Being a Virtual Human: Essential Digital Skills for Youth

As countries try to battle the spread of coronavirus the millions of people worldwide are having to embrace the life under lockdown which makes them physically confined to only a limited number of people nearby. With the combination of advancement in technology, this has moved the teaching, working and socializing aspects of life online like never before. The ability to adapt to this transformation and being a virtual human is becoming a must-have in today’s life. This was the key theme at the Local Committee Meeting – October of AIESEC in University of Moratuwa. AIESEC Alumna Ms. Keshavi Puswewala, HR Business Partner, Corporate Functions, R&D & Employer Brand Lead – Unilever Sri Lanka was kind enough to accept our request and guide us in the journey towards being a virtual human.

New Setbacks in a Virtualizing Cooperate Landscape and How to Deal with Them

With governments asking people to stay at home to reduce the spreading of the virus, the amount of people who are able to work is getting less and less. The money spent on non-essential things is reducing drastically. Since the majority of employees are unable to go to work and the customers couldn’t buy the products, businesses cannot work as they usually did. As a result, many of the employees are losing their jobs.

This is also affecting the graduates who are searching for a way into the cooperate world or those who are in search of the internships since the companies are not willing to take recruits when they are not even able to look after the ones that they already have.

But as Ms. Keshavi Puswewala the guest speaker of the event was so kind enough to emphasize, every cloud has a silver lining. As an adaptation for this grave situation businesses are getting virtualized, making the physical barriers not so much of a problem anymore. Now there are jobs that the employee can choose to be a fulltime or a parttime worker, while also choosing to work from home too. The salaries might be less than they used to be, but some of those employers even encourage the workers to work for another company in their spare time

The first thing that should change in order to adapt to a challenging situation is the mindset. It can be a work from home job, but it is anyhow a job. It might be an internship at a small company, but it is an internship. So be happy with what you got and give the maximum effort to fulfil it.

Being a Virtual Employee and The Concept of Working from Home

With the popularity of the concept of working from home the line between personal and professional life is getting more and more blurred. There is nothing called a workplace and a work hour in this new normal. When you don’t have set hours and set time to work the efficiency goes down drastically. So, to have a specific hour devoted to the work and acting as if you are in the workplace during those hours is a must-have discipline for a virtual being. And he must also have a specific space at home only used for working.

Must have skills in Virtual Communication

Unlike in a face to face conversation, one cannot rely on body language and nonverbal signals to back up the idea that he is going to express. So, following are some key factors a virtual human must be mindful about, during online communication.

• Not using all caps, unless it is required to shout out.
• Using punctuations.
• Careful usage of emojis and gifs.
• Be mindful about what to say and where to say.
• Giving others space to reply.

The advancement of technology has made access to information so much easier. Anything is only a fingertip away to reach. But a virtual being should be able to identify what are the essentials that he cannot afford to lose and to give the maximum effort to those. There are only twenty-four hours a day. So, make use of time and make every second count.

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World Cleanup Day: Volunteering for a cleaner planet

What is World Cleanup Day?

Beach Cleanup
Image Courtesy of The Pearl Protectors

“It is our collective and individual responsibility to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.”

Dalai Lama

We as AIESECers are committed to engage in global and community initiatives that facilitate leadership development experiences for youth. We actively strive to create a sustainable future for our planet through our exchange and membership opportunities. The World Cleanup Day held in September was one such global initiative our members were able to partake in recently. 

World Cleanup Day is an annual civic movement and the largest one day social action uniting millions of volunteers across 180 countries to work towards one common goal; cleaning up the planet. World Cleanup Day is not just about collecting litter. It is also about raising awareness on the global solid waste issue and its impacts on the environment, examining the root causes and contributing to implement the solutions as a community. According to scientific research and studies, each year, we produce over 300 million tonnes of plastic. Out of this, around 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans annually. 1 in 3 species of marine mammals have been found entangled in marine litter and over 90% of all seabirds have been found to have plastic pieces in their stomachs, endangering millions of animals. Thus, it is imperative that we raise awareness about the effects of solid waste pollution and engage in social action on a global scale to combat this issue.

Image courtesy of The Pearl Protectors

This year, owing to the Covid-19 global pandemic and the health and safety measures that followed, World Cleanup Day was organized as Team Cleanups, Individual Cleanups and Digital Cleanups, based on and adhering to the rules regulating public gatherings in different locations around the world. It was held on Saturday, the 19th of September 2020 with the participation of volunteers with a passion to make their actions count and bring about change for a better tomorrow.

