Ambassador Julie J Chung’s Remarks at Opening of the American iHub in Batticaloa

November 15, 2023

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,

It’s an absolute pleasure to be here with you today. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Governor of the Eastern Provincial Council of Sri Lanka, along with other distinguished government officials, esteemed Vice Chancellors, academics, school principals, Alums of United States Government exchange programs, and members of the media who have graced us with their presence today. Your support and active participation in today’s grand opening of our newest American space have made this event a truly special one.

As you all witnessed earlier, the unveiling of the name board and the ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the official inauguration of American iHub Batticaloa, a new American Space funded by the U.S. Embassy. This launch signifies far more than a mere formality; it signifies an exciting opportunity to introduce the community to this innovative space and the multitude of services it offers. We are particularly thrilled about the potential of the iHub to energize and empower the emerging youth of this region through various programs.

The American iHub Batticaloa is a noteworthy addition, the fifth American Space in Sri Lanka, joining our other centers in Colombo, Kandy, Matara and Jaffna. This new Batticaloa space is special and will serve as a vital link connecting the Eastern Province not just with the US, but also with the broader Sri Lankan community. This space holds immense promise for the youth, academic institutions, including Eastern, South-Eastern, and Open Universities of Sri Lanka, as well as other schools in the region. It is an open, free-of-charge resource, accessible to all.

Across the country, our American Spaces provide a rich array of resources, including free Internet access, a diverse collection of multimedia materials, and a platform for cultural exchange programs, English enrichment courses, and interactive group discussions with native speakers to enhance communication skills. Our Youth Forum program is specifically designed to foster leadership development and community service engagement, while education advising sessions with EducationUSA advisors offer guidance to those considering studying in the United States. We also offer Innovation and Makerspace programs, providing opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs, including 3-D printing technology. Furthermore, our forthcoming social media and digital engagement courses, initiated by the iHub, will explore the power of online platforms to connect people and nurture businesses.

This year, we mark the 75th anniversary of the enduring partnership between the United States and Sri Lanka. I can’t think of a better way to herald that milestone than opening this new American Space, which underscores the steadfast alliance between our two nations.  Our Spaces play a foundational role in our partnership by fostering innovation, education, and collaboration and embody the United States’ commitment to bolstering the Sri Lankan community.

During my visits to American Spaces and interactions with the Youth Forum, I’ve had the privilege of engaging with the remarkable young individuals of Sri Lanka. These encounters have been among the most gratifying moments of my tenure. I’ve observed their resilience, creativity, and unwavering dedication to making a positive impact in their families and communities. They are not just the future; they are the active change-makers of today. The insightful discussions, shared aspirations, and unexpected talents I’ve witnessed serve as a testament to the empowering influence of American Spaces on the youth of Sri Lanka.

At the Youth Forum Summit hosted in Colombo in February this year, I had the privilege of witnessing the tremendous talents of the young participants. Their dedication was truly remarkable, especially in their efforts to establish a turtle hatchery in Matara. Today, I’m delighted to share that we had something like 8000 baby turtles already hatched, a testament to their commitment to environmental conservation and community engagement – and the power of the US and Sri Lankans working together.

I’ve also been thoroughly impressed by the innovative ideas and projects developed by students through our maker space programs. These young minds excelled in their creativity, and the products they crafted were truly inspiring. Their ability to turn ideas into tangible solutions is a testament to the potential nurtured within the American Spaces, and it fills me with hope for the future of Sri Lanka.

I also really appreciate that our American Spaces offer comprehensive English language programs that benefit Sri Lankans by enhancing their communication skills, expanding their employment opportunities, and fostering a deeper connection with the global community. These programs provide individuals with the tools to excel in an increasingly interconnected world and further enrich the relationship between our two nations.

I want to thank our partner for American iHub Batticaloa, DreamSpace Academy, which has played an instrumental role in transforming this vision into a reality. DreamSpace Academy is not only our partner for the iHub, but also my personal inspiration. I had the honor of visiting their space in November 2022, and I was amazed by the creativity and passion of the people I met there. One of them was Ki-shoa-th (or Kishoth), who showed me around his impressive facilities. Kishoth, who learned most of his innovative technical skills through the American Center Colombo’s Maker Space program. He is now a co-founder and director of DreamSpace Academy, where he mentors and empowers other young innovators like himself. Kishoth’s journey serves as a powerful testament to the transformative impact of the type of learning our American Spaces provide.

I still have a souvenir made of wood and the loofah sponge that I received at the DreamSpace, which were made using eco-friendly materials and techniques. I also recall making a small pot using mushroom fungi at their bio lab. These are just some of the examples of the amazing projects that DreamSpace Academy is working on, and I am excited to see what they will come up with next, through their partnership with iHub.

In conclusion, I extend my gratitude to each and every one of you for being a part of this historic moment. American iHub Batticaloa is not just a physical space but a hub of opportunity and inspiration. I am confident that it will serve as a catalyst for growth, collaboration, and progress in the Eastern Province and beyond.

Thank you and let us continue our collective efforts to maximize the potential of American iHub Batticaloa, thereby creating a brighter future for the community in Batticaloa, the Eastern Province, and Sri Lanka.