Our founders, a group of friends, were in war torn Sri Lanka on Boxing Day 2004 and witnessed first-hand the impact of the tsunami that hit on that day on already highly disadvantaged communities.

“In the midst of the chaos of the tsunami a young women held my hand. She had lost everything – her child, her husband, her home. I had never met her before, but in that moment, as she gripped my hand tightly, I wanted nothing more than to have her be okay”

– Abarna, CEO and Cofounder.

Compelled to do their part in rebuilding the lives of those who had lost everything, this small group of friends began a volunteer network, which later became Palmera – a for purpose development agency which has the community at the heart of everything it does.

In the words of Abarna, Cofounder & CEO

Our story has been an organic one. There was no grand plan, just a desire to do good and to do it with integrity.

For us, the witnessing the effects of the tsunami was our first real experience with devastation. It would change each of us forever and would a few months later birth Palmera – then a volunteer network which provided us a way to give back to those impacted by the tsunami and the protracted war that had ravished the country.

Every weekend and every night a few of us would work tirelessly, organising events and fundraising for much needed relief items – food, water, shelter, toilets just to name a few.

We continued like this for a decade and over that time ran some amazing events, like Human Race, a two day race around Sydney which raised a massive $80,000 and met some incredible people!

In 2014, 5 years following the end of the war, it became apparent that a new challenges was arising for the rural poor with whom we worked – inclusion in the country’s growth. We learnt more about the scale of the issues facing these communities and our ambition expanded to address not only the immediate challenges but the building of long term solutions that could enable sustainable self-reliance and offer a future for succeeding generations.

We quickly learnt that this presented different challenges to what we had solved for over the past decade. What was needed now even more than funds, was capacity building to support local agencies and leaders on how to build thriving businesses and local economies.

We could no longer just support with funds, but had to bring in deep experts, spend more time on the ground and focus on capacity building.

In 2014 we made the decision to move from a volunteer network to a staffed organisation and I made the difficult decision to quit my job and head up Palmera full time.

We do not believe in duplicating efforts and only felt there was a need to start a new agency because while there were a lot of efforts occurring in Sri Lanka, there were no formal agency that was mobilising the very engaged diaspora community. We also felt that through leveraging diaspora efforts, we would be able to build a centre of excellence with our core models which we could then share with other communities outside the community. Learn about our strategy here.

Although we have a lean staffed team now here in Australia, we remain a grassroots agency only able to do what we do because of a committed group of volunteers that believe in our work and creating a world where no one is left out.