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Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students

by Horizon Lanka Foundation
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Computer skills for 100 Sri Lankan students
Girls working for the BPO
Girls working for the BPO

This article appeared in The Sunday Leader on March 02, 2008 http://www.thesundayleader.lk/20080302/BUSINESS.HTM

A village based business process outsourcing (BPO) service that handles part of the backoffice operations of Sri Lanka's largest diversified company, has also been contracted by the country's biggest telecoms operator, whilst having talks to provide similar services to Sri Lanka's largest white goods supplier.

This BPO operation located at Mahawillachchiya, Anuradhapura, that processes data of suppliers' to John Keells supermarket chain (a process that began some months ago) has now been employed by Dialog Telekom to process some of their market research data, Dilip Jayawickrama, Projects Director, Foundation for Advancing Rural Opportunity in Sri Lanka (FARO), an NGO, told The Sunday Leader.

FARO, which was among seven NGOs to receive World Bank grants of Rs. five million each through the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) on Wednesday to develop ICT opportunities to the rural and disadvantaged people, provides support to this BPO operation in Mahavillachchiya.

The village youth involved in this project, some eight of them, had their basics right, that is having a working knowledge of English and in the use of computers, due to the work of another NGO, Horizon, said Jayaweera.

"This made it possible for our entry, such a foundation has to be first laid before we can move in," he added. Jayaweera said that outsourcing of this work by Keells has helped them to cut costs, with eight of their staff who were involved in this work earlier, being relocated to other departments.

He alleged that Dialog which hit the top in a short span of under 15 years, with most, if not all of their work done inhouse, were somewhat cautious in outsourcing their work, though a start has been made, with some of their market research data being now handled at Mahavillachchiya.

In the case of Singer, talks have been initiated, with no business deals having been yet procured, he said. Jayaweera further said that he wants to start a similar BPO unit in Seenigama, a village which was devastated in the recent tsunami.

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From CyberSkills Website
From CyberSkills Website

Horizon Lanka Academy in Mahavilachchiya will be tying up with a renowned ICT education institute - MMBL CyberSkills Pvt. Ltd. to enhance its ICT Educational Plan. According to the plan both Horizon Lanka and this new entity will be geared to train more students in the village and the suburbs. The courses will be offered on a reasonable fee and the students will be awarded internationally recognized NIIT certificates after completion of the courses.

CyberSkills Pvt. Ltd is a franchise of NIIT, India which was founded in 1981, with the mission of “Bringing People and Computers Together…Successfully.” NIIT, Asia’s No. 1 trainer and leading Global Talent Development Corporation, offers learning and knowledge solutions to 5 million students across 44 countries. The NIIT Group is also positioned strongly in the software and services space through NIIT Technologies.

The company has the Master Franchise in Sri Lanka and Maldives for the education & training business of NIIT Limited, India. Since the takeover of the NIIT franchise in June 2000, NIIT’s courses and training programs are now delivered through 11 branches in Sri Lanka including the North and East of the country. At present CyberSkills have over 1,600 students enrolled in various IT courses offered by NIIT, majority of them in the Diploma Programs.

The NIIT Academy and the Higher Education Wing of NIIT, have forged academic alliances with well-known global universities to provide access to university degrees through "admission with advance standing" for students of NIIT Career programs.

NIIT has affiliations with 12 leading universities in Australia, UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand. NIIT students can use this opportunity to follow Bachelors and Masters Degree programs of Information Technology in reputed overseas universities. These universities offer exemptions ranging from 1 to 2 years of studies to students who have completed 2-years of studies at NIIT, making an overseas degree much more affordable.

The youth who graduate from Horizon Lanka Academy will be either taken into OnTime BPO or will be sent for ICT related jobs in other parts of the country. There is a huge demand for the youth from Mahavilachchiya and the rest of the country for ICT related jobs and we hope to make use of these opportunities for the betterment of those youth in and around Mahavilachchiya.

The Horizon Lanka Foundation was established in 1998 because of the determination of a group of children from the rural village of Mahavilachchiya. Their thirst for knowledge and educational advancement led them to the door of Mr. Nandasiri Wanninayaka (now CEO of HL Foundation), their former English teacher in the public school. Thus began an after school club providing children further education in English and computers. It has become a popular place for many children of the village. Since 1998, the Horizon Lanka Foundation has branched out. As well as providing an all round education to the village children at Horizon Lanka Academy , they have expanded into the Information Age and now service the entire community with their computer lab, which has 24h Internet access. In 2001, the website www.horizonlanka.org was launched by the children of Horizon Lanka Academy, opening a window to the world.

