“Be who you needed when you were younger.”
2022 Top 30 Under 30
Which SDGs are you most passionate about and why?
I am most passionate about Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions and Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being. As an unwavering advocate for the safety and well-being of children, I work to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all other forms of violence against children. As a strong believer in accessibility to mental health support for all, ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing at all ages is essential to sustainable development. This aligns with Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being, as through my work at the Zebra Child Protection Centre, I have had the privilege of supporting many of our province’s most vulnerable children and have been honoured to experience first-hand the beauty of resilience. I have worked closely with the Trauma Treatment Service and various other organizations within Edmonton to advocate for better trauma therapy access for children, youth, and caregivers. One in three Canadians experiences abuse before the age of 15—the need to end child abuse is urgent.
What issues are you most passionate about and what inspires you to take action?
My family immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka, escaping a war that remained unresolved until 2009. My passion for advocating for people, primarily children, began when I learned and heard stories growing up about my family’s experiences in Sri Lanka. As I approached adolescence, I educated myself on the severe trauma Sri Lankan people experienced during the war. I learned of the noticeable lack of available mental health awareness and support. Most importantly, I became aware of the significant mental health stigma in South Asian communities. A personal connection to these communities fueled my passion for educating minority groups on mental health awareness and connecting them to available resources. Sitting on the diversity committee at the Zebra Centre, I strive to ensure the Child Advocacy Centre is promoting both gender and racial diversity. Studies show that 50% of transgender people and bisexual women will experience sexual violence. My core beliefs and values include equal access to community resources, unprejudiced advocacy, and continuous academic engagement through lifelong learning. I am deeply attached to my community and aim to continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
How have your communities and those around you helped you to take action and make a difference?
Working alongside medical, mental health, prosecutorial, and police services has taught me the importance of taking unified action while centering the specific needs of children in the fight against child abuse. Using various public education platforms, communities provide opportunities to voice the reality of child abuse and the need to mobilize against it. In medical facilities, the prevalence of mental health issues is high, and the need for mental health resources is urgent. Nurses and doctors work around the clock to ensure children and youth are given the support they need. When we all come together as a community, the difference we can make will be truly impactful.
What do partnership and collaboration mean to you in your life and your work?
A group of individuals has more power and impact than a single person. Without partnership and collaboration, the work I do for child protection and wellness advocacy would be impossible.
When children are brought to the Emergency Department due to mental health concerns, they often wait to be assessed by Psychiatry. While waiting, staff often play with the kiddos to provide support and comfort.