When talking about entrepreneurs, naturally there are certain big names that spring to mind. The renowned innovators and revolutionaries like Tesla, Jobs, Gates and Musk immediately spring to mind, and we know them because of their innovations that have shaped and defined the culture we live in. With all the buzz about these celebrity-entrepreneurs, it is often at times easy to fail to notice the people around us who possess the mindset of a true entrepreneur – the people who work hard to better the world of born in 1958 in the little island country of Sri Lanka. Growing up in a relatively poor family himself, he was often exposed to the struggles that those in poverty in a 2nd world country go through. Poverty in such places is often extremely severe – and to those who fall below the poverty line, the chance of ever making it above it is slim to none. Being a hard worker with a drive to see success, Paul worked his way from a village school in the poorest part of the Northern Sri Lankan province, to finishing his Doctorate with high honors at England’s renowned Oxford University – and became highly regarded as one of the finest engineers to have ever come out of Sri Lanka into the international engineering community. However, even after working in countries across the globe, and getting offers from companies in countries like the USA, Germany and Australia – his heart was always for his home. When I reached out to him about writing this feature on him and asked him about the reason his sights were always set towards home, he said: “God had always given me the desire to see my family, my people and my home prosper. The gifts and talents I have were not for my own glory or pride, but to use them to spread the goodness of God’s love.”
An engineer with an entrepreneurial heart, Paul saw that one of the biggest problems in Sri Lanka – was that people with a lack of good basic high-school education (regardless of how intelligent they may be), had no way of making it to a good university and landing a good job later in their life. Wanting to do something about this, he created the Geneva scholarship program in 2005. Named after the home city of his favorite theologian (John Calvin); Geneva connected promising young students from poor communities in Sri Lanka with engineers and academic intellectuals that he had befriended from over his many years of travelling for work. The program created and fostered mentor/mentee relationships; where the mentors would support these children in good academic institutions all through to the end of their high school education; with the expectation that the children will work hard enough to excel at their academics and have the goal of becoming prominent and outstanding members of their respective academic field and of the society as a whole. The children would also have the expectation of supporting another child like them in the future one they found themselves in a position of financial success – to keep Geneva’s mission going.
After a relatively slow first 2 years; in 2007 – Geneva saw almost 80 graduates, and the most recent class (of 2017) had around 220 graduates. 98% of the students who go through Geneva fulfill their promise to come back and support other children who are on the same pursuit. Even though this isn’t a business selling a unique product; this is a service that, true to the entrepreneurial spirit – contributes to improving the quality of lives of people, gives them opportunity where previously there was none and eventually helps to building a stronger economy and a community. As a Sri Lankan, it makes me glad that such a program exists to give opportunities to my fellow country men and help strengthen the workforce of our country. And as a son to the man who innovated this program into existence; I take great pride in such a great venture that does really make a big difference to the country I am from.