It all started early in 2022, when a small, like-minded team was put together by Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarana. Of course, this idea had been taking shape and morphing into many patterns in his mind for quite a few years before this – like a puzzle slowly coming together over the years.
As we all got together and listened to him speaking passionately about the need to address a pressing issue in Sri Lanka’s education system, we were all inspired. We’d like to say the rest is history, but it was not all smooth sailing from there and the journey has been far from simple. What we can say is that our collective passion is still alive and we are hard at work navigating our way through unchartered territories.
We wanted a name that embodied the essence of Sri Lanka with Asian roots and thus after much contemplation and friendly debates, we settled on Avinya. While we can’t claim expertise in Sanskrit, references suggest it signifies innovation. The name resonated with us all and the decision was unanimous!
So, armed with a name, the subsequent stride involved crystallizing our purpose.
It took us a while to formulate a clear vision with so many things that needed attention but we managed to narrow it down after many discussions (and of course a few good natured arguments).
Our vision emerged as a picture or a painting where we envisioned a world where every underprivileged post O-Level student, who has veered away from the conventional higher education path, is not only supported but celebrated for their potential. We recognized the absence of skill-oriented training for these students, leaving them without the essential employability skills required to enter the workforce with confidence. At a pivotal turning point in their lives, they were like ships adrift, uncertain which path to choose at the crossroads they faced.
Our challenge was to wade through the sea of doubt, mountains of obstacles and provide these students a transformative learning journey towards life success, armed with crucial 21st-century skills and a sense of purpose through individual attention, career guidance and a commitment to excellence.
After a few months of planning and preparation in 2022, we realized that our next step to make this dream a reality was to start recruiting a group of Educators who embody our vision and passion. After setting up a basic website and doing a mammoth amount of work behind the scenes we advertised for our pioneer group of Educators in August 2023. In true Avinya fashion, we gave ourselves very tight deadlines to achieve this crucial but challenging task.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sanjiva was busy putting together the board and members of the Avinya Foundation to embark on this new uncharted adventure to change the education landscape for this group of students and make a difference by giving hope, creating vision and changing lives! Thus, our new mantra was born.
By September 2022, after a bit of a unique and as one of the Educators said ‘extremely rigorous interview and vetting process,’ we had our pioneer eight earmarked. They officially joined us in October and November 2022.
As a hub of training, curriculum development and academic calendar finalizing began, our IT team was busy recruiting team members to create a new admissions and attendance system. All in all our temporary space at WSO2, where we had been graciously given some office space to meet during these early days, was a true hub of activity.
November 2022 was very busy indeed, we not only started our ambitious project of building our new Academy on land leased from the Sarvodaya Institute of Higher Learning within three months, but also saw us slowly start our first ever student recruitment cycle. Through the dense forest of navigating construction landmines and learning about our target student group we learnt many things along the way. We are happy to report that we made it out alive and with great stories for many a dinner table conversation!
Come January 2023, we welcomed 118 students into the fold, embarking on our pioneering Empower program journey. By February 2023, we settled into our Bandaragama abode, unveiling a realm of learning and love amidst the embrace of nature and lush greenery, as our students took their first steps into this transformative learning experience.
As a not-for-profit, we consciously want our model to ensure that no student is denied an education due to financial constraints. While students and families pay to attend, we provide means-tested financial assistance to ensure equal access, opportunity and inclusivity to ensure an educational journey is not hindered by financial limitations.
How does the story end you may ask, we don’t really know yet. However, our team strives for a reality where every student’s potential thrives, where skills match aspirations, and where the journey from self-doubt and uncertainty to empowerment is shared by all.
Join us in helping each of our students craft their own story and evolve into a beacon of hope and possibility!
Head of Empower Program
Consultant Corporate Development
Consultant Education Programs & Strategy
Founder and Chairman