We held a parents’ meeting at Horizon Lanka on September 18, 2015 to discuss about the forthcoming annual concert. Parents were happy that we are resuming the annual concert that had been abandoned for the last 10 years with the departure of Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka. But now he is back in the village for good, we will again practice dancing items, songs, etc. for the annual concert.
Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation met LankaCom staff on September 25, 2015 at LankaCom Head Quarters in Colombo to discuss about networking the computers at Horizon Lanka computer lab and getting a leased internet line with unlimited access to the Internet. It was LankaCom that provided internet to us from April, 2004 till February, 2011 with the maximum number of breakdowns being less than 10 times during the whole period. They charged us a nominal fee for the connection till the ICTA (Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka) sponsored our monthly internet bill from 2005 onwards. We are completely satisfied with LankaCom’s Internet connection and its maintenance services. So, we decided to stick to their services again. LankaCom is the best Internet Service Provider (ISP) especially in rural areas like our village, Mahawilachchiya which is 40 km away from the nearest city, Anuradhapura. When they provided us internet there wasn’t a single landline or mobile operator that covered Mahawilachchiya till LankaBell (CDMA based telephone coverage) and Dialog Axiata (mobile coverage with 2G technology) covered the village in 2006. So, we had to erect a 120 feet tower in Horizon Lanka compound to get internet signals from LankaCom’s base internet tower from Anuradhapura which cost us around 500,000 LKR (5124 USD) in 2004. That was the biggest fundraising we did for Horizon Lanka. Mr. Wanni took us to a cybercafé in Anuradhapura and let us use Internet there. We were excited a lot and wanted to get internet to Horizon Lanka. So we decided to collect some money ourselves before asking others to contribute. So, we organized a fair at Horizon Lanka and we brought vegetables and fruits from our homes and sold them at the fair. We collected a small amount of money and deposited that money in the institute’s bank account and put up a website about that fundraising and requested Horizon Lanka donors and well-wishers to contribute to that fund. Mr. Kumara Badhuge from Qatar, Mr. Mark Frazier (Openworld) from the USA, Mr. Leif Smith (Explorer’s Foundation) from the USA and late Dr. Gamini Premadasa (through LearnAid, Kuwait) donated necessary money to erect the tower and install the other equipment needed to get internet. So, by April, 2004 we were able to get 24X7 internet to Horizon Lanka. We had to abandon the tower we built in 2011 as we had to close down the project for 3 ½ years due to various challenges we faced with Mr. Wanni’s departure from the village in January, 2006. We hope you will contribute for us to get internet again. Now that he is back in he village for good, we are confidant that we can prosper again.
I accidentally met this Google vehicle in Mahawilachchiya two months ago (to be exact on August 13, 2015) that was updating Google maps of Mahawilachchiya. I waved at the driver and signaled that I wanted to take few photos. So, the driver stopped till I finished photographing the vehicle. I had a small chat with the Google officer after taking the photos. He was kind enough to explain me what they were doing. According to him, they were updating Google maps in Mahawilachchiya. They were covering all the newly made byroads in the village.
I have read the story of Google’s rise from the humble beginning to the search giant and how the Google Guys Sergey Brin and Larry Page designed the other innovative Google products in the book “Google Story” written by David A. Vise and Mark Malseed. Read my blog post about the book here.
Yoshihiro Uemura from Japan arrived in Mahawilachchiya on September 05, 2010 to volunteer at Horizon Lanka Foundation for three months. Yoshi is the first Japanee volunteer to visit Mahawilachchiya.
Yoshihiro Uemura’s Report
At first I would like to thank Mr. Wanni and Mr. Shanthi for giving me opportunities to work in Horizon Lanka Foundation, Ms. Gangani and Ms. Achala for giving me support in the operation of blogging project, Mr. Ajith for backing up and teaching Sri Lankan culture in daily life and Ms. Sithara (English teacher assistant) and Sir. Waruna (ICT teacher assistant) for cooperation in this project. In addition to them, directors, public school teachers, host families assisted me, so I would give thanks to all.
According to my research before coming to Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka has had the good relationship with Japan for about 65 years. It is said that after World War I, post-war reparations without methodicalness and mutual respect led WWII; however, after WWII, Sri Lankan resigning the right to demand compensation based on the idea of Buddhism and the kindness for Japanese got many countries to abandon their rights. The behavior of Sri Lanka gave many Japanese hopes for rebuilding. And now, Sri Lankan people, especially village people in Mahawilachchiya, give me wish in my life.
Although I had worked for ICT Company giving me stable life and salary, my heart had always been unsatisfied; besides, I always kept asking myself “What should I do by using the power of ICT?” or ”Whom should I work for in my life?” I could not find answer for my questions while I worked in Japan; as a matter of course, there are no persons who could answer and satisfy my spirit of inquiry. However, after 3 years I was gotten one of answers in my questions from students in this village. ICT has chances to enlarge the wide of students` dream. I can contribute to students’ future so as to widen their future dream by teaching how to use ICT. Finally, I can notice that ICT has potential possibilities, because ICT can convey useful information from all over the world to even students living in rural area. So, in my opinion, the society that students have wide visions for the future could be one of rich and generous societies. Many students’ dream in Mahawilachchiya belongs to 3 categories. They want to become a teacher, a dance instructor and a doctor. In someday, I hope the range of their dreams will spread.
I believe that every people have each dream; therefore, I want you to find your original dream in your daily life. Your dream will not be limited to those 3 dreams. When you decide your dream in life, ICT will make a great contribution to you. Sadly, there is little information around you, but ICT can make up for your shortage of information. In the future, you can become a Japanese teacher in Sri Lanka, you can become an astronaut in America or Russia, you can become a scientist who can invent new material making people happier and you can become the best farmer providing the most delicious food for Sri Lankan. I wish you to satisfy yourself and make more effort in the process of realizing your dream. I know your society faces the lack of information; however your problem is just only one. There is no deference between you and students living in Colombo, Japan and Britain. You have good abilities as well as them. Therefore, I hope you should make use of ICT more efficiently. However, you have to be careful for ICT, because in the ICT world there are many people filled with malice. Finally, I hope to see you again, because you are the best teacher in my life.
My wish for blogging project
The blogging project of Horizon Lanka Foundation is sure to have possibility in order to make students happier. Although I asked two girls if you understand e-mail and blog at the early of this project, their answer is ‘I don’t know’. However, they came to Horizon Lanka everyday and uploaded their blogs to express their mind after English teacher’s correction. I suspect that still now they do not understand what blog is. But actually they enjoy writing blog. I think they have fun learning English; therefore keeping blog writing must increase their English ability. I am very anxious for people who have responsibility for this project not to compromise. As a matter of course, I always help you through ICT. Please ask me without hesitation. In the near future I want to talk with students in English.
Yoshihiro Uemura, Japan- December 14, 2010
Mr. Michael Philip McGill, (with yellow/black T shirt) an AIESEC intern from the United Kingdom worked at Horizon Lanka, Mahawilachchiya from June to August 2010.
Miss Veronika Betakova, an AIESEC, Sri Lanka intern from the Czech Republic/Slovakia worked at Horizon Lanka, Mahawilachchiya from August 2009 to October 2009. She was a very active young lady who worked hand in hand with the village youth and thus won their hearts.
Every day here is like an adventure and full of marvelous surprises. I love countries, in which I must use my brain, where I need to use usual things by unusual way. A southern life, a more careless life :). In this country the time doesn’t play any role, nothing is in time, but the people are very friendly, willing and you must love their simple life, because it will be also your simple life :).
My first feeling, when I came to Mahawilachchiya, was ooouu, unbelievable, like land of nobody, small cottage, nothing, nothing, small cottage, nothing, nothing… After three months here I still cant understand one thing… in the land, in which people going to sleep with the darkness and wake up with the first sun beam (very practical by the insects), has all the village Wi-Fi connection, ok, its slowly and with many power cuts, but still its like a miracle :).
I live in a 5-members family and they know only a few English words, so my Sinhala is becoming better and better day by day :). It’s interesting to have 2 small brothers and one sister, the best contraception for next years :). But no, they are very nice, I have all one room only for me and with mosquito net, what more to wish???? My new mom still spends some time by me, usually only smiled and tried to turn away all insects, so lovely :). Even they try to cook no spicy food for me and I can take a spoon and also I can stay in flip-flops, because I never before tried earth floor :). Who doesn’t love them??? Amma (my hostess) never forgets me :), when I go on a trip, she adds me some food. Usually in newspaper, if my Sinhala or Tamil will be better I can use it also other way :). She has my big admiration, from September started school also here, so Amma wakes up every morning around 4am, irons school uniforms and prepares food for children, of course rice and something. I spend every week 2 long hours by hand-washing, but she needs to wash clothes for all family. She still persecutes me, tried to putting up my skirts and shorts and putting down my T-shirts, I have to look like a good girl :).Last times I was on something like acceptance of new house and she ran to me with fork and reboiled water, dear Amma :). I felt so special like never in my life, can u imagine around many people, just sitting, praying and then eating on the floor only with hands and for me prepared table :).
I start to be really nature girl in a good words meaning… wake up with the birds, in worse case with ants and mosquitoes. In the toilet find frogs, in the garden dogs, cats, turtles, squirrel and sometimes also scorpions, but don’t worry, usually they have antitoxin at home and you still have 1-2 hours of live (if it will be my last words, remember, 2 hours are NOT enough 🙂 ). Be or not to be??? No, no, the question is little other: Take a shower in “bathroom” or in river??? They still use for the cooking…fire, normal, open fire in the kitchen :). In my might is still one of our folk’s songs: she was putting clothes in the water and a frog jumped there…. ye, ye, ye, they don’t have washing machines, but you can find here a washing powder and also iron, jajaj, luxury :). By every washing I feel like in a TV-spot for washing powder, just put dirty clothes in the water, add washing powder, wait around 10-15 minutes, then wash every piece in hand around 10 minutes and your clothes have never been so clean and white like now :). I saw here only one really big rain and as u suppose it was when I finished with hanging clothes :).
I have new nick name, I try to teach them to pronounce Veronika or Nika, but no, I’m Miss or Teacher, haha. I have only Basic English from travelling, movies, books and I have never been a teacher, so I was little (maybe more than only little) scared of teaching English. But now I see the teaching is nothing difficult, you must be just careful, hear them, make fun and make compliment for every improvement :). And they love controlling of notebooks and don’t want to go home without homework :). On my first lesson I made fun with my Sinhala knowledge and then played with small game draw and describe and they liked it :). Also I didn’t know, that I can describe so many words only with my body without using words.
With the small children we only teach ABC, also how to write ABC and numbers till 10, then some songs and small sentences about name, age, family… Drawing is still very popular and we start with singing, poor children by my music antitalent :).
In second group are children around 9 and they are very clever. They know only a few words, so is very hard to explain their grammar, but it’s not a problem, step by step and now we know how to introduce myself, use “to be”, possessive pronouns, buy a chocolate in shop (because this I know also in Sinhala), some new verbs, animals, things and they want also singing, ajajaj, why, why with me???? One day I used a DVD and till they were watching a movie, I repaired swings; for sure I had to test it like first :). We play football, volleyball and also they teach me cricket :). The popular game is “hide and seek” and “caram” (kind of table games).
Every class we start with a repetition, I’m going to sleep and waking up with ABC and numbers till 20 :). I teach them how to play “hop” and also I prepared for them small Olympic Games.
We find the best way how to teach and learn. For example, I explained them ordinal numeral on the winners and “want” with a game with ball. The explaining of preposition I started with drawing and then we played a game with chairs. Smaller ones are also very clever, they remembered very quickly words fly and plane, yes, yes, yes I showed them this game and from this moment, also because of cricket, start to be my biceps and triceps nice well developed :).
They are very nice, also give me chocolate and sugar, jajaj, corruption in so small age and I give them support in this, jajaj, where is this world moving towards???? From they found, that I can be happy from everything, they start to take me flowers, fruit, shells and also feathers, for which I find nice places in my hair, so sometimes I’m teacher Winnetou. By presented shells is good to check if their owner are not more inside and peacocks feather is very danger for eyes :).
The second part of my work was to create a strategy analysis with the business plan for HLF. It was great; I prefer, when I can organize work by myself and with Wanni I was only in online contact.
I like cycling, so sometimes I make a trip around, where you can find nice lakes with lotus flowers or rice fields. At the start was for me difficult became on left riding or crazy drivers, but now it is for me funny, you have a occasion to try a way by bus, train, “toc toc”, tractor, motorbike.
The food its very, very, very spicy, so when I ask for not spicy and have enough water I can pass it and if not, here are many poor animals, that like also spicy food :). Did u remember the part of movie Forrest Gump, when Bubba want to say all the ways how to prepare shrimps??? I can do the same 🙂 ….with a coconut, when u think u can imagine all taste, try coconut with chilly or with onion, hmmmm delicious :). Rice on the lunch, rice on the dinner, rice between its ok, but really not rice on the breakfast :), in this time I prefer their bread, they have only one kind of white bread, so easy choice 🙂 Interesting, that when u ask them, which is their favorite food, usually is answer rice with curry. For salty juices I was prepared from Taiwan, but pineapple with pepper?!?! Amma starts to know, that more than various mashes and spicy masses I like salad from fresh vegetables, Cinderella has competition, I can find every peace of chilly :). And I don’t spurn of fresh fruit, but I prefer only fruit, without salt, chilly or other spice. I made also special dinner for my family. The Ceylon is famous by the tea and it’s true, it’s so delicate. They have many kind of tea, but the most popular is black. I saw nobody with coffee, but says is terrible. Because of English colonization drinks tea with milk and sugar, sugar, sugar, jejejej, it’s sweet and sweeter. My family has special way, they have in one hand small tea cup and in the second sugar and the proportion is almost the same.
From any times I start to call these people “hummingbirds nation”. And do you know why??? Any idea? No??? Because when they agree usually make with the head a symbol of infinite, u know like horizontal 8, the same like hummingbird with the wings. At the same time say ou, ou, ou (yes, yes, yes), so at the start I was really lost, I didn’t know if it means yes or no.
I still don’t understand school uniformity; it’s not only the same clothes and shoes, but also the same look. Girls only long hair in 2 rolls with black bow at the end and with hair path really in the middle and boys very short or slick on the side. No exceptions!!! It’s like effort to wipe out the property difference, but how to wipe out something so manifest?????
I learned how to make classroom, better small hut, only from wood and palm trees and also how to make a floor. It’s a very good smelling cubby :). Even I helped also in kitchen, jajajaj, from Verca start to be cooker :), ok, my “papadam” was a little bit black, but pancakes with imagines or short messages were famous :). As u know by cooking we use fire, but u don’t have fire so easy. One nice day I visited with my new family their plantation and we prepared some logs.
I visited also many nice places around and we were with the staff also on a few motorbike trips in the most famous places.
Sure it’s the next unforgettable traineeship, which give me better writing (it’s terrible to spell every word), a feeling that the children are not small monsters, teaches me a simple life and change my looking at the world. Thanks, thanks for this great chance. I have still a few days here, but I’m sure to say good bye will be one of the hardest things in my life.
Veronika Betakova, the Czech Republic/Slovakia – October 5, 2009
Miss Xin Li, the second AIESEC, Sri Lanka intern from the Mainland of China worked at Horizon Lanka, Mahawilachchiya from July 20, 2009 to August 25, 2009. She was a very caring young lady who won the hearts of the village within the short time she spent in the village. Too bad she had to return to China on her academic needs before the stipulated date.
