Ahiraa Supeinthiran is a part-time Career Coach at the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC) where she supervises, teaches, and guides employees on the autism spectrum with their workplace roles and responsibilities.  She graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Human Biology and Mental Health Studies and is currently completing her B.Sc.N. at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at the same institution. Ahiraa is deeply involved in community work, including as an Events Associate at the Canadian Tamil Professionals Association, Applied Behaviour Analysis Aid at SAAAC, and Administrative Assistant at the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare. She completed a research exchange program in Singapore in 2017 and volunteered abroad in the Dominican Republic in 2017.  Ahiraa was born in Canada and first visited Sri Lanka with her family in 2014.

Ahiraa  will be placed in the position of Youth Facilitator (Soft Skills Development) for approximately two months under the Right of Return program with the Organisation of People for Engagement and Enterprise.

We asked Ahiraa to share some of her thoughts on her upcoming placement.

As a first generation student in Canada, I am grateful to the many opportunities that I have access to and to identify as a bi-cultural individual with Sri Lankan ancestry. One of the many sacrifices that my parents among others have made was fleeing from their homeland in the time of the war to not only find safety but also a place to raise their children without worrying about their well-being. This was the case for many families overseas and by having active connections with our origin helps us recognize the challenges and the unfortunate circumstances that arose. I grew up listening to stories of how life was in Sri Lanka, the political conflicts which resulted in a war, the discrimination and the rape culture, or the forceful enlistment of young boys to fight at the age where they should be playing. I try to understand what life would have been like if the war never happened or if my parents had not fled to Canada and I continuously find myself more grateful for everything I have today. As a result, I hope to  maintain active connections with my ancestry to discover and learn about my history and heritage.

I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work as a youth facilitator at Organisation of People for Engagement and Enterprise (OpenE Hub) in Mannar, Sri Lanka. As part of my work I will be focusing on Soft Skills Development by organizing fun and engaging activities to develop teamwork, leadership, collaboration and many more skills in addition to teaching English. This mission would have not been possible without comdu.it! comdu.it is an independent and growing global network of diaspora change makers with a vision of leveraging technical assistance for sustainable development with the primary focus of the North and East of Sri Lanka. They utilize effective diaspora engagement by creating awareness of the history and heritage of our ancestry in addition to giving us the means of connection to our roots.

With the development of high-income countries around the world, there is increased spread of the Sri Lankan Tamil communities with a variety of assets to share. I want to use my strengths, knowledge and resources from my education and livelihood in Canada to share with the war torn state that my family members among many left behind. It is helpful to go for a couple of months to help out, however if the community, the children and the local organisation cannot take care of their own needs and wants when we are not there, it is not really useful. Therefore, having effective diaspora that is sustainable is vital to help them stand on their own and rebuild a stronger community for future generations and for those living there now. Not only are we building connections that can last a lifetime but also sharing possibilities and knowledge such as teaching English and soft skills, which helps them build their community to become stronger both locally and globally.

Instead of going abroad to seek opportunities, I want to empower the local community and the children to strengthen themselves and seek opportunities to evolve and inevitably advance themselves with the knowledge and expertise we share. Not only will the children be learning with me, I will be also be learning about my roots from them while improving my communication skills in Tamil. I am looking forward to my two months in Sri Lanka to play a small role in empowering these children to become stronger, educated and more resilient. However I am even more excited about coming home after the placement and developing changes based on feedback and experiences for the betterment of the program.

Stay tuned to this blog to follow Ahiraa’s work in Mannar this year.

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 seed fund at https://www.gofundme.com/comduit