World Cleanup Day in Sri Lanka: Beach Cleanup

Images Courtesy of The Pearl Protectors

Marking World Cleanup Day in Sri Lanka, enthusiastic members from AIESEC in University of Moratuwa and AIESEC in University of Colombo took part in a World Cleanup Day Beach Cleanup at the Dehiwala Beach in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

This cleanup, one of the many cleanups that took place around the country, was hosted by The Pearl Protectors, a volunteer-based non-profit marine conservation organization striving to raise awareness on protecting Sri Lanka’s marine ecosystems, with the support of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) of Sri Lanka through its International Coastal Cleanup Initiative.

The cleanup commenced with a briefing by The Pearl Protectors, where the volunteers were given step-by-step guidance on collecting and segregating waste.They were also briefed on following proper health and safety measures for a safe and effective cleanup, such as wearing gloves, being vigilant about where they step and staying hydrated. Equipped with face masks, gloves, gunny bags and plenty of reusable water bottles to beat the heat, more than 60 volunteers worked in pairs for over three hours to collect waste along the beach stretch. The volunteers were able to collect over 100kg of waste, which included 10 bags of PET bottles, 20 bags of polythene, 3 bags of glass and 2 bags of metal, all segregated and handed over to the Dehiwala Municipal Council to be recycled.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
 – Robert Swan OBE, Polar Explorer and Environmentalist

The volunteers from AIESEC in University of Moratuwa and AIESEC in University of Colombo were able to experience taking part in a global Cleanup Day that united millions of like-minded individuals from all around the world. They gained in-depth knowledge about conducting a cleanup as well as the proper procedures of collecting, segregating and recycling waste with the step-by-step guide and program implemented by The Pearl Protectors. 

Image Courtesy of The Pearl Protectors

The massive amounts of waste collected was a wake-up call to be more mindful of our everyday actions and consumption habits. On a greater scale, the change we can create with our collective efforts is paramount in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and subsequently, a greener future.

Although the volunteers were from different fields, professions, universities and schools and had varying interests, here they had one goal; to rid the beaches of single-use plastic and solid waste and give back life to the pristine beaches our island nation is renowned for. Armed with this knowledge, experience, and collective team spirit, our members are sure to be well equipped to facilitate numerous environmental conservation activities for our cross-cultural exchanges and make every action of our volunteers count towards creating a sustainable future. 

Image courtesy of The Pearl Protectors

Learn more about the initiative

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Pathfinder: An insightful discussion series for youth

Inspired by the notion of creating our own paths  and chasing after our dreams, Pathfinder was initiated with the aim of bringing together individuals who have demonstrated great skill, dedication, resilience, confidence and the drive to be the best in their chosen specialities and impart some of their wisdom on the next generation of young leaders in Sri Lanka and the world. 

Pathfinder was a public platform for youth to engage in conversations that will push them beyond their limits and accelerate their journeys of success and also to inspire the youth of the country , to lift their spirits up during the time of a pandemic .

4  virtual discussions  with 11 eminent Sri Lankan personalities were held throughout the months of May and June, attracting audiences both locally and internationally through the AIESEC in Sri Lanka platforms.

Pathfinder: Chapter 01

The inaugural session of the series, Pathfinder: Chapter 01 welcomed acclaimed Sri Lankan Singer, Songwriter, Rapper and Music Producer Mr. Randhir Witana, who shared with the enthusiastic audience, his success story and how he discovered his own path in the world of music. The session was moderated by popular TV Presenter, Event Host and Voice Artist, Ms. Saasha Sanari. The audience was left enthralled by the valuable insight given by Mr. Randhir Witana, as well as the mesmerizing performances of some of his hit songs.

Pathfinder: Chapter 02

The Second edition, Pathfinder: Chapter 02 was held as two back-to-back sessions, with the first informative session under the theme of “Traditional Thinking, Gender Equality & Taboos”, with Ms. Melissa Dharmadasa, Founder and Creative Director of Bakes by Bella and Mr. Rashane Perera, Blogger @lifeofa_naturalist and an Alumnus of AIESEC in University of Moratuwa. 

This session was followed by an insightful discussion on The Art of Music with acclaimed Sri Lankan Music Artist and Producer Mr. Lahiru Perera, who managed to give the viewers a one-of-a-kind performance of some of his most loved songs. Both sessions were moderated by the talented Ms. Saasha Sanari.

Pathfinder: Chapter 03

Pathfinder Chapter 03: GenNext – A Vision Beyond Ordinary  was one of the most successful virtual projects we were able to accomplish in June, 2020. The event, with currently over 60K views, addressed diverse topics that attracted hundreds of viewers.

The theme for the final gathering being a discussion on the future, we devised to invite five distinguished guests from five diverse fields.

The panelists for the evening were Mr. Kishu Gomes, one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent Business Leaders and Corporate Icons, Dr. Hasini Jayatilaka, who is a notable Scientist and Medical Affairs & Business Development Specialist currently operating in the USA, Dr. Harsha Subasinghe, the President and CEO of CodeGen and Founder of Vega Innovations, Dr. Asha de Vos, who is a notable Ocean Educator and Marine Biologist and finally Mr. Mahela Jayawardena, a world-renowned cricketer and a humanitarian. Moderator for the evening was the well-known Vocalist, Musician and Journalist Ms. Hirushi Jayasena. 

The evening was filled with the interchange of information, knowledge, and enjoyment. There was much involved with our panelists, and we were able to have a very interactive session and discuss the prospects of Sri Lanka in diverse fields. The session addressed some very crucial points on women on work topics, especially in more unconventional fields, and very inspirational rhetoric was made by both Dr. Asha and Dr. Hasini that inspired many during the day.

Amidst the global crisis, we were able to secure alliances with 23 partners to make this event memorable for both our orators and the partakers. The session had many partners who were willing to offer giveaways and amazing discounts to all the individuals who registered and took part in the event. We were also able to hand-deliver lavish thank you goodies to our speakers’ houses with the help of our generous partners.

The event was made victorious as a result of the unity and teamwork showcased by the AIESECers of AIESEC in University of Moratuwa who worked tirelessly to deliver a one-of-a-kind insight on the Future of our nation. 

Watch all 4 sessions!

Impact Report

Get an in-depth look at the tremendous impact created by the Pathfinder Series and read on to see the heartfelt feedback given by our esteemed speakers, partners & audience. 

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An Uncut Introduction – Awareness on Sexual Health & Gender Identity with Project Heal A Nation

What is "An Uncut Introduction''?

Teaching the truth and discussing the undiscussed is paramount in achieving Good Health & Well-being.

“An Uncut Introduction” is a webinar initiated by AIESEC in University of Moratuwa, in order to bring up fresh perspectives on sexually transmitted diseases, transgenderism and gender identity and sexual abuse and effects of pornography which are some veiled topics in society. The webinar is one phase of the project, “Heal A Nation” which is a community project aligned with the SDG #3 ‘Good Health and Well-being’. The webinar will be held on 28th of March, 2021 from 5pm onwards on AIESEC Sri Lanka Facebook page with the participation of renowned keynote speakers focusing on the topics of Sexual Health and Gender Identity.

Dr. Prageeth Premadasa,  Venereologist and Consultant on Sexual Health will be discussing “Sexual Health and Sexually Transmitted Diseases” whereas Ms. Bhoomi Harendran, Executive Director at National Transgender Network and HIV Awareness Activist will speak on “Transgenderism and Gender Identity”. Mr. Hans Billimoria, Head of The Grassrooted Trust, Human rights activist and HIV Awareness Activist, will join the evening as a speaker on “Sexual Abuse and Effect of Pornography”.

The importance of raising awareness on Sexual Health & Gender Identity

Over the past decades, it has been a contradictory topic to talk about sexual health and issues related to gender identity. Even though sexual health is a topic that is utterly important in our lives, people tend to speak about it behind closed doors with their partner having a ton of doubts in their minds. If the social taboo we have is continued, the ineptitude to speak up and have healthy discussions about these vital topics can lead people to have diseases and conflicts. Sexual health encompasses many facets of a person’s physical and emotional well-being surrounding sex and sexuality.  Simply, sexual health consists of a sense of self-esteem, personal attractiveness, and competence, as well as freedom from sexual dysfunction, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual assault. It upholds sexuality as an optimistic drive, enhancing other dimensions of one’s life. As the youth in the community, it is our duty to address and bring awareness to these concealed subjects and to be an aid for people of all sexual orientations to fully understand the importance of being a sexually healthy person. 