I never thought someday I would be so lucky to go to Sri-Lanka, and meet so many good friends, Achchi, Wanni, Ramani, Veronika, Waruna, Iresha, and a bunch of good little kids and my students . Horizon is a tiny little building in Sri-Lanka, but it is the most meaningful place to me. I had never been overseas. When I arrived in Mahawilachchiya, I was a little surprised at its differences from Chinese villages. There weren’t any draught animals. 😀
Xin Li’s Report
The first person I met in Horizon Lanka was Ramani, a beautiful little woman. Although I could not speak English very well, we talked a lot about the feelings, my country, my culture, even man. She worried about that I would be afraid of sleeping alone, so she lived with me. “Good morning” and “good night” became the most essential words to me. I liked that. I liked sharing feelings with her, she taught me a lot. She is a wonderful woman and a good teacher. I wish she can find the greatest guy in the world. Achchi is a traditional Sri-Lanka woman, kind-hearted, good cook, loves her children. She is my grandmother, sometimes I want to call her “nainai” (in Chinese it means grandmother). She can’t speak English so we can’t talk. But you know, sometimes we don’t need words to communicate; we can use body languages or eye contacts. I remembered Achchi once said I was her child in the preexistence. She always told me “banana”, “tea”, only single words, but I knew she was afraid I couldn’t eat enough or have a good time there.
I only stayed in Horizon Lanka for forty days. It was a short time, but I had a really good time here. Veronica (other volunteer) always said I was a sky fan. I like Sri-Lanka’s sky, always blue, always with white clouds. you can’t imagine how beautiful the sky is. I want to see it all day long. I like sitting outside, feeling the breeze of the wind, and watching the little squirrel finding food. I have a dream that one day I can buy a house there and grow old.
I taught students oral English and computers. Although I wasn’t a good teacher, all the students listened carefully. I had the feeling that I wanted to teach them everything I know. I liked the three years old kids. I taught them English songs, playing games. Once a little girl told me she loved me, and her father took some overseas coffee, and she invited me to her house to drink coffee. What a cute girl. I think it is the feeling of happiness as a teacher which I never had felt before. I was so proud that all my students loved me.
The Sri-Lanka food is not as good as Chinese. 🙂 Everyone knows china has the best food. But I like the food they cook with coconut. Sometimes, when Achchi is cooking, I like to stand aside and watch it. Wa, I can still feel the smell, it is sooooooo good. I believe there is nobody who doesn’t like Sri-Lanka fruit, they are so delicious, the pineapple, pawpaw, durian, my mouth is watering even now. I like the way they use hand to eat. At first, Ramani was afraid I can’t get used to it well, but I did it really well. I am really proud of that.
During the time in Sri-Lanka, I travelled a lot, Kandy, Nuwara, Colombo. Ramani took me to many temples, some of the names I can’t remember. Actually, I don’t believe in Buddhism, but I like the temples, and I want to see how piety they are. Buddhism teaches Sri Lanka people to practice kindness, love, passion, and the rest I can’t remember. Three is enough, I think. Haha. Anyway, I see so many beautiful temples, maybe you don’t know, there is a rule in temple, you can’t wear shoes in the temple. But the stone was so hot that I couldn’t walk on it, so I sit on the stone and cry out loudly, everyone looked at me and laughed. I felt so embarrassed. I also went to Nuwara Eliya, the coldest place in Sri Lanka. The tea there is the best, even my mother likes it. It has an international garden. As I mentioned it was so cold there, when I went to the garden in the morning, I put the hotel’s cover on and so funny, everybody looked at me. I don’t care because I wouldn’t be frozen only in this way 🙂
It took me almost three days from Mahawilachchiya to Beijing; it was really a long trip. I only slept five hours in three days. When I reached home, I was so sleepy. Anyway, it is the most exciting and meaningful experience in my life, thank you for all you guys. I will always remember this wonderful journey.
By Xin Li, Beijing, China – UPDATED Saturday, December 12, 2009
There is a lot of talk of taking ICT to the village level. Luckily, there are quite a few initiatives to do this. Many try to do this through telecenter model initiatives. But in eVillage – Sri Lanka project, our approach is quite different.
