by Lily Chong


Home from Sri Lanka, I brought back with me organic tea, virgin coconut oil, cashew nuts and fond memories of the people who I travelled and worked with. And what’s more – a deep sense of satisfaction knowing I’ve done a few weeks worth of good work and that it has all been appreciated by the client.

Well that may just be the surface of it, what you may not have anticipated is how much more of a difference you will be making. I worked with my client, Ishikawa, who describes himself still as a foreigner – born and educated in Japan. He’s the founder of an NGO called APCAS (Action for Peace Capability and Sustainability), set up initially to support victims affected by the Tsunami in Sri Lanka, December 2004 ( Sadly during his humanitarian work, Ishikawa identified corruption in emergency relief as being a major challenge, especially between immediate affected areas, beneficiaries and gender gaps in welfare camps. This led him to rethink what is good assistance and governance; and what is happiness if not independence?

Since then, Ishikawa has devoted the past 10 years in Sri Lanka working across 22 projects ranging from emergency relief, housing, agricultural and environmental conservation, sanitation, as well as educational and disability support. Working with Thusare, an acupressure massage and training centre for the visually impaired, along with site visits to waste management centres, where he is working to turn garbage into organic fertiliser, and piggery effluent waste to biogas fuel, were just some of his many developments.

Every week during our conservations, I would learn more about the different projects and we would talk about his plans. I often wondered and questioned how one person is capable of doing it all? There is no doubt that he possess the true traits of a successful Social Entrepreneur; 1) to be incredibly empathic 2) relentless in seeing problems and seeking solutions to fulfil the needs 3) willing to sacrifice to make others happy 4) there is no borders between work/life 5) sees money not as a reward but more as a necessity and responsibility. Finally, I got the answer to my question – “this is my dream, I keep dreaming and dreaming and one day it will become real! This is the energy to my work.”

There is one more thing that I took home from my experience with _SocialStarters: we all have the qualities of a person that wants to make an impact on society, solve problems and create something new. The thing is, it’s all on you to make that happen. It is your own drive and passion that will get you there. Don’t dream your life, but live your dreams.

Do you want to find out how to be a Social Entrepreneur, change the world and be self-sustainable? Join our keynote speaker Robert Ashton, along with many leading experts on how to kick start and grow your social enterprise at the 2015 Social Enterprise Conference, 12th October 2015. All _SocialStarters members are entitled to a discount – please enter the promotion code: 2015SESS on registration. For more information and to get your ticket please visit: