Medical inventor, entrepreneur, youth activist, traditional ballet dancer and full-time student at American National College, one might wonder: is there anything Rakitha Malewana doesn’t do? At merely 22-years-old, the Sri Lankan Malewana has made Asia’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list, developed nano-technologies to control the spread of cancer and HIV/AIDS and built a non-profit organization, Ideanerd, to help advance STEM education in Sri Lanka.
However, Malewana had to overcome many challenges to reach this level of international success. Malewana grew up during Sri Lanka’s most violent civil war, which killed over 100,000 people. As a child, he remembers witnessing “burnt and charcoaled houses [along with] blood rivers and split body pieces.” Eventually, Malewana left school to be home schooled for several years by the “most influential person in [his] life” – his mother, a science teacher.
Today, in between classes, Malewana continues to conduct research and innovate solutions to the spread of cancer and HIV/AIDs at his science and medical research company Hamzter while running his non-profit Ideanerd, which provides high-quality STEM education to youth in rural areas.
Despite enduring difficult life experiences, Malewana remained optimistic at heart and “learned a lot of life lessons,” he says. Malewana’s advice to other youth? Get involved in extracurricular activities, remove taboos and make education interesting. Ultimately, he believes investing in youth will “boost our countries’ economic growth while also contributing to social harmony.”
Ahead of the United Nations Association of the United States of America2018 Global Engagement Summit on 23 February, Global Daily interviewed Malewana to hear how other youth can follow suit to make progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Global Daily: How and why did you decide to start Hamzter, and its baby initiative Ideanerd? Why are you focused on science and technology?