Embracing Change: My Journey from NGO to John Keells Foundation
Working for an NGO had been a significant part of my life for six years before I made the decision to apply for a position at John Keells Foundation (JKF). As I embarked on this new chapter, I experienced a mix of excitement and apprehension. Leaving behind the familiarity and comfort of a familiar sector where I had built relationships over the years, was no easy feat. However, I was eager to explore the corporate world and dive into new challenges. Little did I know that this transition would prove to be an incredible growth opportunity, enriched by supportive teams, impactful projects, and inspiring individuals.
As a Communications and Project Officer at John Keells Foundation, I am responsible for handling diverse areas including arts projects, and initiatives focused on health on gender-based violence and substance abuse prevention. Joining JKF just in time for Kala Pola – Sri Lanka’s annual open air art fair, funded and organised by John Keells in collaboration with the George Keyt foundation, I was thrown into the deep end from the start. While navigating through uncharted waters, I found solace in the remarkable support and guidance provided by my team. They played a crucial role in helping me adapt to my new environment and overcome any obstacles along the way. The experience of witnessing the direct impact of CSR on people’s lives during Kala Pola was truly eye-opening. It reinforced the importance of focusing on the impact of sustainable, long-term projects rather than one-time donations or hand-outs; as my boss says, John Keells Foundation works behind the scenes, making a silent yet profound difference.
Eliminating Gender-based violence is a cause that holds a special place in my heart, and I’ve always been a passionate advocate for addressing harassment. Recently, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the power of sparking change through a ‘Training of Trainers’ programme for subject officers of the Polonnaruwa police division. Over the course of three days, I saw both male and female police officers, let go of their preconceived notions about gender-based violence and child abuse. It was truly wonderful to see them embrace a new perspective. The best part was that, after the programme, these officers took it upon themselves to conduct awareness programmes in schools and communities. It has now been three months, and they continue to actively engage in these initiatives.
Another one of the projects I handle is substance abuse prevention. Through awareness programmes targeting pre-school teachers, parents of pre-school children, and early childhood development officers, JKF emphasises the importance of positive parenting and that understanding mental wellbeing of children is equally important as caring for their physical wellbeing. When we establish the right tone with children, they won’t go seeking the love they yearn from us, elsewhere. Through these programmes a foundation is being laid that will impact the family – parents and children alike – in the years to come.
Working at the John Keells Group has been an amazing experience, being exposed to diverse sectors and meeting new people has opened doors for valuable connections and collaborations. In commemoration of International Women’s Day, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team at the JKH Corporate Centre organised a speed mentoring event, where we as young women received the opportunity to interact one-one-one with seniors at JKH who shared their wisdom and provided valuable guidance. Recently I joined the John Keells Group Speakers’ Club – where those who wish to improve their public speaking skills meet on a regular basis and work together to upskill themselves – which was super fun. I also got invaluable insights on improving my communication skills. Above all, it is the remarkable people who surround me that truly inspire and motivate me. The accessibility to and approachability of everyone within the organisation creates an environment where growth is fostered and encouraged.
My journey at John Keells Foundation has been nothing short of amazing. The foundation has provided me with the platform to explore new horizons, challenge myself, and contribute meaningfully to the community. As I reflect on my time here, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities I have been given and the incredible experiences that lie ahead as a member of the John Keells Group.