Jeremy Liyanage founded Diaspora Lanka in 2010 following the end of the civil war to create a bridge between Sri Lankan diaspora communities – Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher – in the service of struggling people and communities back in Sri Lanka. A more apt name, Bridging Lanka, was adopted in 2014.
Jeremy has a Bachelor of Arts (Semiotics), Grad Diploma of Education, Diploma of Fine Arts and a Masters in Social Welfare Administration & Planning which has enabled him to work across multiple fields including social policy, administration, community development and education.
Jeremy has worked in the government, private and community sectors in the role of change agent. His life-long passion to bridge divides and alleviate the suffering of vulnerable people drives his grounded work in Sri Lanka through Bridging Lanka.
Steve Dunn joined the Australian Board of Bridging Lanka as director and chairperson in 2014. Over several years, Steve has led groups of volunteer urban planners, engineers and landscape architects to work on urban improvement projects in Mannar. His work in Sri Lanka began in 2006 with the Post-Tsunami Reconstruction Program sponsored by the Planning Institute of Australia.
Steve holds degrees in Geography, Urban and Regional Planning and Masters in Business Administration and is a skilled urban planner and project leader.
Steve has travelled to Mannar with his partner Ellen on many occasions and is passionate about the Mannar community and the beneficial work done by the Bridging Lanka team to improve life opportunities for local people.
Visakha Tillekeratne, a development worker and activist, has been on the Bridging Lanka board (Sri Lanka) since 2012. A Chemist and Food Technologist by profession, she has over 28 years of experience in government, private sector, NGOs and also for the UN’s World Food Program and WHO.
Visakha now works as an Independent Consultant on food and nutrition security. Visakha has extensive experience in regional development and poverty alleviation program. Well-versed in policy development and analysis, research, partnership building, behavioural change and managing programs from design to post-evaluation, she has worked extensively throughout Asia.
Visakha was the Chief Commissioner of the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association, Past President of the Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka and Secretary of the Animal Welfare Trust. She is an independent activist pursuing issues including animal welfare, environmental protection, protection of women and children and good governance. Visakha is a passionate mover and shaker in Bridging Lanka.
Dr Ranil Senanayake has been on the Sri Lankan board of Bridging Lanka since 2017, contributing to the protection of Mannar’s environment against mineral sand mining, illegal encroachment of water bodies and deforestation.
Ranil is a Systems Ecologist trained at the University of California at Davis, holding many international positions including as the Senior Scientist of Counterpart International in Washington D.C. and Senior Lecturer at Melbourne and Monash Universities.
Ranil has served as Consultant to the World Bank and United Nations Development Program and is the creator of the environmental restoration system known as ‘Analog Forestry’. He is a diver with interests in marine archaeology, an Ichthyologist and a Herpetologist.
Shyama Fuad joined the Bridging Lanka board in 2017 and has been dedicated ever since. Shyama is a psychologist working in the area of mental health. She has worked in the legal, community and education sectors delivering psycho education programs in mental health literacy, mindfulness and counselling. Shyama holds tertiary qualifications in education, psychology and sociology.
Being a Bridging Lanka board member allows Shyama to connect to her country of birth and create a bridge for diaspora like herself to volunteer ‘on the ground’ in practical life changing ways. Building meaningful and long-lasting relationships through volunteering is a truly unique experience for her.
Shyama has visited Mannar on several occasions supporting volunteer and study groups during their placements.
Siraj Perera has been associated with Bridging Lanka since its inception and joined the Australian Board in 2018. With a background in civil engineering and development banking, Siraj is currently working in the water sector of the Victorian public service.
Siraj has previously worked in remote parts of Sri Lanka on road and water infrastructure projects. He has skills ranging from water policy and regulation and governance to design and construction of public infrastructure.
Siraj is a firm believer of social justice and equality with a commitment to sustainable living and as such contributed to numerous Bridging Lanka projects and fundraising activities over the years.
Dr Lara Jeyaretnam was delighted to join the Bridging Lanka board in 2020. Lara is a practicing general dentist for the last 19 years in Melbourne. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Science, a Bachelor of Dental Surgery and a Masters of The Environment. She is a first generation migrant who grew up in Singapore before migrating to Australia.
Lara is of Sri Lankan, Tamil, Catholic descent. She is proud of her ethnicity and passionate about celebrating one’s cultural heritage, whilst embracing our layered and nuanced cultural identities in multicultural Australia and the globalized world at large.
As a mother of three who wants a better world for her children, Lara is a passionate environmentalist and a strong advocate of a shared humanity. She strongly understands the importance of the Sri Lankan diaspora in enabling positive change both here and in Sri Lanka, particularly in post-conflict areas, and has thus been a strong supporter of Bridging Lanka.
Prabakaran, a town planner and community activist, joined the Bridging Lanka (Sri Lanka) board in 2012 before moving to Australia and continuing on the Australian board in 2015.
In his role as Senior Town Planner with Sri Lanka’s National Physical Planning Department, Praba prepared Local and Regional Development Plans, oversaw its implementation, reviewed policy decisions pertaining to landuse and ensured extensive stakeholder consultations. Praba was also Consultant for the preparation of urban design guide plans and guidelines with University of Moratuwa and the Urban Development Authority.
Praba worked tirelessly for Bridging Lanka, leading a team which prepared the Greater Mannar Development Plan, trained 22 data enumerators to undertake land use data collection, guided a contingent of Australian town planners, architects, urban designers and landscape architects in urban development works, negotiated with the Urban Development Authority.