutely convinced that the “100-million-LKR” promise was false   (like many similar ones) and we had already lost our regular donors, I spoke to one of the officers at the Presidential Office and inquired whether I could publish a story on our website about the broken promise so that the rest of the world & our former donors would become aware of what exactly took place. But he stated something to the effect that if I did that, I would be considered as a “persona non grata” who discredits the government and will be dealt with. Well, we all know what this meant during those times.

The end result of all this being; Horizon Lanka Foundation’s funding dried up and all the good work was downgraded, eventually having to close for 3 years before we resumed it in 2014 with hardly any money in the bank account.

That, my dear friends, reminded me of one of the most famous quotes by the late American President Mr. Ronald Reagan. He said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Therefore friends, if you want to do anything for this country, do it before the government messes it up. 
Thank you very much for your attention.”

Ronald Reagan
Dr. Thrishantha Nanayakkara
A part of the audience at International Conference on Information and Automation for Sustainability (ICIAfS) – 2018

Horizon Academy – Ralapanawa, Nochchiyagama, Anuradhapura Needs Your Support

Ralapanawa Students

Horizon Lanka Foundation started its second Horizon Academy in Ralapanawa, Nochchiyagama, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in December, 2017. Mr. Rohana Kumarasingha and Ms. Nadeeka Kumarasingha from Ralapanawa are running this academy. Nadeeka was an alumnus of Horizon Academy, Mahawilachchiya.  She is a dynamic young lady who does a lot for the students and the community at large in the village through her hard work.

Ralapanawa Students

The running cost of the Horizon Academy here per month is around 25,000 LKR | 156.68 USD | 133.90 EUR. This cannot be recovered from the students as their parents get a very low income or in some cases, no income at all. Hence the three-year-long drought disturbed the villagers’ main income, farming, they undergo a lot of hardships. So, we have decided to charge only a 100 LKR | 0.63 USD | 0.54 EUR fee per month from a student here. If we get 100 students per month, we would be able to get 10,000 LKR | 62.67 USD | 53.56 USD. This will cover part of the monthly expenses from of the academy.

Since we cannot afford to pay the teachers, we depend on local and foreign volunteers to teach English and ICT here. So far, 19 foreign volunteers have taught the children in this Academy. We expect more local and foreign volunteers to join us soon.

The foreign volunteers teach English free of charge in the public schools in the mornings and this is totally free of charge for all the students in those schools. The students come to Horizon Academy in the evenings. Foreign volunteers teach during the week days and local volunteers can help teach these students English, ICT, science, mathematics, fine arts and sports during weekends. For the local volunteers, the villagers will provide food and accommodation free of charge. (Foreign volunteers pay the host families for their food and accommodation.)

The students have to pay the above fee for attending Horizon Academy as there are some costs involved in the Academy such as electricity, internet, telephone, stationary, transport, entertaining guests, etc. So, if any of you could help us with these expenses, please email us on info@horizonlanka.org. (All contributions and expenses will be recorded, audited and shared with the donors and other stakeholders.)

Nanda Wanninayaka, The Founder and the Chairman of the Horizon Lanka Foundation

132. Sara Labbate – Italy

Sara Labbate – Italy

Sara Labbate – Italy

Sara Labbate from Italy volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in March, 2018.

Miss Sara Labbate interviewing the students at Horizon Academy - Ranpathvila with other volunteers
Miss Sara Labbate interviewing the students at Horizon Academy – Ranpathvila with other volunteers

Mr. Stefan Jacobsen with other volunteers
Mr. Stefan Jacobsen with other volunteers

103. Britt Wijnen – The Netherlands

Britt Wijnen – The Netherlands

Britt Wijnen – The Netherlands Miss Britt Wijnen from the Netherlands volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in December 2017, January, 2018.

Britt Wijnen with her friends at Horizon Academy - Anuradhapura
Britt Wijnen with her friends at Horizon Academy – Anuradhapura

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=gQRcx-856GI

When It Rains, It Pours – Dialog Axiata Provides 4G Mobile Coverage to Mahawilachchiya

Dialog Axiata technicians checking Dialog 4G signals inside the Horizon Academy - Mahawilachchiya

Dialog Axiata technicians checking Dialog 4G signals inside the Horizon Academy - Mahawilachchiya

When it rains, they say, it pours. That is what happened to Mahawilachchiya because of Horizon Lanka Foundation. Mahawilachchiya is (was) a backward village situated bordering the sprawling Wilpattu National Park. If the name of the village was mentioned anywhere else other than in Mahawilachchiya, it was because of it being constantly targeted by the Tamil Tigers terrorists from 1985 to 2009 till the permanent peace was achieved by defeating the entire terrorist outfit thanks to the political leadership of the former president Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. During the wartime, a numerous terrorist attacks were inflicted and the police, army and the civil security guards were injured, maimed or paid the ultimate price for the nation as a reason. A number of terrorists also were killed by the security forces. A considerable number of villagers also were either killed in cold blood and some were kidnapped and only a few could return by deceiving the terrorists. A several parents of our students also were either killed or kidnapped.

