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US Embassy launches American Corner in Matara

Creating opportunity and equality everywhere

Opening of American Corner
Opening of American Corner

Though we come from different ethnicities, we have the potential to do good and love one another. Though some of us have been brainwashed into mistrusting each other, we still have the innate ability to understand that we need to do good. Though we are faced with different circumstances we have the ability to choose to do good. Though we bear different scars we have the strength to aspire to do good. The US Embassy recently opened an American Corner in Matara. This is because America sees our potential to become a partner in achieving the goals that all free and good citizens value. Daily News visited Matara to attend the Launch of the American Corner in Matara.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera stated that with the opening of the American Corner in Matara, Sri Lankan youth now have the ability to widen their horizons. For him it is a dream that has come to pass.

“By opening an American Corner in the city of Matara, Sri Lankans have the opportunity to be directly connected to the wonderful culture and arts and educational facilities of America. Two weeks ago I attended the opening of the regional consular office in Matara, under the foreign ministry that provides consular services to the public in this area. Now by having an American Corner here, this city is becoming an important center for international activities in the southern region. This American corner has been something that we have been waiting for a very long time and finally the dream has been fulfilled,” said Minister Samaraweera.

He pointed out that it has come at the opportune time, where Sri Lanka is attempting to regain its historic role as a major trade, maritime and shipping entity in the Indian Ocean where connectivity to the outside world is paramount. The Minister also stated that Matara has since ancient times, been known for its entrepreneurial spirit and that it was a very active commercial center in the Southern Coastal belt.

The USA is the largest export market in Sri Lanka, accounting for over 25 per cent of our total exports. The opening of American Corner in Matara offers great opportunities for economic activity.

“We must seize the opportunity to expand trade, investment and exports, to one of the best and largest markets in the world. My ministry has launched a few major support programmes for investments and small businesses to drive economic growth. As you know, the enterprise Sri Lanka initiative offers over 20 subsidized credit schemes, of up to 750 million rupees for up and coming young entrepreneurs. Loans for women are further subsidized in order to get them also into the mainstream of business activity,” the Minister explained.

He stated that the United States remains a steadfast and strong friend and that both countries believe in achieving sustainable development and peace and security in Sri Lanka.

Stating that America and Sri Lanka have a very robust bilateral relationship, Minister Samaraweera pointed out the importance of the US Sri Lanka partnership dialogue initiated in 2015, when the Secretary of State USA, John Kerry came to Sri Lanka.

“I wish to also add something about our rapid rural development programme ‘Gamperaliya’, which is implemented throughout the country. In Matara district alone, 2.1 billion rupees has been dispersed for small scale infrastructure development under Gamperaliya. It is expected to revitalize our rural economy by improving the conditions of rural growth irrigation markets and community empowerment,” minister pointed out.

He ended by saying that the opening of the American Corner is a blessing to the Sri Lankan community and is yet another major step, to improve relations between our peoples.

“We almost succeeded in getting down President Obama but alas it did not come to pass. But I am sure that one day in the future we can have a president of USA coming to Sri Lanka,” he said.

American Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Alaina Teplitz,stated that the American Corner in Matara can nourish the brightest young minds with its resources giving birth to new ideas and concepts. She commented that this can inspire young entrepreneurs with new tools and directly helping to promote economic progress in the southern province.

“This American Corner has been years in the making and now we proudly present it to the people of the southern district. I am delighted about the partnership between America and Sri Lanka. The America corner joins three others – Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna.

Matara has a reputation when it comes to commerce and entrepreneurship and with the University of Ruhuna just down the street this launch is significant and appropriate.

“The USA is Sri Lanka’s largest export market. American consumers support tens of thousands of jobs here in Sri Lanka. Over the past 10 years, our two way trade was increased by 40 per cent, Rs. 410 million in 2007 to more than Rs. 571 billion in 2017. I hope this relationship continues to expand as we look at investment in both directions in the future,” explained Teplitz.

Teplitz stated that community leaders and businessmen must be role models for young Sri Lankans who are going to contribute to this prosperous future and that prosperity built through innovation and hard work and vision. That is where the American Corner comes in.

“Our free programmes are targeted to meet the needs of the local community. It is more than just physical space. It is an idea incubator. It is an opportunity to learn something of value. It is an opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills. They can discover various things through social media. The American Corner offers young people from different backgrounds to meet and connect with each other and learn about each other and enrich themselves with knowledge. This will only help Sri Lanka become a country that promotes diversity and contributes to Sri Lanka’s image as a peaceful democracy,” explained Teplitz.

Spokesperson for the US embassy, Nancy Van Horn had words of assurance when she said America believes in Sri Lanka. This is a valuable investment for America. They are investing in human beings. She emphasized that America is focusing on shared prosperity and investing in Sri Lankan Youth.

“We were looking for an opportunity to help build a partnership with Sri Lanka in the Southern Province and Matara was really a natural choice. It is known in Sri Lanka as the birthplace of many entrepreneurs. We found an excellent partner with the Matara Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They have been a wonderful host institution for us. Here at the American Corner in Matara, everything we do is free. All of our English classes and all of our entrepreneurship training, all of our public speaking courses, everything is free,” said Van Horn.

Van Horn stated that a young person, who can speak English well, can go out and find him or herself a job that will really power Sri Lanka’s Economy in the 21st century.

“That is why we are here, because we believe in the people of the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. We know they welcome this opportunity, and we think that we are filling a need that others have not done yet. We focus a lot on business, economic skills and English. In that aim we are launching entrepreneurship training because we want to give people the skills to become inventors so they can start their own business,” said Van Horn.

Van Horn stressed a lot on the fact that Sri Lanka has enormous potential in the eyes of America. Already there is a very strong economic partnership with Sri Lanka, and initiatives like the American Corner can further strengthen it.

“We hope that the people who come here will come for training but we hope they will also learn about the United States, America and the American people. We have a wonderful library of books that will help students who want to study in the USA. We also offer educational advice services for SL students who might want to pursue a degree in America. We have been close partners for 71 years when Sri Lanka became independent. We are interested in Sri Lanka because we see the possibilities. I am so hopeful for Sri Lanka’s future when I see the talent that we have here in Sri Lanka. The youth are open-minded and hardworking. They are creative. They have enormous innate talent,” explained Van Horn.

“We take a lot of time and effort finding the right instructors for our courses. They are the face of America to the youth that come in. We have a very strong network of Sri Lankans who have been to the United States on US embassy exchange programs. Some of them have gone on business exchanges, some have gone on English exchanges and we work closely with them.

They can come and teach courses or they can recommend people.

It is usually word of mouth and we test people out,” stated Van Horn. 


 

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