April as the month for awareness regarding STDs reminds us to raise public awareness about the impact of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on the lives of people and the importance of preventing, testing for and treating STDs. Being blunt about your sexuality might sound odd yet it is a prime factor to do so in order to keep up healthier relationships with yourself and your close ones. The more you are able to convey your feelings forthright, you will receive the best care even from the health care providers. In the end, it leads to living a sexually healthy, bona fide life along with happiness. As a vital part of the community, the youth should raise awareness on the refusal of health care due to one’s sexual orientation and gender identity.  Moreover, if an individual can be outspoken on sexual abuse it will be easier to resolve conflicts on this topic in the society. 

Our esteemed panel of health care professionals and awareness activists in the sexual health space will broach the concerns on sexual health in the webinar.

If you would like to meet these diversified wonderful personalities and clear your qualms on sexual well-being, then this is the opportunity to do so. We invite all of you to join and witness what we have in store for you. Let’s get to know about bodies, illnesses, relationships & equality from a fresh perspective.

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Giving new life to Sri Lanka’s Mangrove Ecosystems with Project Oceano

“If there are no mangroves, then the sea will have no meaning. It’s like a tree with no roots, for the mangroves are the roots of the sea!” — Quote by Mad-Ha Ranwasii, a Thai fisherman and village headman, 1992.

Mangroves are nature’s fundamental barrier against soil erosion, an ideal place for sea plant growth, and a refuge for fish, which are essential for the sustainability of our environment. Mangroves are a vital part to maintain the ecosystem and ensure the stability of our world. One of the most vital roles played by mangroves is creating a barrier between the land and the sea which acts as a shield to protect the land from erosion, especially in an island like Sri Lanka where the whole island is surrounded by a coast.

Mangroves in Sri Lanka

In the context of Sri Lanka, a little story will help you to understand the value of mangroves to our little island. During the tragic tsunami in 2004, Sri Lanka was one of the worst affected countries. But the damage caused to the coastline is seemingly uneven which led researchers to question this phenomenon and find out that the areas with the least amount of impact were around mangrove forests. In 2015, Sri Lanka announced that it would protect all of its mangroves, the first country to make that declaration. 

Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, 1/3rd of the mangrove population was uprooted to make room for new centers and structures. Many scholars argue that the mangroves have not been destroyed by natural causes or the building of new constructions but mainly due to shrimp farming. Artificial shrimp farming adds chemicals, toxins, and eliminates certain species of natural animals that would hurt the harvest. 

How can we contribute to protect and preserve Mangroves in Sri Lanka?

We can support the conservation of this ecosystem by raising awareness among the people and through directing our efforts towards the programs which are working to protect these plants. Every year, there are numerous programs that take place along the Sri Lankan coastline to plant mangroves where the ecosystem has perished due to human activities. These campaigns rarely get much attention from the mainstream media so it’s up to us to raise awareness among everyone else. Although the scope of work we can carry out within a limited time period is bounded, we have realized that awareness and volunteering are two powerful tools within our reach that can be utilized to achieve many goals. 

Project Oceano by AIESEC in University of Moratuwa

AIESEC in University of Moratuwa has already taken the initiative to raise awareness about the importance of the mangrove ecosystem with our Global Volunteer Project Oceano. Aligned with the Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water, Project Oceano was initiated with the vision of conserving the coastal ecosystem and marine habitats in Sri Lanka. The project focuses on identifying issues and threats related to Sri Lanka’s coastal ecosystem, finding solutions for them and taking corrective actions. 

As a part of the projects Oceano 4.1 and Oceano 5.0 held in 2019, the Exchange Participants had the opportunity to take part in informative sessions about coastal conservation at the University of Moratuwa and the Seacology – Sudeesa Mangrove Museum, the largest mangrove protection organisation in Sri Lanka. 

Here, they were briefed on the importance, functions and uniqueness of mangroves for nature and humans. They were also able to visit the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) of Sri Lanka for an informative lecture on protection of Sri Lanka’s coastal zones. This was followed by field visits to Madu River, a scenic mangrove-rich wetland estuary spreading over 900 hectares, with over 770 hectares of water and 64 islands. 

The Exchange Participants also took part in two mangrove planting campaigns in the North-West of Sri Lanka. They spent several hours in the coastal region, planting 350 mangrove plants with Project Oceano 4.1 and 500 plants with Project Oceano 5.0. This feat was achieved owing to the enthusiasm and dedication of our exchange participants and members. 

We expect to keep this as a part of our project portfolio in our way towards protecting these ecosystems and mother earth as a whole. We hope Project Oceano will continue to give new life to the Mangrove ecosystems in Sri Lanka, as it is our duty as stakeholders of the future to protect, preserve and nourish our environment and make a change before it’s too late.

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