A Tribute to our sustainable heroes on Earth Day 2024

As the world commemorated Earth Day on the 22nd April, a beacon of hope shines brightly amidst the challenges of waste mismanagement, especially in Sri Lanka. At the forefront of this hope stands the ASPIRE Programme, a collaborative initiative led by World Vision Lanka and funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation. ASPIRE, “Accelerating and Strengthening the Plastic Informal Recycling Eco-system,” embodies a holistic strategy aimed at addressing waste mismanagement. It goes beyond mere plastic collection; instead, focusing on strengthening plastic retrieval, amplifying recycling endeavors, championing responsible PET plastic disposal, and uplifting the individuals at the core of waste management. Within the heart of communities across Sri Lanka, ASPIRE has ignited a flame of transformation, turning waste into opportunity and empowering individuals to become agents of change.

Today, we commemorate the inspiring narratives of individuals like Lasantha Deepal, Gayan Sameera, Chamila Surangi Perera, and Manjula Ramalingam, whose remarkable journeys of resilience, determination, and empowerment have been shaped by their involvement in the ASPIRE initiative.

Lasantha Deepal: Turning adversity into opportunity

Lasantha Deepal’s journey is one marked by resilience and determination. As a father and husband residing in Weliweriya, Lasantha faced the challenge of providing for his family while also seeking a career path that aligned with his passion for environmental sustainability. However, the road was not easy, with financial constraints and societal pressures looming large. Despite these obstacles, Lasantha remained steadfast in his commitment to making a positive impact on the environment and the community.

Through ASPIRE, Lasantha found the support and resources he needed to turn his aspirations into reality. Armed with newfound knowledge and skills acquired through ASPIRE’s training programs, he took the courageous step of leaving his job to establish “Eco Friends Sri Lanka,” a venture dedicated to waste management and recycling. With the support of his wife and ASPIRE’s guidance, he navigated the challenges of entrepreneurship, expanding his business and creating employment opportunities for vulnerable individuals in his community.

Today, Lasantha’s initiative has not only transformed his own life but has also had a ripple effect on the community at large. Through his efforts, waste management practices have improved, environmental awareness has increased, and livelihoods have been uplifted. His contributions extend beyond business success; Lasantha has now provided herbal gardens to schools, offering students an educational and sustainable resource, and stages for community events, fostering social cohesion and cultural enrichment.

Gayan Sameera: From struggle to success

Gayan Sameera’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of dedication and perseverance. As the sole breadwinner of his family, Gayan faced the daunting task of expanding his small-scale recycling initiative to sustain his family’s livelihood. However, financial constraints and limited resources posed significant challenges, leaving Gayan unsure of how to proceed. Through ASPIRE, Gayan found the support and guidance he needed to overcome these obstacles. With access to training programs, technical assistance, and essential resources provided by ASPIRE, Gayan was able to diversify his business and forge partnerships with retailers and institutions. Armed with newfound knowledge and skills, his recycling initiative flourished, creating employment opportunities and contributing to environmental sustainability.

Now, Gayan’s initiative stands as a beacon of success, inspiring others in his community to embrace waste management practices and entrepreneurship. Through his efforts, he has not only improved his family’s livelihood but has also empowered others to follow in his footsteps; his remarkable achievements extend to his role as a job creator where he has provided employment opportunities for underprivileged individuals, offering them a chance to build a better future for themselves and their families.

Chamila Surangi Perera: Empowering women, transforming communities

Chamila Surangi Perera’s journey is one of empowerment and resilience. As a mother and wife facing economic hardship, she sought new opportunities to support her family and contribute to her community. However, traditional gender roles and societal expectations posed significant barriers, leaving Chamila unsure of where to turn. Through ASPIRE, however, she found the support and resources she needed to break free from these constraints. With access to training programs and technical assistance, Chamila embarked on a journey of entrepreneurship, establishing herself as a resource collector and waste management advocate. Armed with newfound skills and confidence, her initiative flourished, creating employment opportunities for women in her community and contributing to environmental sustainability.

Notably, Chamila’s initiative stands as a stellar example to the power of women’s empowerment and community collaboration. Through her efforts, she has not only transformed her own life but has also inspired other women to pursue their dreams and contribute to positive change in their communities. Chamila’s impact extends beyond her business success; she has provided employment opportunities for underprivileged women, empowering them to build better futures for themselves and their families.

Manjula Ramalingam: A journey of resilience and empowerment

Manjula Ramalingam’s journey is one marked by determination, and empowerment. Despite facing numerous hardships, including financial struggles and familial responsibilities, Manjula refused to succumb to adversity. Through ASPIRE, Manjula found the support and resources she needed to establish herself as a successful waste collector turned entrepreneur, and to make her daughter the first doctor in her entire lineage.

Armed with newfound skills and resources, Manjula’s waste-collection center flourished, creating employment opportunities for women in her community and contributing to environmental sustainability. Today, her initiative stands as a beacon of success, inspiring others to overcome adversity and pursue their dreams. Her daughter is now enrolled in a recognized university, pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor—the first ever in her entire family.

Her journey exemplifies the transformative impact of determination, resilience, and community support. Through her efforts, Manjula has not only transformed her own life but has also paved the way for her future generations to pursue their dreams and build brighter futures.

Hope and empowerment through recycling

On Earth Day, we pause to honor the remarkable journeys of many individuals who, like Lasantha, Gayan, Chamila, and Manjula, have profoundly changed their lives through their involvement in the ASPIRE Programme. Their stories serve as poignant reminders of the inherent potential within waste – a potential to transform adversity into empowerment and discarded materials into symbols of hope. Through initiatives like ASPIRE by the World Vision Lanka and through continuous support from nonprofit entities such as The Coca-Cola Foundation, they illustrate the profound ripple effect of sustainable practices, enriching not only their own lives but also those of their communities.

Embracing the ethos of recycling goes beyond waste management; it signifies a commitment to building sustainable futures. Let us draw inspiration from the resilience and resourcefulness embedded in these narratives, using Earth Day as a catalyst for change. Together, let us harness the transformative power of recycling to create a world where every discarded item becomes a stepping stone towards a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow.

About World Vision Sri Lanka

World Vision is a Christian, relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. We work through our main sectors –health and nutrition, water and sanitation, economic development and child protection – serving all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. Our work is always child-focused, participatory and community driven.

World Vision and has been in Sri Lanka since 1977 and currently serves in 28 locations in 13 Districts across the country through long-term development programmes. In 2022 we directly impacted the lives of over 100,000 most vulnerable children and their families.

About The Coca-Cola Foundation

The Coca-Cola Foundation’s mission is to make a difference in communities around the world where The Coca-Cola Company operates and where our employees live and work. We support transformative ideas and institutions that address complex global challenges and that leave a measurable and lasting impact. Our giving is focused on sustainable access to safe water, climate resilience and disaster risk preparedness and response, circular economy, economic empowerment, and causes impacting our hometown community. Since its inception in 1984, The Coca-Cola Foundation has awarded grants of over $1.5 billion in service of its mandate to strengthen communities across the world.

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