Thanks for visiting my 4-H fundraising page! My name is Ru Ekanayake, I'm a sophomore at Cornell, and I've been involved in 4-H for 11 years. I'm currently serving as a member of the National 4-H Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), a group of 11 4-H alumni passionate keeping 4-Hers engaged even past graduation and continuing to improve 4-H programing across the country.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I loved growing up on the best coast (haha), but looking back, I realize that my community placed a huge emphasis on "success".
From my competitive school district to LA's photoshoot-ready culture, I was under tremendous pressure to "do well": to look a certain way, to get stellar grades, and to project this image of perfection to the outside world. Even as a child, I remember an all-consuming need to "win" at EVERYTHING...and it was exhausting.
I was constantly beating myself up mentally, picking myself apart, never happy with what I'd accomplished, and always searching for the next "win." I didn't know how to value myself except by the awards I'd won-the only problem was that none of that lasted.
Enter 4-H. With this remarkable organization, I explored new skills, from video editing to loom weaving. For the first time, I could learn just for the sake of learning, and not for a resume or award. I made incredible friends and learned to collaborate and lead. I began to understand the power of young people to catalyze change, and this knowledge built my self-confidence in ways I never could I have imagined.
4-H gave me the audacity to take action in the area that I was most passionate about: health. As someone who'd (sometimes unconsciously) struggled with mental and emotional health my whole life, I came to realize that health was more than just eating right and exercising. 4-H gave me the opportunity to take my message to the national level. As a National Healthy Living Ambassador, I got the chance to collaborate with huge corporate sponsors and other 4-Hers to bring health programming to 4-Hers across the country. I also found a platform to innovate: I started an annual Youth Healthy Living Summit for Southern California 4-Hers, and a national 4-H healthy living blog where 4-Hers nationwide could share their stories and brainstorm on healthy living programs to take back to their communities. As the 2016 National 4-H Youth in Action Winner, I was catapulted into the spotlight, and was thrilled to find national media opportunities to spread my message.
4-H has been instrumental to my growth in more ways than I can count. It helped me solidify my passion for medicine and health, helped me meet inspiring teens and change-makers, and best of all, gave me a sense of my own worth-not in how many trophies I owned, but in who I was and what I could bring to the world. And that's something that's truly priceless.
My story is just one of thousands: 4-H has been an integral part of shaping America's youth for over 100 years. Now, I'm so excited to ask for your support to help 4-H continue to grow and reach more young people than ever before.
Your donations will go towards giving kids the tools they need to build their skills, confidence, and sense of self-paving the road for tomorrow's leaders. Even $20 goes a long way, which means that everyone (even broke college students like me!) can make a contribution to give more youth a chance to explore their passions and find themselves through 4-H.
Where will your dollars go?
We have a pretty cool fundraising model: 60% of your contribution will go towards the 4-H Grow True Leaders campaign to expand 4-H's national reach. 20% will go directly to California 4-H, the program that changed MY life. Finally, we as the Youth Advisory Committee decided that we wanted part of our fundraising to go towards 4-Hers in need. So, for 2018, 20% of your donation will go towards rebuilding the Puerto Rico 4-H program after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
I know I wouldn't be who I am without 4-H. Please join me in continuing to help this amazing program to grow and keep impacting the lives of kids everywhere!