Purpose beyond profit: Non-profit teaching
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John Hoffmire interviews Balathasan Sayanthan of Yarl IT Hub
John Hoffmire: What is Yarl IT Hub?
Balathasan Sayanthan: Yarl IT Hub is a non-profit organization based in Sri Lanka created to improve education, employment, and entrepreneurship for the community. We are a worldwide group of technology professionals who started with the Yarl Geek Challenge in 2012 and have added five initiatives since then.
John Hoffmire: Tell me about the Yarl Geek Challenge.
Balathasan Sayanthan: The Yarl Geek Challenge (YGC) is actually two competitions, YGC Senior and YGC Junior. YGC Senior is an entrepreneurship competition open to all youth through a formal application process by which they describe a problem and then create a product to solve the problem. They work in five member teams and the process involves mentors, researchers, and entrepreneurs so that the teams get real world experience plus a chance to develop a helpful network.
YGC Junior is a competition for students in schools organised in partnership with the Provincial Department of Education Northern Province and at this year’s event we have over 50 teams participating in Web, Mobile, Hardware, Innovation, and Application of Science categories. Teams have come up with some really great products ranging from a Covid 19 safe sink to an app to prevent people from taking the wrong medicine and even a platform for free tutoring. 
John Hoffmire: It sounds like you’ve been successful since this is the ninth season of the YGC. What are the other initiatives that you mentioned?
Balathasan Sayanthan: Well, we launched Uki which is a full scholarship based technology school that now operates in three centers and increased the capacity to 120 graduates a year. We have Aki for secondary school children to use as a digital education platform. And last but certainly not least we developed Cutar with the idea of encouraging and supporting women getting in to technology and entrepreneurship.   
John Hoffmire: I know this takes a lot of effort to make happen, How do you do it and why?
Balathasan Sayanthan: You’re right, it is a lot of work but we have more than 150 volunteers from the community, our partners, plus our sponsors who support us technically and financially. We knew we could make a difference in people’s lives and decided to do it. It did take some organising to accomplish this but our goal from the start was to improve young individuals’ situations by introducing technical skills and hopefully creating jobs. We have even started a franchise model for Uki so it can be replicated in other places.
John Hoffmire: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to help their community?
Balathasan Sayanthan: All I can say is that you never really know if something is going to work but if you don’t do anything you can be absolutely sure that doesn’t work. And always dream big because you will surprise yourself with how much can be done. You see, our goal is to make Jaffna the next Silicon Valley.
John Hoffmire: It’s always good to see how much can be achieved if one puts the effort in to it and I wish you the best for providing the means for people to improve their situations.
Balathasan Sayanthan: Thank you John. I look forward to telling you about our progress over the rest of the year.
Yarl IT Hub always appreciates assistance from whomever can help. Whether you volunteer from a distance, sponsor a program, or make a donation, they will appreciate it. Please let John Hoffmire know if you would like to serve in any way. You can reach John at:
P.S.: Is participatory capitalism related to mutuality?
For more on the latest research and practice of mutuality:
Watch parts of the recently completed Oxford Economics of Mutuality virtual forum

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