People of Mahawilachchiya was not connected to the outside world through a communication network and only the Police Station and the Post Office had limited telephone access using radio link technology. One had to wait a several hours to talk to someone at a very high price from the village post office.

When I started Horizon Lanka under a huge mango tree in my ancestral garden in 1998, there was no telephone coverage. I had to go to Colombo by spending almost a whole day to Colombo to just check emails and update our website. The distance from Mahawilachchiya to Colombo is 240 km but the bus ride on dilapidated road network in the country those days wore me out wasting the whole day on the road.

I had the luck of meeting Mr. Supun Weerasinghe from Dialog Axiata in 2002. He was then a young executive and now the CEO of Dialog Axiata, Sri Lanka’s leading telecommunication provider.  Dialog sent a team of engineers and fixed a special unit to provide mobile coverage within a 50-meter radius around Horizon Lanka’s small computer lab. That was the only place people could use their Dialog mobile phones. Then Dialog provided 2G mobile coverage to Mahawilachchiya in November, 2006. Then came the 3G. The latest addition to the line up was comprehensive 4G coverage to Mahawilachchiya from Dialog Axiata. The specialty of this is that Mahawilachchiya hamlet got all these technologies long before even bigger towns in Sri Lanka got them. The main reason to get all these new technologies to Mahawilachchiya is the existence of the Horizon Lanka Foundation and my strong links with Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya – the regional CEO for the South Asian Region of the Axiata Group Bhd., Asia’s second largest telecommunications company and Mr. Supun Weerasinghe, the young CEO of Dialog Axiata. Dialog has been a very big pillar of our success since 2002 and I hope the relationship would be even stronger in time to come as we are an organization which depends on new technology since the inception of the small English class under a tree in 1998. Dialog Axiata PLC has assisted Horizon Lanka Foundation over the years whenever we requested their assistance. Read more about it at http://www.horizonlanka.org/en/?s=Dialog+telekom&submit=Search

I thank Mr. Nuwan Samaranayake, a Sri Lankan American living in Houston, Texas, the United States for assisting me in this quest of wider mobile coverage and stronger data speed with Dialog. I also thank the whole Dialog Axiata team for being such a friendly and effective company. Extending 4G coverage to Mahawilachchiya was not in the immediate pipelines of the company priority list but the need to livestream Horizon Lanka’s annual concert, “A Rainbow of Cultures – Horizon Lanka Mega Concert – 2017” on December 31, 2017 and the planned launch of Horizon Academy website on January 01, 2018 and most importantly, the scheduled launch of Horizon Virtual Academy project that would allow anyone from anywhere in the world access both the recorded and the live ICT and language lessons from its website free of charge (only for the year 2018 – the users will have to pay an affordable subscription fee from January 2019.)

What will be in store for Mahawilachchiya next from Dialog? Maybe 5G … … … ?

Nanda Wanninayaka – Chairman & the CEO of Horizon Lanka Foundation

Dialog Axiata technicians checking Dialog 4G signals inside the Horizon Academy - Mahawilachchiya
Dialog Axiata technicians checking Dialog 4G signals inside the Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya

Please Help Pay Our Internet Bill This Year

Facebook Chat

Facebook Chat

Zachary Grenzowski (Zach) was the first foreign volunteer to visit Horizon Lanka this year. He volunteered at Horizon Lanka from January to February over here. He taught us English, computers and American football. We loved his teaching as he was very kind and effective teacher for us.

While we were doing a night English class with Mr. Nanda few days ago (on May 12, 2016), Mr. Nanda said, “Zach is online. Would you like to talk to him?” We were overjoyed to hear our beloved teacher Mr. Zach’s voice. But Facebook offered us more than the voice. We saw him on our big multimedia screen through  live video chat too. It was an exciting moment for us. We talked to him for a long time and he promised to talk to us on every Thursday. From that day we were in love with Facebook. We started creating each of us a Facebook account. We love to use Facebook for good things. People say Facebook is bad but our teachers help us using it under their supervision. Each of us has an email ID too and we communicate with our friends, former volunteers, donors, etc. through emails. It helps improve our English and communication skills.

The problem we have here is that there is only two internet dongles and two smart phones we can log on to Internet only with one PC at a time. We already pay around 14,500 LKR (100 USD) per month as our Internet bill to use our emails, update our website, update our individual  Facebook pages, update our Flickr stream and YouTube stream and all our other needs. Our annual expense on the Internet is 180,000 LKR (1230 USD.) It would be great if someone who reads this post can donate that amount for our organization so that we can learn more English by using Internet more. If we have Internet constantly, we can talk to our former volunteers and the other people our staff introduce us. You can donate to us through https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/empowering-children-in-rural-sri-lanka.