In year 2006 Horizon Lanka foundation was shifted to a new place in the village. The land and the building was donated by Mrs. Lovina Charles of the United Kingdom.

In November 2006, Horizon Lanka Foundation was able to secure a grant from UNDP to build Sri Lanka’s first mesh internet network connecting 28 students’ houses and 2 public schools with Internet. This project also enabled to create 7 Wi-Fi zones in Mahavilachchiya. With all these new technology coming to the village Horizon Lanka was also able to start its own Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) venture called OnTime Technologies in May 2007.

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Part of the crowd
Part of the crowd

Horizon Lanka Academy of Mahavilachchiya joined hands with MMBL CyberSkills Pvt. Ltd., the Sri Lankan and the Maldivian franchisee of NIIT, India on February 03, 2008. This new partnership will enable the students and the youth in and around Mahavilachchiya to study ICT (and English) from the nursery level up to the Bachelors and Masters Degree from Mahavilachchiya. The youth from Mahavilachchiya will have the opportunity of studying at NIIT-affiliated 12 leading universities in Australia, UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand in time to come.

The launch of the new program took place at Horizon Lanka with a simple ceremony. Reverend Maraka Suseela Thero performed religious rites. Mr. J. W. S. Kithsiri, The Divisional Secretary of Mahavilachchiya DS Division, Mr Nandasiri Wanninayaka, the CEO of Horizon Lanka Foundation, Mr. Chamila Algewatta, the Manager, CyberSkills Pvt. Ltd, Anuradhapura, Mr. Chatura Thilanga Vijekoon, the Manager of CyberSkills – Horizon Lanka Campus, Mahavilachchiya, Mr. H. A. Wickramasinghe, the Principal, Ashoka Mala Public School, Kadurupitiya, Mr. H. Jayathunga, the Principal of Thakshila Public School, Mahavilachchiya graced the occasion. Miss Anusha Priyadarshani and Miss Krishanthi Priyadarshani compeered the event while Nipuna Roshan Wiskramasuriya delivered the vote of thanks.

Students and the parents were present at the event and 15 students and youth were registered for the new courses on the first day alone. Others can register themselves till the 15th of February for the first batch and the courses will be commenced on the 16th of February.

CyberSkills Manager
CyberSkills Manager
Wanni and the CyberSkills Team
Wanni and the CyberSkills Team

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Volunteers in Vilpattu National Park
Volunteers in Vilpattu National Park

Andytje Millimon, Lien and Lindy Deroo from Belgium visited Horizon Lanka in December 2005 and worked at Horizon for a month. See the tour report on their experiences while they were in Horizon Lanka.

Before I tell you about Horizon Lanka and our experiences as volunteers there, we want to introduce us.

We are Lindy, Andy and Lien, 3 young people from Belgium. We just finished with school. Lien and Andy are nurses and I am a social educator. Before we wanted to look for a job, we decided to travel for 4 months in the Asian countries of Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand. But because we wanted to make a combination between holidays and pick up experiences, we choose to do volunteer work in some of the countries. In India we worked in the Mother Theresa temples, we helped the sisters to take care of the sick people and people with disabilities. With help of our travel agency we found the Horizon Lanka Academy.

Because it was very busy before we left, we had less information about the work that we have to do there. But we knew that we were to be welcomed there and that a family was waiting for us. So that was enough to get our backpack and go for the adventure.

After a long drive with the car, we arrived in a little village called Mahavilachchiya. We stopped in the school Horizon Lanka. Our first impression was: where are we now? We had the feeling that we were dropped in the middle of nowhere. We saw the little huts with tables and chairs. No classrooms? But when we walked into the little building, we were amazed. It was a room with computers with connection to the Internet. And the amazement didn’t stop. The next day they brought a TV with a DVD player donated by some sponsor. Everything that the school has is bought with money from donations. What a good initiative?

When we heard the working of the school, we were very surprised. Horizon Lanka is a private initiative that organizes lessons on Saturdays for children of the village. The children come on their own initiative to school. What a difference than Belgium? In Horizon Lanka, they teach several subjects for example: mathematics, sports, English, computers, etc. The other days the school is open for adult students who want to use the computers and the internet.