First we studied the Horizon Lanka’s success model in Mahawilachchiya, our own initiative. Though Horizon Lanka had its own ups and downs, it has been able to sustain itself for the last 10 years or so. The main reason for the sustainability of the project is that its practical approach to the ICT usage in rural areas. Rather than becoming a mere telecenter where internet hours are sold and services like copying CDs, providing telephone calls are offered, Horizon Lanka Academy had long term goals of creating ICT culture in the village and gain a brand name to the whole village, not limiting to the institute itself.
From the very outset I understood that creating ICT culture in a remote village was a too big a task if the children and youth are not given a decent English education. The planning and subsequent execution of the planning paid off well. Today one can find in Mahavilachchiya that the students get A passes for their OL English whereas they get lesser distinctions for their mother tongue. What we did was to integrate technology into English teaching. Internet, email, IM chats, watching DVD movies, doing presentations in conferences, doing live commentaries while sports meets and other events were taken place etc. were warmly welcomed by the students. They found these methods more exciting than the traditional ways of learning a language in public schools. The end result was that English was no more a foreign language to them.
More or less similar strategy was used for ICT education where students could actively participate in real projects rather than learning concepts in theory alone. As a result, today one can find a pool of web designers, graphic designers, multimedia animators, etc. in Mahawilachchiya. Some students entered universities to further their education while some youth directly joined companies in Colombo after Advanced Level to do IT related jobs. Those who wish to remain in the village could join the BPO arm of Horizon Lanka. Growing ICT related infrastructure and increasing number of telephone networks working in Mahavilachchiya were only by products. We did not forget the elderly population as well. Once can find illiterate parents who start learning how to write with MS Paint to the parents who read online local language newspapers before going to ricefields. So there is nothing wrong in calling Mahawilachchiya an ‘eVillage’ now.
We could do all these because we set our goals beyond a telecenter right from the beginning. If we limit ourselves to a mere telecenter, we wouldn’t have achieved this much.
Mahawilachchiya eVillage model is very simple and easy to replicate. This is why the Ministry of Education is replicating the same model with our expertise right now. There are some other privately owned or community owned small projects in different parts of the country that take Mahawilachchiya as an example.
Through an eVillage, we expect to provide decent English language proficiency, ICT literacy, job opportunities to the community. Though difficult, we try our best to retain the accepted cultural values of the villages while introducing new technology to them.
Nanda Wanninayaka firstname.lastname@example.org
Three social innovators in the fields of veterinary education, technology for youth and human rights have been selected as 2007 Ashoka Fellows.
Dr. Nalinika Obeyesekere (Colombo), T. B. Nandasiri Wanninayaka from Mahawilachchiya in the North-Central Province and Fr. Nandana Manatunga (Kandy) are those who have been selected as Ashoka Fellows.
They join the nine other Ashoka Fellows in the country to receive this prestigious international award since it was established here in 2003.
Ashoka is an international citizen sector organisation that invests in social entrepreneurs with system-changing solutions that address the world’s most urgent social challenges, a press release stated. Founded in 1980, Ashoka has selected and invested in more than 1800 Fellows in 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, America and Europe. Ashoka Fellows work in the six broad fields of education, environment,
MAHAWILACHCHIYA, Oct 25 2007 (IPS) – In a north-central village, deep inside Sri Lanka’s backwoods, a young man is glued to a computer screen, pushing a mouse and filling in figures.
This BPO team deep in the backwoods of Sri Lanka competes with city firms for global customers.
Isuru Senevirathna is entering data at Sri Lanka’s first Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) company set up in a village, and probably among the first in the world that is surrounded by tall trees, bird calls, paddy fields and streams.
“It’s nice to be able to do a job like this,” the 20-year-old youth, operations director of OnTime Pvt. Ltd, told IPS..
