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The Emerge Force 

The Emerge Board of Directors


Alia Whitney-Johnson

Alia is an experienced social entrepreneur with over fifteen years of experience working with children who’ve endured trauma, sexual abuse, and exploitation. She founded Emerge at the age of 19 after a  tsunami relief trip to Sri Lanka and has remained deeply involved ever since. She is also the Co-Founder of Freedom Forward (, a non-profit that is working to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of youth in San Francisco through systems change. Alia has experience as a  management consultant at McKinsey & Company and has served on several boards including the MIT  Corporation (MIT’s board of trustees), SERES Global, and Emerge Lanka Foundation. She holds a B.S. in  Civil and Environmental Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MPhil in  Development Studies from the University of Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. 


Ellen Needham

Ellen Needham is the Co-Founder and Director of Emerge Lanka Foundation and has served as a Country  Manager at the organization for a year. She believes in the empowerment of young women and has a  goal to support vulnerable individuals, who are in need. 


Farzana has a Bachelor of Business Administration (Second Upper) from the University of Sri  Jayawardenapura and an MBA from PIM, where she passed as a Merit student. Her research thesis on a  comparative study of the Corporate Social Responsibility models was published in the PIM Journal. She is also a member of the Association of Business Executives (UK) and the Australian Computer Society (ACS)  and a trained Speech and Drama teacher from the Trinity Colleague of London. She also serves as a Board  Member and is a past president of the Rotary Club of Colombo Regency.

Farzana Khan

Jehan Mubarak

Jehan is a former international cricketer and water polo player. He has represented Sri Lanka at 3 cricket  World Cups and captained many teams throughout his career. Jehan is a qualified high performance cricket coach - he is currently the head coach of the Sri Lanka  Under 19 cricket team.  Jehan holds a degree in Physical Science from the University of Colombo. He also served as the Chairman of Colombo Round Table 1, a charity and fellowship club which provided the Emerge Centre for Reintegration with its first funding in 2016Jehan has since worked closely with Emerge and plays an active role of spreading awareness while providing his insight into Emerge strategies. He is passionate about Emerge and the cause we represent and is an active part of all our programs and events.


Swasha Malalasekera

Swasha holds a BSc in Accounting and Finance and ATCL, LLCM in speech and Drama. She is the owner and director of The Studio, Fine and performing arts Academy, and the T and T Villas (Pvt) Ltd. Swasha is also a director and partner at the Asvaya Holdings Pvt ltd. An accountant by profession, her love for the performing arts and humanity has changed her life’s purpose. To fight for and on behalf of women and children that have been victimized for no fault of their own, and to make a difference, is her goal. Through this goal, Swasha joined Emerge Lanka Foundation and is currently part of the Board of Directors, where she empowers young women who have experienced sexual abuse. Recently, Swasha established a safe house for women called the Nama Sanctuary and has been providing security and a firm foundation for women who are on a journey of healing.

Priya Sivagananathan

Priya Sivagananathan is an Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. She is a law graduate of the London School of Economics & Political Science, Barrister-at-law and a member of the Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. She is a Partner at Julius & Creasy , Attorneys-at-Law & Notaries Public , since 2008 . She specialises in the areas of Banking & Finance and Aircraft Leasing. She is also a member of the Board for the Office for Reparations which is an independent body established to manage Sri Lanka’s reparations regime and grant reparation to victims of conflict.

​​The Emerge Cause Ambassadors 

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Hazel Rajiah-Tetteh 

Country Manager 

Uadaya JK Sivakumar 

Chief Operations Officer 

Ashani Hans Ehaliyagoda 

Programmes Officer 

Sujeewa Dilrukshi 

Administration Support 

Amanda Piyaratne 


Kaavya Pathirana 

Communications Lead 

Theja Jayasinghe 

Programmes Officer / Trainer

Russel Arnold 

From representing the National Cricket Team of Sri Lanka to become an eloquent International Cricket Commentator, Russel brings an aura of professionalism and positivity to represent our mission. His positive, upbeat, and passionate attitude transcend from the commentary box into his life of representing the Emerge cause. Russel is inspired by the resilience and strength of our program participants and has been very keen to learn more about child protection in Sri Lanka. His focus will be on raising awareness through his platforms and networks and creating a community to give towards Emerge. Russel is a great advocate for our resilient survivors and holds great importance in their confidence and strong mental health as essential elements in the process of reintegrating into society as adults. 

Chamari Athapathu 

Chamari is the Captain of the Sri Lanka Women's Cricket Team. Her philosophy of leading the team to play "freely, positively, and with courage" has propelled the national team to be formidable. Chamari has been on several international tours in the past year and has been taking women’s cricketing to the next level with her talent and drive. She is an incredible inspiration to the young girls Emerge works to support – and is a firm believer that every program participant we work with, has immeasurable strength and potential. As someone who has overcome many obstacles in her sporting life; Chamari understands and advocates for transformational impact. Chamari is a representation of hard work and shines as she breaks through barriers and glass ceilings to navigate her journey as an international sports personality.

