February 18, 2016 Speaker

Eric Rajah. Humanitarian and co-founder of A Better World

Eric Rajah is the compassionate co-founder and motivating force behind A Better World, an Alberta-based, volunteer-run aid organization. Thanks to Eric’s thoughtful leadership the organization has delivered invaluable, life-changing support to people in need around the world.

Eric was born in Sri Lanka on January 12, 1958 to Florence and M.S. Rajah. When Eric was a teenager the Rajahs immigrated to Canada. He arrived in Vancouver in 1974 with his mother and brothers, joining his father who had come years prior in order to sponsor the family. Although it was a challenging adjustment for his parents they happily rode out any difficulties in order to ensure the best possible education and future for their sons. Eric completed high school and enrolled in business classes at the University of British Columbia.

Eric began his career with the intention of becoming a chartered accountant. He gained work experience as a student finance officer for CUC before moving to a job with an accounting firm in Red Deer, where he discovered that he didn’t actually enjoy pouring over financial records. He wanted to work face-to-face with the people he served. Since he was already the go-to person for colleagues needing computer help, Eric set his sights on what was then an emerging field. He learned everything he could about various software systems and continued to work part-time at the firm while launching his own computer training centre in Red Deer. Eric also made some significant changes on a personal level. He became a Canadian citizen in 1984 and married Lacombe native and fellow church member, Candi Schafer, in 1985.

Success with the computer business soon led to offices in Lacombe and Stettler and the addition of a sales and service division. In 1990, Eric christened the growing enterprise Advanced Systems. At the same time, Eric and Candi began talking about saving money so that they could begin helping others when they retired. After realizing that retirement was still many years off they resolved to start giving back right away, even if it meant doing so on a smaller scale. They took $5,000 in savings and began talking about how and where to best share the funds. Eric also discussed options with close friend Brian Leavitt and the two developed the concept of A Better World. They launched the organization in 1990, with a focus on investing in the future of people in need in Third World countries. The first project was a modest plan for a physiotherapy centre to serve young, marginalized polio victims living in Kendu Bay, Kenya. New schools were soon added to the project list. Taking those first steps with A Better World was a transformative experience for Eric. In describing the change, he says, “When I saw how these two small things could make such a difference I was reminded of where I came from and I saw how little I was prepared to give. It was a true turning point for me and I began to re-prioritize my life.”

A Better World also makes investments closer to home. When Eric realized that Lacombe, Louisiana was one of the communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 he was moved to help the “sister town” and coordinated a five-year campaign to rebuild 29 homes in the community. There is a local division of A Better World to help people in need in Lacombe and central Alberta, and Eric has further contributed to his community as an active member of various Lacombe and central Alberta service organizations, as a board member of his church and as a regular visitor to local seniors to share his love of music.

Eric continues to be motivated and inspired by the marginalized children he sees during his trips overseas and is increasing the time and focus he lends to mentoring young Albertans.  In 2011 he launched a youth division of A Better World which works with schools and universities to engage the next generation of community leaders. Eric is highly enthusiastic about what he’s witnessing with Alberta youth noting “they’re thinking about global citizenship and a connected world with less and less separation…and that gives me hope for the future.”