The deepest impact from social change efforts is often felt in the places where suffering is greatest. Through Shilpa Sayura Foundation in Sri Lanka, youth are leading as active digital agents of change. They make media to communicate the needs of child soldiers returning to society, share first-hand accounts of natural disasters, and capture other critical stories otherwise left untold. Niranjan Meegammana, Shilpa Sayura Project Director, guides and inspires their work.
“The YES [Youth Empowerment Society] AYV project started with 11 youth. It now has reached over 1,200 youth who gain civic awareness, media literacy, and film skills. They became active on social networks for change when it was most needed to regain democracy in recent times in Sri Lanka.”
Shilpa Sayura Foundation received the AYV UNICEF Award in 2013 with their YES Film Project submission – a compelling proposal to develop their award-winning short on the plight of child soldiers into a feature-length film, as well as to provide youth with education, training, and employment. Niranjan was a careful steward of this grant award, leveraging it into a major initiative for technology and workforce development that advances youth in creative fields.
A highly accomplished artist and changemaker himself, Niranjan has ambitious goals for youth creative education and engagement in Sri Lanka. We are pleased to honor and support his work with an AYV Creative Educator Award. This interview with Niranjan continues our series of stories recognizing the Adobe Youth Voices Creative Educator awardees.
What have been some of your most thrilling moments of media making?
The AYV film productions Child Soldier and Politics Floods Documentary series were the most thrilling for me. Child Soldier was a journey of learning to make a stunning short film. The challenges as well as the stakes were high. We had to learn everything from the beginning, and we succeeded, winning the Adobe Youth Voices UNICEF Challenge, Microsoft World Bank Youth Solutions, and World Youth Services award the same year. The Politics in Floods documentary series was totally unplanned, risky, and hard. It was done to serve a need. We were almost like flood victims during the production. The only difference was that we had food and dry clothes. Once the documentaries were shared online, flood victims received support and relief. It gave us a great satisfaction to think of our social contribution through creative media making.
What story of change do you want to share?
Youth civic media was first introduced by the Shilpa Sayura AYV program in 2011. AYV transformed me into an Adobe Lead Educator for youth in our community. They became active on social networks for change when it was most needed to regain democracy in recent times in Sri Lanka. The AYV platform enabled access to rare media making knowledge, cutting-edge tools, advanced equipment, global recognition, collaboration, scholarships, and employment in creative fields. The change continues.
Why do media making and creativity matter?
21st century challenges require us to think critically and make informed decisions, to collaborate and act creatively to solve problems. Media making enables inquiry, which takes our youth from everyday life and transforms them into creators, challenging their knowledge, skills, creativity, and ability to work with others.
What are you hopeful about for the next generation?
The next generation of youth live an extremely digital lifestyle. They will use their media making knowledge and tools to innovate new concepts and designs for new age media making. They will be proactive in social issues, respond, and lead the transformation of the world with their creative ideas.
“Sri Lanka has high potential to become a digital nation, providing mobile technology human resources to the world… The seed Shilpa Sayura planted with Adobe UNICEF support is growing to be a huge tree, setting a global example of sustainable youth development.”
Patricia Cogley is manager, Adobe Youth Voices.