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Welcome Speech by the President of the Steering Committee

Sujatha Werake

Good afternoon my fellow Mahamayans.  On behalf of the Steering Committee it is a great pleasure and privilege to welcome you all to Seattle for our inaugural Annual General Meeting of the Mahamaya Girls’ College Alumnae Association of North America.  We are delighted to see the United States and Canada represented here today and this is indeed an international event. 

This great organization that we all gave birth today, was conceived and grew on four pillars that are equally important. They are in alphabetical order, Neranjika Dissanayake, Harshi Liyanage, Arushie Nugapitiya, and Sujatha Werake. Although I am the last in the list, I get to talk to you first, because I have gray hair.  These three are some of the best human beings I have met in my life.  I love them all.  I can’t think of a better partnership than this for such a demanding job of creating an organization to last. We have written around 10,000 emails, made around 2,000 phone calls to each other during the last one and a half years to make this a reality.  I honor and appreciate their expertise, patience, love for the school, love for each other, goal oriented work, selfless sacrifice of time and energy.  Thank you for nudging me and waking me up sometimes.  They are fulltime employees, two of them have small kids, all boys.  I must thank all four families for tolerating our eccentricities of behavior working on MGCAANA into late hours, sitting at the computer writing emails to each other during family time, cooking with laptop on, on the pantry-top to get instant messages, using the bathroom to have uninterrupted telephone calls, sending the kids to Daddy to play while doing our work, get husbands to read what we write to get second opinions, spending hours of teleconferencing, etc.  Now, we are glad that we have more people on board to carry on our mission.  

Before we turn to the day’s events, I would like to say a few words about our beginnings and the work we did up to now. You will hear more about it from the rest of the Steering Committee. They gave me few minutes to talk to you.  But I decided to steal some more time. 

We had been playing with this idea of forming an alumnae association for Mahamayans for sometime.  Neranjika said one day, in a matter-of-fact way, that we need to work on this idea without delay.  Then, we really started thinking about it seriously in November 2003.  All of a sudden it became a whole new area to learn about.  We started gathering information from books, internet, friends, and other alumni associations on how to start an alumnae association.  We did not have a proper guide to follow, and it was like searching for a door in the dark.  But we managed to find the door with lot of hard work.  The love for our alma mater kept us going.  After gathering information for six months, we decided to have a two day workshop to shape our dream.  We decided to have the workshop on June 12th and 13th of 2004.  Neranjika gave birth to her third son just before the meeting and still she wanted to come with the baby. Harshi came from Oregon, and Arushi flew in from California.  We decided that Neranjika should join us by teleconferencing which she later agreed.  We met here in this same Bellevue Public Library, in fact in the next room, on Saturday, June the 12th  from 10:30-5:00 pm.  We were fortunate to have Bruno Casolari, Executive Director of Rainier Scholars, Seattle, at the time, who has a Masters in Public Policy and Non-Profit Organizations, as our facilitator. We wanted our organization to be a non-profit.  Dr. Mahinda Werake served as an observer at the request of the participants.  After much brainstorming, the group was able to come up with a mission statement and a vision statement.  That was indeed a very strenuous task.  Another important thing that we discussed was whether to include Canada as well.  We all agreed that we can come together as North America.  Then we had to come up with a suitable name for the organization which was not easy.  Out of number of names that we put up on the board, finally we all agreed on “Mahamaya Girls’ College Alumnae Association of North America.”  Since it is little too long to say, now we use the acronym MGCAANA for general use.  In the afternoon session our lawyer Harshi Liyanage presented the Bylaws and Articles that she prepared ahead of time for the organization.  The participants discussed, reviewed them, and formulated key components.  The committee decided that Harshi Liyanage was to do the filing process with the State of Washington for MGCAANA which she did later.

Sunday the 13th we met again to set up six month goals and annual goals.  Tentative six month goals were: 1. File articles, 2 prepare IRS forms, 3. Develop membership  4. Open a bank account, and 5. Have the organizational meeting.  The tentative annual goals were: 1. First annual general meeting,  2. Appointing the Board of Directors and Officers 3. Publish a newsletter  4. Set up a website and 5. Discuss gifts and donations to school.

We also discussed the details of the layout of the website.  Participants discussed about the membership categories and came up with three categories, namely the Regular membership, student membership and honorary membership that has been clearly shown on the website.  Then we developed a list of prospective members that we knew in the hope of contacting them.  We did quite a bit of work during those two days.  From that time on, we knew where we were going.  

In March, 2005, we were granted the  non-profit corporation status in the State of Washington.  Now we are legally a non-profit corporation and everything happens here under the watchful eye of our lawyer Harshi Liyanage.  Neranjika who is our treasurer and web manager is so sharp and prompt, I couldn’t get away with anything.  Arushie is the overall philosopher, debater, negotiator and critique all in one, giving her opinions and ideas to show the direction.

Up to now, all four of us met the expenses of the association from our pockets. 

I think we can be happy that our association became a reality today with our inaugural Annual General Meeting. This is definitely a joyous moment for all of us.

 We are fortunate to have a membership of 31 at the moment,  ages ranging from 23 years to 70 years.  We know that the membership will grow.  The school will be celebrating her 75th anniversary in one and a half years. Let the forming of our MGCAANA be our gift from all of us who are members, to our beloved alma mater, with gratitude, in commemoration of her great service of 75 years to thousands of us.  Mahamaya has been known all over Sri Lanka for academic and non-academic excellence, and became a National School in 1985 I believe, highest grade that a school can achieve in Sri Lanka. Mahamaya has produced tens of thousands of productive world class women, international athletes, who live successful lives all over the world. (In fact, Nilmini Wickramaratne (Dorabawila)  who is a nominee for the Board of Directors represented SL in SAF (South Asian Federation) Games and won medals when she was in Grade 11. Aren’t we proud to be  Mahamayans?  We need the support of each and every Mahamayan who live in North America for us to accomplish our mission.

 Our vision and mission describe our organization’s direction, goals, and objectives that will help us to create a strategic plan for the future to benefit our organization, individuals, and our school.  We can have long-term fixed goals and short-term variable goals. Please think of what we can do to accomplish our mission and share your ideas with us.  We need to talk about this at length at a later time.  In order to be an effective team, we need to be united by shared goals, and shared responsibilities, formulate priorities, have team-players, and attain our goals.  

Let me take this opportunity to thank my fellow alumnae of the Mahamaya Old Girls’ Association, Colombo Branch who took a keen interest in our mission and gave us unconditional support in everyway, and the former principal Mrs. Wijesinghe, for giving us permission to use the logo, Deputy Principal and alumna Mrs. Vishaka Herath, and the OGA for their support. 

Thank you for believing in us and supporting our efforts to bring our fellow Mahamayans together in this great continent.  It is amazing to see how enthusiastic and dedicated you are.  Only five of us live  in Washington State.  The rest of you have come from afar for the love of supporting our mission and love of our alma mater.  Thank you so much for coming here to participate in our historic inaugural Annual General Meeting.  Thank you in advance for your comments, involvement, and expertise that you are willing to share with us.  I know this will be a productive meeting, generating and sharing a lot of good ideas, friendship, and wisdom. 

Yes, We are Mahamayans and yet, we are a unique and diverse group of people.  We need to embrace the uniqueness and celebrate our diversity.  Because of the uniqueness our potential is unlimited.  In this great organization we will treat each other with dignity, respect, love and equality.  That is the key to our strength and success.  That in mind, we added a Code of Ethics to our web-site.  May every member of this great organization experience the benefits that will derive from our vision to help this world to become a better place. 

Thank you