Indu and San Dharmasena 

A renowned playwright and dramatist who has written over 60 plays, Indu and his extremely talented wife San join the Emerge journey as Brand Ambassadors as of July 2021! Indu and San together use the magic of theatre to bring forward interesting topics and create awareness through humor and thought provoking art. Their collective ability to bring the best out of people creatively will help the program participants at the Emerge Centre for Reintegration unlock new skills and talent. They see theatre as a medium that will help our participants express themselves and enhance their confidence and become unstoppable in their authentic selves. Indu and San believe that each of our program participants should have the space to express themselves and learn of their own potential through that expression.

Bhoomi Harendran 

Best known for her activism in achieving equality and accessibility for the local transgender community through the National Transgender Network, Bhoomi is fearless in her work and is a champion of empowerment. Bhoomi believes that our survivors deserve dignity and respect, and that independence is key to achieving a wholesome life, where they can live authentically. She looks forward to working closely with our Centre Participants; and puts an emphasis on "empowering" them to be the best versions of themselves. Bhoomi is a fountain of knowledge, and it adds an edge, confidence, and wisdom to our journey.

Hazel is an international trainer and experienced coach who specializes in communications, people management, and personal development. Prior to joining Emerge Lanka Foundation as its Country  Manager, she worked with MDF for 6 years and delivered Leadership and People Management courses for MDF clients throughout the region, including Afghanistan. Hazel is passionate about representing the survivors whom Emerge works closely with - and ensuring that they are able to build a future for themselves with dignity, opportunities, and goals. As a part of her work with Emerge, Hazel works to shift the narrative from "victim" to "survivor" while educating communities about the issue of Child Sexual  Abuse while giving space for Mental Health education for both Emerge program participants and the  Emerge network. Hazel feels strongly about the need for awareness around childhood sexual abuse and trauma and is leading the team to make this a main pillar of the work that Emerge conducts.

Uadaya has worked in the development field for over ten years and believes deeply in equity and equality.  Before joining Emerge Lanka Foundation as its Financial Officer (her first role with Emerge), she has attended many trainings on women’s rights, gender-based violence, Muslim women’s Issues, women’s political participation, and engaging men to prevent violence against women. These workshops fueled her commitment to the issues which affect women and children all across Sri Lanka. Her fluency in all three languages is an asset to Emerge, and Uadaya’s perspective and insight have shaped the growth of  Emerge in the past 8 years that she has been a part of the organization.

Ashani is a Psychology major and making her mark in the developmental field. Ashani has been a part of  Emerge for the past 4 years. She deeply believes in the cause of Emerge and is highly supportive of making a difference in the lives of all survivors. While working as a trainer of the Online Emerge Programmes, she also works closely with supporting Emerge alumni. Ashani is a natural when it comes to empowering the survivors we work with, whether it is through a workshop or even through a simple conversation. To  Ashani, learning from the survivors is just as important as teaching them. Always ready to lend a helping hand to her peers, Ashani is an asset to the team in multiple ways. 

Sujeewa has been with Emerge for years and has been a key source of support to the entire team. A powerful woman even in her personal life, she gracefully ensures that each member of the Emerge team has all the support they need. She takes pride and joy in being a part of an organization that gives a voice to children in our society who are overlooked. Sujeewa always adds her insights during team discussions and is always a reliable voice during challenges. Sujeewa’s positive and motivated attitude gives the team its flair. 

Amanda Piyaratne is a Psychologist with an undergraduate in Psychology from Coventry University and a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colombo. As a Psychologist and Mental health advocate, she works with adolescents and adults by taking a holistic approach to Mental Health. Her main goal is to support, listen and hold a space for individuals; giving them a safe, validating space to reflect,  recognize strengths and build resilience. Amanda joined Emerge in 2020 and has been passionate about working with survivors of trauma. Through trauma-focused interventions, she continues to help participants voice their needs, feel safe, empower them to manage their emotions, and develop healthy coping strategies for them to come back into society and speak their story even louder.

Kaavya has always been inspired to join the developmental field with a focus on telling impactful stories.  She worked as the Communications Officer with Emerge back in 2015 for two years and fell in love with the mission. She later joined Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka and was able to travel around Sri Lanka while writing about the transformational impact of poverty housing, and was able to expand on her Resource  Development skill set in that capacity. Kaavya returned back to Emerge in 2020 and supported the team with programming and communications. She sees the Emerge participants as some of the strongest young women in society - and is a huge advocate for their untapped potential to reclaim their life and power. 

Theja Jayasinghe is a psychosocial worker focused on community development, with a strong commitment to serving youth and adults from marginalized and at-risk groups. She has worked with many iNGOs in collaboration to build project focused on education. Theja's experience is an asset to Emerge as she works to develop new life skills and reproductive health lessons in line with the Sri Lankan context for the Emerge curricula. Theja is an incredible and experienced workshop facilitator and brings her own flare of reporting against the goals set by the Programmes Team.

The Emerge Lanka Foundation Team

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