Raj Rajakumar is a Planner at the City of Lloydminster in Alberta, Canada and was previously a Planner at the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He has a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning from Ryerson University and Certificate in Project Management from the University of Toronto. He is also a mentor with the Canadian Tamil Professionals Association. Raj was born and raised in Canada, and this is his first visit to Sri Lanka.

Raj will be placed in the position of Urban Planner for one month under the Associateship Program with Bridging Lanka to work on the rehabilitation and economic re-vitalization of traditional ponds in the Mannar district.

We asked Raj to share some of his thoughts on his upcoming experience as he heads out to Sri Lanka.

Two days until I finally get to be in Sri Lanka! I’m still consumed by all the pre-departure technicalities I have not had time to think about it. I’m not sure what to expect. I think what is most interesting will be the cultural integration component. What will it be like being a foreigner but of Sri Lankan Tamil origin? More importantly, how will the people react? I think it will be a very rewarding and interesting experience seeing where my family originated and what ‘normal’ looks to them.

I think the most rewarding experience is the project at hand, being extensive and results oriented in nature. You not only get to gauge with the public with purpose but you provide them something that improves their condition – which is most important for me. I think being a planner has really helped me become more cognizant in ‘providing.’ Working with communities as a whole, understanding their needs, leveraging opportunities and alleviating constraints, my line of work requires being able to listen and provide which I believe is most important working with regions of diaspora.

The quality of life, living conditions, services and infrastructure will be interesting to see, travelling from the west. What will also be interesting is comparing the norms and perspectives in Sri Lanka versus what I was exposed to through family and upbringing. The one thing that I’m probably most scared of is being attacked by a snake or scorpion! This is mainly fuelled by all the stories my grandmother used to tell me living back home. On a positive note, I look forward to trying all the unique foods that exist on the island; it will be a gluttonous experience.

I know that this will be a very rewarding experience and knowing the associated risks makes it more exciting. It will help personify a lot of things and shape you for the greater good in my opinion. A trip like this has always been in my bucket list and I finally to take action very soon! I would recommend a trip of this nature to everyone as I see a lot of merit and benefits that will help understand the world a bit better. Travelling with a purpose is the best investment one could make in my book, especially if you could exhaust the skills you’ve obtained as a professional in an industry. Giving back goes a long way and has very meaningful impact.

My thoughts are sporadic at this point but I am very excited and look forward to embracing the upcoming experience!

Stay tuned to this blog to follow Raj’s work in Mannar, Sri Lanka this summer.

Please consider supporting our vision to create more opportunities for the diaspora to contribute knowledge and expertise to the North and East of Sri Lanka. You can make a donation to our our 2017-19 seed fund at https://www.gofundme.com/comduit.