The first day we were confused about their work. But in the meanwhile we had the time to learn the habits of the family and the Sri Lankan people. We met the students. Day by day it was made clear what they expected about us; be yourself and use your talents for teaching the children.

In the beginning we were insecure because we were not teachers, but we noticed that it’s not necessary to have experience, to teach the children. Just speaking English and talking to them is teaching. They learn so much out of a conversation. The children really want to learn and take every chance they get. So, during the week we talked and chatted with the students, we played cricket and badminton with them, help them with their homework.

On Saturday we helped the teachers conduct lessons. To the smallest children we taught how to say their names, ask others’ names and read the clock in English. We talk about sports with them. For teaching them you can use your creativity. An example we used: we drew something on the blackboard and the children had to guess what it was and write the correct name on the blackboard. So they played and learnt at the same time. And with the older students we talked about different countries and famous places in the world to teach them geography. We give a PowerPoint presentation to the students about the important places we visited in Nepal, India and Indonesia. So, the students learnt about the culture in other countries.

We had also a very good contact with the teachers. They were very interested in the education system in Belgium. And they explained us the system and the way of working in Sri Lanka. The teachers are very open minded and want to learn things from us. But we also learned a lot of them. If we had questions about teaching the students they helped us as much as possible.

It depends what your talents and interests are and you can choose which subject you teach. You’re never forced to do something you don’t want. The staff of Horizon Lanka also has a great philosophy about volunteer work. They want to make a combination between work and pleasure. So they organize trips to the city Anuradhapura to visit the famous places like Sri Maha Boddhi, Mihinthale, and Thantirimale. So, there is a good balance between work and pleasure.

From the first moment we were there, we had a nice time and a good feeling. The families were we stayed with were so friendly. They gave us a homely feeling. They made great food for us, taught lots of things to us. Now we can speak basic Sinhala, we learned the habits of their lives: For example, eating with our hands. In Belgium we eat with knife and fork. So, the first days we were very clumsy. But some days later we become very good at it. We went with them to the temple on a Poyaday; a very important Buddhist day. This gave us a chance to learn about their religion. We have the feeling like we have a second mom and dad and also lots of brothers and sisters.

Everybody was working so hard to give us a great time. It is certainly an experience we never forget. And if we have the chance we want to get this experience again. And as we already knew it was very difficult to say goodbye to our new family and friends. We hope that we can keep contact with the people here with email, because now we have lots of friends there.

Volunteers in Vilpattu National Park
Volunteers in Vilpattu National Park
Volunteers in Mahavilachchiya
Volunteers in Mahavilachchiya

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Youth in Mahavilachchiya
Youth in Mahavilachchiya

Horizon Lanka Foundation is happy to announce that it will tie up with a reputed ICT institute of Sri Lanka which is a franchise of an international institute from the academic year 2008. From February, the ICT academic activities will be taken over by this new entity and standard ICT courses will be offered to the students in Mahavilachchiya and the suburbs on an affordable fee. Those who find it difficult to pay the fees will be given scholarships through Global Giving scholarships program. You can help students in Mahavilachchiya to get a quality ICT education by contributing to this fund.

The proposed company offers many other areas of training such as BPO, English Language, Soft Skills, Business Administration etc. The company is also the licensee in Sri Lanka for Australasian Education & Training Services (AETS) and the Australian Center for Languages (ACL) through which a wide range of internationally accredited training products are offered.

Await more details on this new venture in our website soon. There is a big demand for the Mahavilachchiya youth in the job market since the students have shown outstanding talents in ICT, English and presentation skills so far. With the advent of the new partnership, the village students and youth will get a wide range of options to follow while in the village. We will start with a pilot in early February and then go for the expansions. According to the agreement, the profits of the new venture will be shared on a 50-50 basis with the proposed company and Horizon Lanka Foundation so that both parties will benefit and Horizon Lanka Foundation will be able to gain self sustainability while producing more youth to the job market from Mahavilachchiya.

Youth in Mahavilachchiya
Youth in Mahavilachchiya
Students in Mahavilachchiya
Students in Mahavilachchiya

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Organization Information

Horizon Lanka Foundation

Location: Anuradhapura, North Central Provin - Sri Lanka
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @horizonlanka
Project Leader:
Nandasiri Wanninayaka
Chief Executive Officer
Anuradhapura, North Central Province Sri Lanka

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