I believe in a world with animals AND people, not animals or people
Otara Gunewardene has loved animals of all kinds for as long as she can remember. This love and interest spurred her to read for a degree in Biology at Bowling Green University, Ohio. Years later, while back in Sri Lanka, a chance request by an apparel manufacturer to help dispose of surplus export garments led Otara to set up shop in the boot of her blue Station Wagon. She consolidated this early success by selling to other stores around Colombo and as the demand grew, opened her very first store – Odel.
From the initial 1, 000 sq. ft. space, to 20 stores island-wide – to date, Odel has evolved into one of the most admired brands in the region, with a flagship store likened to Harvey Nichols and Harrods.
Odel helped Otara combine the two things she was most passionate about; animal welfare and fashion. The first collection she created was a signature collection of t-shirts featuring the endangered Sri Lankan Elephant, Crocodile, Porcupine and Purple-Faced Langur where proceeds from sales were donated towards animal welfare work. This created an awareness about wildlife conservation which went on to become a must-buy item for any local or international shopper visiting Odel even today.
From raising awareness on baby elephants to sleek leopards – through Odel, Otara, championed their causes with large awareness campaigns, supporting organizations that help animals and book promotions, along with many other projects to help animals in need.
Whilst there was a growing demand for pedigree dogs, countless numbers of street dogs perished on the streets. Embark was created in 2007, and aimed to help the ignored and unwanted street dogs of Sri Lanka. Over the years, Otara diligently focused on numerous projects while partnering with different organisations and professionals to improve the welfare of street dogs around Sri Lanka. Embark’s uniqueness lies in its multi-pronged approach which focuses both on immediate rescue and re-homing to the more sustainable, long-term solutions of sterilisation and vaccinations. A core area of Embark’s work also includes education and awareness. Embark is supported through the profits made by its trendy clothing and accessories collection which emphasise on making it “fashionable” to own a Sri Lankan street dog. The Embark Brand is characterised by its 3 mascots, initially Niko, later joined by Bandit and Rozzy – all street pooches who were adopted by Otara. Each dog brings its own personality and element of fun to the merchandise, undoubtedly making Embark a truly one-of-a-kind brand with a heartfelt vision.
As Otara’s sphere of influence expanded, so did the opportunity to show more compassion. It was this desire to make a change in the lives of animals and the world which led her to sell Odel and focus exclusively on Embark and other animal-related causes. Remaining true to the highest ideals of humanity, as Ambassador for World Animal Day, Habitat for Humanity and Earth Hour, Sri Lanka – she inspires, educates and empowers individuals from all walks of life.
Board of Directors
Founder of Bomosa Foundation, Andorra
I am delighted to be part of Otara Foundation and collaborate with such an honorable cause. I fully support the goal of species protection and environment conservation, and believe that recovery of endangered species should be a top priority for most nations.
Turi Mora is an Andorran investor who positions CSR and sustainable development at the core of his investment philosophy; believing that corporate entities must contribute to make the world a better place to live in. As a result, Turi incorporates robust environmentally-friendly practices across his portfolio of ventures, which encompasses several companies in the organic food and renewable energy sectors. He manages his businesses with integrity and seeks to be a good corporate citizen in everything he does, both at a professional and personal level.
Turi’s passion for nature and endangered species gave rise to Bomosa Foundation, which seeks to promote a respectful relationship between humans and nature since 2007. His dream is to eliminate unnecessary animal suffering, spread environmentally sustainable business practices and protect the global environment.
In addition, Turi is a true dog lover. He has four dogs in his home and enjoys playing with them at any time of the day. He approached Embark on how to conduct a successful Spay & Neuter program in Mozambique and was immediately captivated by the initiative’s expertise and determination to reduce the number of stray dogs and improve their wellbeing.
Stephen Jones burst onto the London fashion scene during the explosion of street style in the late seventies. An uncompromising style-blazer at the legendary Blitz night club – he was always seen crowned with a striking hat of his own design.
By 1980, Jones opened his first millinery salon in the heart of London’s Covent Garden. These premises soon became a place of pilgrimage and patronage, as everyone from rock stars to royalty, from Boy George to Diana, Princess of Wales, identified Jones as the milliner who would help them make the headlines. Thirty five years later, Jones’ era-defining edge continues to attract a celebrity clientele which includes, Rihanna, Dita von Teese, Mick Jagger and the Royal Family.
Born in Cheshire and schooled in Liverpool, Jones was a past student of St. Martins. Jones strongly believes in what Otara Foundation does and was happy to be a part of making a difference in the lives of animals and communities through the work of the foundation.
Owner of Pearly King & MishMash
Karl Hoversjö, is a Swedish citizen residing in the United Kingdom, with many years of experience in the Fashion trade. He is the owner of the two clothing brands, Pearly King and MishMash, which operate outside of the United Kingdom and have international presence. In addition to his expertise in fashion retailing, Karl also runs a garment manufacturing factory in Sri Lanka which employs over 500 people, and supplies his two brands and other fashion retailers worldwide.
An avid dog lover and owner of three dogs himself, impressed with Otara’s relentless work with the street dogs in Sri Lanka and other animals alike, Karl is delighted to be a part of the Foundation’s work, helping to improve the welfare of both animals and local communities in the future.
Dr. Arittha Wikramanayake
Dr. Arittha Wikramanayake is the Precedent Partner of Nithya Partners. Prior to founding the Firm, Dr. Wikramanayake held several senior positions in the public sector including Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka, State Counsel with the Attorney General’s Department of Sri Lanka and member of the Public Enterprises Reform Commission of Sri Lanka amongst others.
He is also actively involved in corporate governance, corporate social responsibility issues and has a true passion for nature and wildlife. His grandfather E. B. Wikramanayake was founder president of the Wildlife Protection Society of Sri Lanka. Dr. Wikramanayake has several publications to his credit, including “Company Law in Sri Lanka” “ Wild Flowers of Sri Lanka” and is co-author of “Philanthropy and Law in South Asia” and “Butterflies of Sri Lanka”. He believes in making a positive difference in the lives of animals and the community and through the work of the Foundation he hopes to do just this.
Manager – Operations
With a love for street dogs from a young age, Steve is channeling his passion into the work he does at
Embark, overseeing fieldwork and operations and maintaining budgets. He also supervises and reports
on projects such as Mobile Treatment, Adoption Days that occur several times a month and manages
coordination and facilitation of fostering.
Manesha handles the timely rescues of injured street dogs in addition to coordinating with the veterinarian team for the treatment and care of all rescued and resident street dogs. She also organizes the Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release (CNVR) programs held across Sri Lanka, a core area of Embark’s work in addition to providing support across all projects within the team.
Caitlin is actively involved in coordination and reporting of all fieldwork and operations at Embark and
facilitates a line of communication between the organizations, fosters, adopting families, the animal
hospital and vets.
She also manages and coordinates events such as Adoption Day, in-house clinics and conducts hospital
visits to ensure that dogs rescued by Embark are receiving the necessary treatment and care.
Rashmika has a key role in emergency rescue operations, mobile treatments and careful handling and
transportation of street dogs.
Anthony assists major rescue operations as well as documents the rescues, emergencies and adoption events.