Linda Gayathree Wijesinghe, 25, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Occupation: Lecturer, University of Moratuwa; student counselor, Institute of International Education Lanka, Sri Lanka; English and psychology instructor, The Royal Institute; director, Institute of EnglishCart Consultancy; country coordinator, Asian University for Women; graduate student in Development Studies, University of Colombo; writer
Purpose: “To create happiness, for myself and others, through education and writing.”

Linda grew up near the sea in Southern Sri Lanka. Her father was a fisherman. Her mother was a housewife who always put her gifted daughter and her education first. But, when the 2004 Christmas Day tsunami hit, it changed everything.

“The waves came as a thief,” Linda says. It stole their home, their livelihood, their happiness. “Once you see your parents’ tears,” Linda says, “all you can think is, how can I make them happy again?”

Linda had always worked hard for herself, but now she “reframed” the purpose of everything she did. It was no longer about getting what she wanted, but rather about adding value to the lives of her family, her friends, her country, and, now, her students. Recently, Linda began her own writing institute to help other talented young Sri Lankans develop their skills in English.

“You know oil lamps?” she says. “Once you light one, you can light thousands, millions. If I light myself, I can light the lives of other people.”