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Bringing Smiles and Opportunities to Girls in Sri Lanka
BY AMI TANK · MARKETING DIRECTOR · UNITED STATES
We live in a world full of labels and ceilings. These labels define our gender, our role in society, our marital or health status, our job titles, our education level, and much more. Labels are often the very cause of the limitations in our lives.
My passion to help girls blast through labels and ceilings comes from my deep-rooted belief that every human being deserves a chance to rise. My conviction grew from the seeds my mother planted long ago.
My grandmother lived with us when I was a child. I would listen to her stories about my mom’s quest for equality in India and of her experiences as a young girl.
Despite being raised in a village where girls were not supposed to be educated, my mom had a short haircut — and even wore men’s clothes — just so she could attend an all-boys school.
My mom’s quest for a higher education came with many bumps along the way and much resistance. Yet she persevered and earned her master’s degree. She even became a highly successful real estate mogul in the 1990s.
She held her own in a room full of businessmen. She was a fierce cancer survivor. And she will always be my biggest hero.
My mom’s seeds are now the strength of my foundation. My experiences have taught me the importance of standing on my own two feet.
I’m most passionate about helping girls fuel the power within themselves so they can build flourishing futures.
Earn with 2 Hands; Give with 4
Grace Girls’ Home offers at-risk girls in Sri Lanka a safe and nurturing home environment with access to education and life skills opportunities.
Some girls came to Grace because they came from abusive homes where their mothers couldn’t support them. Others lost their families due to war, poverty, and the devastating tsunami in 2004.
What could I, as a businesswoman, possibly offer to orphaned girls who lived in a country I had never visited?
What skills did I really have to help anyone other than myself? How can I empower girls whose experiences are so different from mine?
I placed limitations and labels on myself with those questions. However, I honestly couldn’t help but question the impact I could make.
But I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone. I hesitantly accepted an offer to volunteer for Grace Girls’ Home.
I attended my first meeting in 2014 with my best friend. We talked about the girls’ medical and psychological needs. Then I learned about medical professionals who traveled to the orphanage.
What seemed overwhelming in the first meetings became inspiring over time. I found plenty of ways to contribute my personal and professional skills and passions to make a difference!
Smiles and Opportunities
In 2015, I traveled to Trincomalee, Sri Lanka with my two young sons, my boyfriend — now fiancé! — and many of my good friends, including the Grace Board of Directors.
It was my first trip to Sri Lanka. I was surprised by the 110-degree heat (43 °C) and the lack of modern luxuries, but meeting the girls for the first time was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.
Upon our arrival, the girls were ecstatic, grateful, and full of smiles. They greeted us with homemade leis and prepared speeches. Our week together was magical because we shared stories, we found opportunities, and we connected as people.
Tech to Help Girls Flourish
To end world poverty, we must educate equally and equip girls with tools and technology for success. Without skills to stand on her own two feet, generations and communities of poverty are born.
Being able to connect the Grace girls to opportunities gives them a chance to dream and to thrive. Offering girls access to technology opens up opportunities such as learning English, math and computer skills, improving medical and mental health, and a better chance to flourish in society.
Amazing things can happen when you connect the unconnected.
Still So Much to Do
We’ve watched girls who, just a few years ago, had no hope for a future graduate from the medical and dental assistant program. Today, they can live independently.
We’ve witnessed sisters be reunited at Grace, after being forced to be separated for 15 years. We’ve seen girls learn how to grow their own vegetables and even learn how to cook. And we have girls participating in the transitional home so they can prepare for life after Grace.
We’ve accomplished so much, but there is still so much more to do. My hope is to be able to offer better technology and collaboration tools as well as the Networking Academy curriculum to the Grace Girls!
The Cisconian Way of Life
Being a Cisconian has opened up opportunities to boost my personal life and career. I can confidently stand on my own two feet and feel empowered to transform lives.
I have met the smartest, most inspiring people at this company and feel thrilled to be a part of a culture that values women and values giving back.
Without the Time2Give program, where we get five workdays to give back, I would not have been able to travel to Sri Lanka. Meeting the girls in person changed my life. The bonds we’ve formed will last a lifetime.
These girls have helped me find my passion.
Ami is currently a Marketing Director and has been at Cisco for nearly 20 years in various roles. She serves as the Chief of Staff for the Grace Girls’ Home. Ami also served on the Women at Cisco board for 5 years and is part of Cisco’s Cancer Support Network as a cancer survivor.
She earned her MBA, attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and lives with her 2 teenage boys, Dilan and Devan, in Michigan. She loves to entertain, is a gourmet food and wine enthusiast, and an avid college football fan. In her spare time, she enjoys kickboxing, Bikram yoga, and adventurous travels with her kids and her fiancé, Brian.
For more information on how to help or get involved, please visit gracegirlshome.org or reach out to Ami.
Connect everything. Innovate everywhere. Benefit everyone.