Yesterday I received the official documents from the Sri Lanka Registrar of Companies that approved Emerge Lanka Foundation as a charitable company (company number GA2271). This approval is the culmination of my work in Sri Lanka, and very fittingly arrived two hours before Emerge’s new Sri Lanka Country Director did.
When I arrived to Sri Lanka in late-August of 2008, I realized that we needed to formalize and standardize our Bead Program before we would be ready to expand to other homes or projects. Hence I developed our Bead Program curriculum framework, which subsequent Emerge team members worked on implementing, improving, and building upon.
After spending most of 2008 working on the Bead Program, 2009 was the year of the legal entity. As the curriculum was being developed, I concluded that before we tried to roll out the Bead Program to other locations, we needed legal standing. While it would be possible to continue partnering with preexisting organizations, if we wanted to have the impact that Alia, the Emerge team, and I envisioned, we would need some kind of leverage. And that leverage would come with becoming an official organization, and having the ability to operate in Sri Lanka on our own.
In January I began the quest of forming Emerge Lanka Foundation, a local charitable company that would be tied to Emerge Global in the USA. My first several weeks were spent trying to identify a lawyer who could help navigate the legal system. I was introduced to Sumi through a friend-of-a-friend, and it has been one of my most serendipitous finds in Sri Lanka. Sumi is a smart, savvy, and powerful woman. She doesn’t take no for an answer, and problem solves incredibly well on the fly, two things that are required to get anything done in Sri Lanka. In our first several meetings her determination and dedication were evident, and from that point on Sumi and I were a team, working together with the same goal of becoming an approved charitable company.
The process was long, with lots of roadblocks along the way. Letters of support we were promised were rescinded. Legal documents that had been approved were denied. Forms that were submitted were sent back because it was decided entries should written in all CAPS. Setting up Emerge Lanka Foundation has been an incredible learning experience. I’ve learned how to work with all kinds of people and come to solutions that are mutually beneficial for both of us. How to stay calm and not get flustered even when things seem unfair. And most of all, how to laugh at the absurdity of situations (and people) and keep on going regardless.
Our work isn’t finished. Next we’ll be establishing a local bank account, speaking with Inland Revenue about tax exemptions on VAT and import/export duties, and setting up our accounting systems to name a few. But at this point, all I want to do is share my excitement, and tears of joy, with all of you. So join in my elation, and throw a mini Emerge party wherever you are!