Nanda Wanninyaka, Founder and Chairman of the Horizon Lanka Foundation
Horizon Lanka Foundation (HLF) was inaugurated in 1998 under the shade of a mango tree in my garden at Mahawilachchiya. The day I started the HLF, I did dream of starting similar academies in Jaffna & Nuwara Eiya where the majority of ethnic minorities reside in Sri Lanka.
But it took me 20 years to realize two of these dreams, thanks to this gentleman named Mr. Gunasegaran Ponniah from Nanu Oya, Nuwara Eliya. He had sent me a letter sometime back in 2014 and sought my help for the public school where he was a teacher at the time. His was a snail mail, I forgot (or ignored) to answer. It happens with most of the snail mails I (rarely) get. Besides, we were not in a position to help any others at that time, as the HLF too was struggling to survive at the time. (I now strongly believe that I should have answered his letter even with a negative message.)
Sometime in 2015, when the students were doing a ‘clean up’ of the Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya, one of the girls showed me Gnasegaran’s letter (which was to go to the dustbin, but was destined for something greater), which I was forced to answer. Since there was a telephone number, I called Gunasegaran and he answered. I apologized for not answering his mail and told him that I will not be able to do much without visiting his village. I casually asked him to call me on Fridays to check if I can make it to his village in Nuwara Eliya. Would you believe it? That he called me every Friday and reminded me about my (possible) visit for two long years, till I actually managed to visit him on the Sri Lankan New Year day this April with one of my German volunteer’s; 19-year-old Miss Pauline Dinkel? Such was his commitment, I felt really bad for not visiting him earlier.
With Gunasegaran’s tireless efforts we started a Horizon Academy franchise in Nanu Oya last May with the arrival of two Swiss volunteers Mr. Alain Horst & Mrs. Laura Horst. The official launch will be organized soon. While speaking with Gunasegaran, I asked if he has any contacts in Jaffna who would like to join us to start a Horizon Academy there and he readily introduced Father S. M. Sebastian to me from a little hamlet called Maniyanthoddam in Jaffna. I communicated with the latter via the phone and he sounded the ideal person to have from Jaffna as he commands a lot of respect from the village and elsewhere and also he has amazing organizing skills. He was so patient and soft-spoken and always made allowances for my hasty and abrupt decisions and arrangements.
We scheduled a visit to Maniyanthoddam during a weekend with our foreign volunteers. But I could not make it as I fell ill. But the foreign volunteers from the HLF went ahead with the visit and did a marvelous job by meeting with Father Sebastian and the people there and convincing the people there the importance of stating a Horizon Academy franchise in Maniyanthoddam. Our French volunteer, brave Miss Clara Charrière, a 19-year-old charming young lady from France, instantly decided that she would volunteer in this former troubled land, which was reduced to rubble during the 30-year-old civil war. (All I see in her is the same determination shown by Sarah Jordan Beauford (Angelina Jolie) in the Hollywood movie “Beyond Borders,” a terrific movie made on volunteering in hostile lands.) Luckily for her, Jaffna is not hostile or troubled anymore. People in Maniyanthoddam, Jaffna are very friendly and helpful. I especially like the young there, who ride their motorbikes quite fast at night and still have some time to share a smile with us.
I eventually did visit Maniyanthoddam on May 19th with Clara and Mr. Sagara Kularathna, an employee at Dialog Axiata who was an adult student of mine some years ago and mastered English at a record speed and Miss Paulin Oswald, another 19-year-old French volunteer of Horizon Lanka, who also joined us and said she would love to volunteer at Maniyanthoddam with Clara.
We did a presentation to the students and the parents about HLF and its achievements and the franchise system that we recently introduced to expand the Horizon Academies throughout the island. Clara and Pauline stayed back in Maniyanthoddam at two students’ homes and Sagara and I returned to our respective residences in Colombo and Mahawilachchiya. On the following Sunday May 26th Sagara and I visited Maniyanthoddam once again , this time Sagara donated his Wi-Fi connection as a personal gift to the Horizon Academy in Maniyanthoddam. All of us trained the children in some dance items and the announcements for the Official Opening Ceremony of the Horizon Academy – Maniyanthoddam on Saturday 02, June, 2018.
Today I am going to Maniyanthoddam with a few teenage students and their parents and these students will perform with the students from Maniyanthoddam at the Opening Ceremony we have scheduled at 6.00 pm on Saturday 02, June. Please join us at that time and if everything goes as planned, we will livestream the two-hour Opening Ceremony and the concert through Facebook. You may subscribe to my official FB stream at https://www.facebook.com/nanda.wanninayaka.official and that of the Horizon Lanka’s at https://www.facebook.com/horizonlankafoundation/.