Saving the environment
Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka|April-June 2020
Anoka Abeyrathne, a conservationist and social entrepreneur, is only just getting started
SHIHAAM  HASSANALI

When I was little I wanted to be a veterinarian!” exclaims Anoka Abeyrathne. “But, thanks to a lot of negativity—you should be a doctor, I was told—I eventually pursued law.” Anoka’s turning point came during the tsunami when many lost loved ones, including her. “While I was grieving I tried to figure out what I can do to make sure another wave doesn’t hit us,” she tells me. “That’s when the mangrove project began. I was 13-years-old when I started to Sustain Solutions, the organization, and Growin’ Money, the flagship program to plant mangrove trees.”

It was a time before social media was popular and many people looked at her wondering how someone so young would know anything. But, by involving religious and community leaders, and other adults to help carry the message to as many people as possible, Anoka shared why they needed to be a part of it. A business that started as 6 people has expanded to 5 countries. “Back then, I never could’ve imagined the success we’ve had!” she laughs. “We have teams across the world working on advocacy and lobbying governments. There are so many more aspects to it. We work with corporates, have partnerships, CSR events, and more. It’s grown into something with a life of its own!”

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