Mihiri Tillakaratne:
2005 NetAid Global Action Award Honoree

Net Aid 2005 Global Action Awards Honorees
Net Aid 2005 Global Action Awards Honorees

Sparked by her dual-cultural and bi-continental experience as a youth, and propelled by a spirit of compassion and goodwill, Mihiri Tillakaratne is a teenager whose list of philanthropic accomplishments is daunting even as compared to most adults.

Born in the U.S. to Sri Lankan parents who took her to visit long before she could even walk, Mihiri has straddled two very different cultures her entire life. As a young child, while visiting her father's native village in Sri Lanka, she first became aware of just how different these two cultures were, and particularly so, how stark the financial discrepancies.

In Sri Lanka, she witnessed a level of poverty unlike anything she had seen in the U.S. It affected her to such an extent, that, even as a child, she knew she had to make a difference. She decided to use her doubly-grounded roots to "bridge the gap" between these two cultures.

First, she worked independantly. Working with a Sri Lankan organization, she raised funds to help the rural village of Maradankalla build its first preschool and community center. Next, she held a drive that collected over 20,000 pairs of eyeglasses, to distribute free of charge to Sri Lankans who could not afford them, through the mobile eye clinics that travel the countryside.

But as she grew older, she realized that awareness and education were as important as the work she was doing on her own. So she made it her focus to educate Americans on global issues, and led a group of American high school student-volunteers to Sri Lanka, where they taught English to the rural poor. Later, they raised funds to expand the project to other impoverished regions.

Mihiri experienced how powerful a group of like-minded individuals could be when they work together.

Accordingly, when the devastating tsunami hit in December of 2004, Mihiri lept to work, again, involving her community. She immediately set up an information center at her local temple (in the Los Angeles area) and encouraged her community to give aid to those in need. Through bake sales and book drives and more, she raised $25,000 for her temple's tsunami housing project, which will build fifty new homes for families who lost their houses to the tsunami. She also went to schools throughout California to help other motivate students to take action as well. She asked them to help fill bags with letters, toys, and school supplies to give to affected children.

Mihiri was one of five honorees for NetAid's 2005 Global Action Awards, honored at a public awards ceremony at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 9, 2005. NetAid is a nonprofit that thrives to educate and empower young people to take action against poverty around the world, and likewise, Mihiri's work stood in the cause amongst the hundreds of applicants.

This past spring Mihiri was class valedictorian at Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, California and has moved on to a collegiate career, but this 18-year-old powerhouse shows no signs of slowing in her global action. She is now working on a project with leaders of a Sri Lankan village to bring clean drinking water for their community. So generous of heart is she, that she is donating the $5,000 from the Global Action Award towards the cause.

Page created on 10/18/2011 12:44:18 PM

Last edited 10/18/2011 12:44:18 PM

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