2019 has perhaps been one of our most challenging years yet. There were some tough lessons that we had to learn along the way. However, in many ways, this was also a blessing in disguise because it taught us a lot about how to remain positive, resilient, and stay focused on the bigger picture. We made through it all thanks to the hardwork and dedication of our volunteers, the generosity of our donors, and the support of our partners who stayed by our side as the going got tough.

And so, in the spirit of gratitude, here are five reasons why we won’t forget 2019.

1. We Raised $45,000 for Charity
While our mandate is focused on sustainable development, we, nevertheless, raised nearly $45,000 for various humanitarian aid and other efforts. These included assisting survivors of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in April and flood relief efforts in February and December, sponsoring tech hackathons, youth learning programmes and primary school supplies, women’s livelihood programmes, and much more in Sri Lanka. Approximately 10% of these funds also supported Canadian causes including mental health, civic engagement, and the Endowed Chair in Tamil Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough to name a few. We must also highlight the excellent work done by our Germany team in organizing joint fundraisers with several other diaspora youth organisations based in Europe as part of the Roots campaign which has led to exciting new partnerships.

2. We Adopted Organisational Policies
In August, we adopted key internal policies in order to strengthen our governance and achieve operational excellence even as we grow and sustain the organisation. The policies include Anti-Fraud and Anti-Corruption Policy; Child Protection Policy; Complaints Handling Policy; Disability Inclusive Development Policy; Privacy Policy; Whistleblowing Policy; Women in Development Policy; and Workplace Discrimination, Harassment, and Violence Policy and Program. Our work on these policies benefited from the guidance provided by Palmera Projects (Australia) and LEADS (Sri Lanka).

3. We Became an Employer
This year, we also hired our very first employee – a part-time Program Assistant – based in Toronto to serve various operational needs of the organisation. Thanks to the 2019 Canada Summer Jobs program, we also hired three summer students who drove forward various fundraising, marketing, and operational activities during their time with us. Related to this, our leadership team also expanded with the addition of long-time volunteer Hansika Gunaratne to the Board of Directors even as we renew our commitment to achieve gender parity at all levels of the organisation.

4. We Learned Some Tough Lessons
Not everything this year, however, went according to plan. Despite the launch of probably our most ambitious International Volunteer Program yet, we deferred on actually placing our volunteers on the ground due to constantly shifting safety and security conditions in Sri Lanka. We also made the decision to cancel our annual fundraising gala due to logistical challenges. Furthermore, we were unable to make any advances in establishing our presence on the ground either. While 2019 has proved to be one of our most challenging years yet, it has also revealed to us the depth of commitment we have in our core team of volunteers and those donors and partners who continue to believe in what we do throughout the year. We will build on these tried and tested relationships as we go into the new year.

5. We Were a Team
Last but certainly not the least, what we highlighted above would not have been possible without the passion and commitment of so many people around us. From programming to fundraising and marketing to operations, our volunteers based in Toronto, Hamburg, Zürich, and other places made our work possible despite the many challenges. To these hardworking volunteers, our generous donors and ever supportive partners, and our Board of Directors.

We are here to stay and we are here to grow, no matter what comes our way.

We hope you will join us in 2020.