Mr. Nanda said that each of us can have our own webpage, blog and a lot more if we have a sponsor for our Internet bill. We love to use Internet more. When we use Internet, we can learn English and computers fast. So, we hope you would help us.

Aruni Apsara Wewalage, aruni@horizonlanka.org Grade 08, Horizon Lanka

Zachary Grenzowski
Zachary Grenzowski on multimedia screen at Horizon Lanka

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Please Help Us Get a Dialog CDMA Land Line Telephone

Dialog Axiata Logo

Dialog LogoMr. Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation has been using his personal Dialog mobile phone for all Horizon Lanka related communication since 2001. This becomes a big problem as he has to answer the phone even for the least important matters. So, it would be great if we can install a Dialog CDMA land phone for the common official usage. It would ease newly recruited young girl Anupama Sandamali’s job as the administrator/ICT teacher of Horizon Lanka and it would enable her and other students to learn telephone etiquette as well.

A Dialog CDMA land phone is ideal for this requirement. We prefer to use a Dialog land phone because they have the best coverage and the cheapest prices. Besides they have helped us several times by,

  1. Installing an antenna on the roof of Horizon Lanka to provide mobile access to 50-meter radius around Horizon Lanka computer lab in 2001 at a time even bigger towns had not got the Dialog mobile access.
  2. Providing 2G mobile access to Right Bank of Mahawilachchiya through LankaBell tower in Pemaduwa Mahawilachchiya on Mr. Wanninayaka’s request since the night of December 18, 2006.
  3. Expanding 2G coverage by installing equipment in the Dialog high-tension tower in Kiralpetiyawa, Mahawilachchiya enabling Left Bank of the village with 2G access for even in chena (slash and burn cultivation) farms in the jungles in 2008.
  4. Upgrading the coverage to 3G on Mr. Wanninayaka’s request from the LankaBell tower in Pemaduwa Mahawilachchiya.
  5. Expanding the coverage to 3G on Mr. Wanninayaka’s request from the Dialog high-tension tower in Kiralpetiyawa, Mahawilachchiya in 2009.
  6. Planning to provide 4G Home Broadband facility to Mahawilachchiya at a concessionary price.

So, we are comfortable with Dialog Axiata as our communication service provider. We also hope to get Dialog satellite TV facilities in the near future.

To buy a Dialog CDMA land phone we need 2900 LKR (13.69 USD.) This is a post paid per minute package. And the prices are cheaper.

Monthly Rental 300.00 LKR (2.05 USD)

To Dialog Fixed Line 1.50 LKR (0.010 USD)

Any Other Local Network 2.00 LKR (0.013 USD)

Free to Any Network per month 250.00 LKR (1.71USD)

Highlights

Package available for 2,990.00 LKR (inclusive with Tax)

P.S. After reading this article, a gentleman in Australia donated the money to buy the CDMA Phone.

dialog CDMA phone unit
dialog CDMA phone unit

Hasantha Lokugamage Donates a CubieBoard Unit to Horizon Lanka

Hasantha Lokugamage

Prarthana Sewwandi and junior kids with the CubieBoard unit.
Prarthana Sewwandi and junior kids with the CubieBoard unit.

Having learnt about Horizon Lanka Foundation through the media, Mr. Hasantha Lokugamage, a computer enthusiast and an Assistant Manager at Jetwing Hotels donated a CutieBoard set to Horizon Lanka in December, 2015. We thank Mr. Lokugamage for this generous donation. We are in the process of learning how to use the unit.

Hasantha Lokugamage
Hasantha Lokugamage donating the CubieBoard

Hasantha Lokugamage
Hasantha Lokugamage

Hasantha Lokugamage
Hasantha Lokugamage

Since we are keen on studying computers at Horizon Lanka, we hope to find the knowledge necessary to use CubieBoard through friends and Internet. CubieBoard is mainly system on chip (SoC or SOC) miniature PC. But you can make use of it I/O pins for programming.

Having asked as to why Mr. Lokugamage thought of donating this unit, he answered thus. “I saw that what kids and Nanda Wanninayaka from Mahawilachchiya did a long time back from TV news and later from the Horizon Lanka web. I came to know that Horizon Lanka was inactive for few years (I don’t know the reason). But when you contacted me to get some info about Raspberry Pi, I was delighted to hear that Horizon Lanka is active again. So, I decided to donate CubieBoard to Horizon Lanka and happy to see rural youth who make use of it to learn ICT.”

“Cubieboard is a single-board computer, made in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China. The first short run of prototype boards were sold internationally in September 2012, and the production version started to be sold in October 2012. It can run Android 4 ICS, Ubuntu 12.04 desktop, Fedora 19 ARM Remix desktop, Archlinux ARM, a Debian-based Cubian distribution, or OpenBSD.” – Wikipedia

For more details on CubieBoard, please visit http://www.cubieboard.org.

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A CubieBoard Unit
A CubieBoard Unit

A CubieBoard Unit
A CubieBoard Unit