Field Advisor Spotlight: Sharadha de Saram

Being that Give2Asia works with a slew of highly qualified field advisors in 25 countries, we will be creating profile pieces on one field advisor per country. The intent is to provide on-the-ground insight into each local scene, in addition to interesting projects that have been accomplished or are currently underway. The profile pieces will also present the opportunity to spotlight our local partners - the field advisors - and their interests and accomplishments in your professional and personal lives. We'll begin our spotlight series with Sharadha de Saram, our field advisor in Sri Lanka.

Field Advisor, Sharadha de Saram, greeted at Sarvodaya Children's Resource Centre

Field Advisor, Sharadha de Saram, greeted at Sarvodaya Children's Resource Centre

1. Where do you live?

I live in Colombo, Sri Lanka. My introduction to Give2Asia was soon after the tsunami. Prior to that I was involved in media consultancy, writing scripts and directing documentaries mainly in the production of development documentaries. I found working with Give2Asia and the grant making process, sourcing projects, the due diligence conducted and above all connecting with the beneficiaries of Give2Asia’s humanitarian efforts to be meaningful. The change in my professional direction was welcoming. I found Give2Asia's work to be truly interesting and, having made almost 300 documentaries, I thought the time had come to move out of that sphere and for a change in my career.

2. What is your favorite food?

Thai food. More specifically Laksa, the national dish of Singapore.

3. Where have you travelled to in Sri Lanka (or Asia)?

I have traveled extensively in Europe but not that much within Asia. One place that I had the chance to visit was Ladakh in north India. I was there for just a week. The city itself is at a really high altitude and borders Tibet. The landscape was breathtaking and seemingly untouched. I would love to visit Bhutan.

4. How did you get involved with international development?

It was a chance meeting with Nilan Fernando, former Country Representative of The Asia Foundation, Sri Lanka who invited me to be the Post Tsunami Consultant for Give2Asia that lead me to get involved in international development work.

5. What are your responsibilities as a Field Advisor for Give2Asia?

Funding for projects poured in soon after the tsunami and therefore the responsibilities were enormous at the time. Sourcing organizations and matching grants with projects was extremely interesting. That was really intense! Currently there are fewer projects being implemented in Sri Lanka.

6. What do you think are something of the greatest challenges that non-profits face?

Working on G2A’s projects, I came to realize that the due diligence process in Sri Lanka is not implemented as strictly as it should be. Give2Asia’s standards, especially those concerning the areas of transparency and accountability, are monitored carefully. The grantees here who receive funds from Give2Asia are amazed at the questions we ask and say how much they have learned from the work process.

7. How is it to being a Field Advisor in Sri Lanka specifically? Do the earthquakes make it hard for you to reach project locations?

Most areas are accessible by road. I enjoy visiting project locations and connecting with the beneficiaries. This is perhaps the part I like most in my work. Such visits also allows for better field reports.

Sharadha at the opening of Marvell Sarvodaya Vocational Training Centre

Sharadha at the opening of Marvell Sarvodaya Vocational Training Centre

8. What is your favorite Give2Asia project and why?

Looking back, there are two that come to my mind. The first is The Chef's Guild, which is particularly interesting because we managed to change 160 people's lives in one generation by providing a training in the culinary arts to children of poor fishermen, which is not an easy task to do. The second project was one where I witnessed the change in a child’s life when the funding provided allowed him to attend a prestigious school in Colombo. This young boy was from a disadvantaged family who would not have had the opportunity if not for the Give2Asia funding. It is a huge success story.

9. What are your expectations for the future development of Sri Lanka?

Having being colonized by three different countries, our history and culture is very diverse, with a large number of ethnic groups. About a year ago, there was a huge movement orchestrated by social media that focused on creating an inclusive society to encourage everyone to embrace the difference. In terms of future social change, this will depend on how the people of Sri Lanka participate in this process.

10. Is there anything else you would like our community of donors and grantees to know (about Sri Lanka, your field advisor work, etc.)?

Give2Asia is doing a great job in connecting local beneficiaries with the donors. I truly believe in this approach and am happy to be working with an organization like Give2Asia. It is truly rewarding to see the change in people’s life when grant making is conducted well.