BPO is a growing IT business which Sri Lanka has taken to quite capably. Dozens of companies are now springing up in Colombo as the world’s best corporations look for cost-effective ways of handling their back-office operations in countries where labour and communications are cheaper than in the West.
But OnTime’s setting, next to a wildlife park, and subject to the occasional threat by Tamil Tiger guerrillas, makes it unique. Mahawilachchiya lies 250 km north of Colombo and the fact that it is close to the ancient town of Anuradhapura is an added feature.
OnTime owes its existence to the vision of Nanda Wanninayaka (better known as ‘Wanni’), an English teacher-turned village entrepreneur. Except for its sylvan location it is no different from the rest of the BPO industry. It boasts of such clients as John Keells, Sri Lanka’ biggest conglomerate, and once the blinds are drawn and with air-conditioners running, it could well be an office in downtown Colombo.
OnTime operators log into an accounting system through a secured link and enter data like prices and inventories. Some 150 documents are handled by one operator per day. New client negotiating with OnTime include Dialog Telekom, Sri Lanka’s biggest mobile phone operator, and Singer, a multinational known for its sewing machines.
“The BPO entry came as we needed to create job opportunities for our youngsters to remain in the village after their initial training in English and IT,” said Wanni.
OnTime is a part of the ‘Horizon Lanka’ initiative launched by Wanni, while still a schoolteacher, in 1998. Starting off as an English teaching exercise for the children of rice farmers, its scope widened dramatically following the gift of a personal computer by the United States embassy.
From there the village quickly progressed into a centre of IT learning where one in every eight families now has a computer (a ratio of 100 computers for 800 families). Impoverished farmers are now reading online newspapers in their ramshackle homes with the help of seven wifi nodes set up using ‘MESH’ technology. The villages have wireless Internet access at all times.
Wanni and his Horizon Lanka exploits are legendary and have been profiled in newspapers and other media across the world. The IT village’s big moment came when Wanni and his best students shared the stage with Intel chairman Craig Barrett in December 2005, during the latter’s visit to Sri Lanka.
Wanni said the idea of setting up a BPO emerged as he pondered over the next stage of development. “Having taught English and then IT, the next issue was where do they get jobs? How can we retain them in the village?”
Enter the Foundation for Advancing Rural Opportunities in Sri Lanka (FAROLanka) to help Horizon set up its BPO and find its first client. FARO’s help however comes with conditions – Wanni’s support and guidance to help other villages develop on similar lines.
Sponsored by John Keells, OnTime staff received BPO training in Laos and India. For other Mahawilachchiya youngsters, the choice of careers is limited to joining the armed forces (in the case of girls it’s garment factories) or remain in the village as a farmer.
OnTime’s CEO Nirosh Manjula Ranathunga, a 30-year-old university graduate who studied IT while doing his commerce degree, lives in Anuradhapura and visits Horizon only twice a week as he says he can handle operations from his hometown easily over Internet.
Ranathunga is interested in transferring his skills and learning to other villages. “I joined Horizon Lanka two years ago as a project manager and am very happy with this BPO initiative,” he said. Some 50 youths are now being trained to take up BPO jobs in Mahawilachchiya.
In a reversal of sorts, boys and girls from the cities are now visiting Horizon Lanka. “They come here to learn from us,” said Wanni.
Because of their English speaking and writing skills, youngsters here are beginning to write software programmes for overseas companies and individuals earning foreign exchange. They have a far better future – compared to youths from other villages – as computer programmers, software programmers and in related jobs.
“This (OnTime) has helped us to take on the world from this small hamlet,” says 24-year-old Chamila Priyadharshini. Currently in a state-sponsored teachers training course for English, Tamil (language of the biggest minority group) and Japanese, Priyadharshini says she wants to be a trained teacher in three years and spends her spare time teaching IT and English at the Horizon centre.
Replete with a modern gym, video and audio equipment and other electronic modern gadgetry the centre prepares youth for a life in the city, should they choose move out.
Wanni’s current target? ‘’I want to send at least one youngster from here to the prestigious MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the United States.’’