President, Founder Sri Lanka Foundation
The Sri Lanka Foundation is a 501 C (3) non-profit organization formed in April 2003 by Walter Jayasinghe, M.D., a well-known Sri Lankan-American physician in Los Angeles. Dr., Jayasinghe emigrated to the United States of America in 1972 and continues to maintain his ties with the country of his origin, its culture and its religion. Today he is Founder-Chairman of the Institute of Buddha Dhamma Studies – a non-profit organization in the State of California, is a founder trustee of the Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara of Pasadena and also plays an active role in the North America Alumni of his Alma Maters – Ananda College and St. Peter’s College, Colombo.
In an interview with Dr Jay we explore how the Sri Lanka Foundation came to be, what successes it has achieved, and what lies ahead.
What motivated you to start the Sri Lanka Foundation?
I felt the need to have an organization that will maintain a consistent service to the community and other non-profit organizations that are dedicated to the cultural needs of the Sri Lankan community in the US. So, I thought a Foundation with permanent staff could serve the community on a consistent basis and there will be continuity of whatever program we set up to benefit the community.
What are the accomplishments of the foundation since its creation?
We started five years ago with an Awards Banquette in order to recognize and honor great achievers from within our community who make a difference in the world and bring fame to our community and our country. This became an annual event and we went global. We will be having our 6th Awards Ceremony on November 8, at the Crystal Ballroom of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.
About three years ago, we added to our program another annual event called “Sri Lanka Day”. It is held at the world famous 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, spreading out to three blocks, from Wilshire Blvd. to Broadway Blvd. with two stages set up with entertainments exposing Sri Lankan musicians and dancers. Renamed as “Sri Lanka Day Expo”, it also showcases Sri Lankan cuisine, and the wealth of its culture. The 3rd Street Promenade is lined up with stalls exhibiting the unique and exquisite handicrafts, gems, sculptures, garments etc. along with a food court giving a taste of the Paradise. Visitors to Expo will see and experience firsthand the Asian craftsmanship, hear traditional and contemporary music, enjoy concerts, dance and rich cuisines and learn about our culture and the hospitality of our people. This year’s event is scheduled to be on Saturday, August 23.
In our effort to create an awareness and appreciation for our fine art and culture among our children, the Foundation organizes concerts and cultural shows annually. We bring down renounced musicians and dancers from Sri Lanka to perform in the US. I should say, the shows were well attended and we see a demand for these kinds of events.
The Foundation periodically helps producers and organizations for any cultural programs by way of grants and sponsorship to supplement their budget.
The Foundation also responded to the call for help to those affected by Tsunami. We set up an emergency fund and organized various fund-raisers. We are responsible for building 62 houses as well as restoring coir cottage industry that was completely destroyed by Tsunami.
We print and distribute free of charge a monthly newsletter with community news to a readership of about 15000 people of Sri Lankan origin.
How can the global community support your purpose?
The members of the global community can help us by supporting our projects and programs by way of sponsorships and grants. They can advertise in our monthly newsletter. We like them to be present at our events to show support to our efforts, whether it be a cultural program or a program to build our community.
What should the International community know about the Sri Lanka Foundation?
We would like them to know what we stand for and what we do. We want them to know about all our events and projects that we plan and carry out. We want them to know that the Sri Lanka Foundation is trying to create awareness about our nation’s rich cultural variety among other communities and develop harmony among nationalities through culture.
What can we look forward to in the coming year?
Our mission is to help Sri Lankan communities worldwide and to share with the people internationally the culture, artistic, philosophical and technical attributes of Sri Lanka. We strive to make every year better than the previous one in order to better serve our community worldwide. We have faced many obstacles in the last five years, and with the help of our community and other well-wishers, we have overcome them and grown stronger. The Foundation will continue to do whatever we have been doing, and will do it better.
What is your message to the immigrant community?
The American dream is a reality that anyone could achieve with honest hard work. Set a goal and go for it!