Kabilan Suntharamoorthy, a young lecturer at University of Jaffna was one of the two Sri Lankan young leaders to represent the country at the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2018.
Kabilan is a passionate volunteer and the founder of ‘Aathmaa Centre for Goodness’ – an organization that enables young people to find opportunities for volunteerism around the island.
“In the Northern Province itself, there are so many young people who are eager to volunteer for social change but they have no platform to get information”.
Growing up in a country affected by war - ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ have played an integral part in his passion for volunteerism. “I grew up in an environment where everyone worked together and shared whatever they had with each other, even during difficult times”, says Kabilan.
“In 2010, I got an opportunity to participate in a workshop called ‘Training for Trusteeship’. This workshop helped me understand the importance of learning languages. It also gave me perspective to think broader and to partner with other organizations and expand our volunteer services across Sri Lanka – because prior to this, our organization only operated in the Northern Province”, says Kabilan speaking about his experiences in volunteerism.
“It is a very positive thing for a developing country to climb the ladders of development when people share their expertise with a good heart. This will not only empower young people but will also contribute towards sustainable peace.”
Kabilan’s journey to represent Sri Lanka at the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2018
“When applications were being called for the conference, I was working closely with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka for the provincial youth policy consultations. Last year, UNFPA nominated me for the conference and I was delighted to hear that my application was successful.”
“This was my first proper trip abroad, apart from the time I went to India when I was really small, which I barely remember. I was very excited about my first trip to the US and that too for a UN Conference!”
“I am not from Colombo or from any other urban city. I come from a rural village. Getting an opportunity to represent my country at the UN was a very proud moment in my life. I felt like I achieved something big and that my 17 years of volunteer work was recognized”.
“I was excited to meet people from different parts of the world, to share our ideas and experiences working for the development sector and most importantly to learn from them. I met many officials from UN organizations and connected with so many young people who are engaged in similar areas of work”.
At the ECOSOC Youth Forum with UN Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake and Ms. Prarthana Liyanage who represented Sri Lanka at the conference
How can young people from rural areas be empowered to drive social change in their communities?
“Youth empowerment and participation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was a key theme of the conference. We had the opportunity to learn how these global targets were taken forward by other countries and shared our experiences in regional breakout sessions".
“During these sessions, we had discussions about the ways in which young people can play a role in achieving the SDGs. One question that was repeatedly asked by many was on ‘how young people can be connected globally, regionally and nationally’. This gave me the opportunity to speak about UNFPA’s programme on Youth4Youth which connects young people from around the island; through a common platform to find innovative solutions to address social issues - through youth led community projects.”
Kabilan at the Youth4Youth Eastern Province symposium in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
What do you take back from the conference and how will you apply this in your future work?
“If we want to work towards becoming a developed country, we cannot ignore the importance of SDGs. They are the global goals that call for action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. As an ordinary citizen, I must say, we have to communicate better - these goals to the general public – because they are the people that will take steps to achieve these goals.”
“As for my future plans, I am determined to set up a mechanism to share my knowledge and communicate the SDGs to rural communities in Sri Lanka”.
Meeting with UNFPA Sri Lanka Representative, Ms. Ritsu Nacken; Assistant Representative, Madhu Dissanayake and the Youth team at UNFPA