District 82, comprising of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu (India), was recognised as the No. 1 District in the world for the year 2017/18 at the recently concluded 87th Annual Toastmasters International Convention held in Chicago, USA. The District Trio; District Director Ajantha Jayawardena, Program Quality Director Suganthi Periasamy and Club Growth Director Sarma Mahalingam were recognised at the Hall of Fame Awards ceremony at the Convention.
Emerging as No. 1 after a lapse of six years was a great achievement for the District. This achievement was the crowning glory of a momentous year, where DTM Balaraj Arunasalam, who was at the helm of Toastmasters International, (the first Sri Lankan to be elected as International President), was leading the organisation, an unprecedented milestone in the history of the District.
Toastmasters International is an organisation founded by Dr. Ralph Smedley in 1924 in California, USA to empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. It is represented in 143 countries with 104 districts.
Toastmasters commenced in Sri Lanka in 1982 with the formation of The Colombo Toastmasters Club. In 2000, spearheaded by DTM Arunasalam Balraj, it began to spread across the island. Sri Lanka and India then together formed a District in 2004, and with the rapid growth of Toastmasters the district split in to three more Districts with Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu presently comprising District 82.
District 82 comprises of 270 Toastmasters Clubs with a membership base of 15,798. In Sri Lanka there are 136 Toastmasters clubs and out of this there are 118 corporate and institutional clubs while the balance are community clubs.
The year 2017/18 was a very vibrant and eventful year with their main focus on enhancing and enriching the member experience. Training and education programs, and programs to create awareness at grass root levels to promote the concept of Toastmasters in the outstations, were launched, which resulted in rapid growth and provided opportunities for more members to take up leadership roles.
A motor rally was held in October 2017 to promote Toastmasters in the Gampaha District while a six a side cricket tournament was organised to create fellowship and camaraderie among the Toastmasters fraternity. A midyear two-day training session for region 13 and 14 was conducted where district leaders from 10 countries were present along with International President and the CEO of Toastmasters International, Daniel Rex. The District also organised an educational session with the leaders of Region 13 and 14 at the HNB Auditorium which was attended by 300 Sri Lankan Toastmasters, who got the opportunity to meet District leaders from other countries.
The most important project which the District spearheaded was the ‘1000 Youth Leadership Program’ where almost 1020 students from underprivileged backgrounds were empowered with communication and leadership skills. At the end of the 10th program a speech contest was held where these students competed for the Best Youth Speaker Award.
Commenting on the success of District 82, DTM Ajantha Jayawardena, the District Director who led the team towards the No. 1 position, highlighted, “The District’s path to the No. 1 position was a team effort and every member of District 82 contributed towards this achievement. I wish to appreciate the efforts of all those who helped the District to reach its goal.