By: Avery Gordon, D.C. Community Cultivator
Naamal De Silva decided to protect nature when she was 8 years old, inspired by the PBS documentaries and wildlife books she devoured while growing up in a Washington D.C. apartment building. Naamal wanted to pursue a doctorate in biology, but realized during a field biology program in Costa Rica that she wanted to work more directly with people.
Her next epiphany would come over 10 years later, while working at Conservation International: “I was able to travel and meet people doing inspiring things, but I wasn’t seeing the results of what I was doing – I was spending a lot of time in conference rooms.”
Naamal switched to local environmental work and a doctorate in education, but had a hard time answering questions about her next steps. “I gradually realized I needed to start my own organization to combine storytelling and partnership-building.”
Sharing Stories and Places that Renew People
Mayla was born out of Naamal’s desire to use uplifting storytelling and partnerships to connect people to each other and to nature. Dismayed by the unrelentingly negative messaging surrounding the current state of the environment, Naamal set out to “share the stories and places that renew people.”
Mayla will create, aggregate, and share stories about people from around the world who protect nature. While Naamal recognizes these stories highlight different perspectives and cultures, Mayla will highlight connections. Mayla is “matchmaking for nature. We want to help you fall in love with the people who protect nature, with nature where you live, and with the community of people on Mayla.”
Naamal hopes to utilize Mayla to address the disconnectedness of the digital world “by translating the energy and connection generated through our digital media to on-the-ground action through partnerships.”
“We’d like to connect members of Mayla with partner organizations to host events, service projects, hikes…any way to connect people locally to their natural world, to like-minded people, and to ways to protect the environment around them.”
“There is hope, there is potential for more”
Naamal still has hope for the future of nature, and it is her goal to spread that hope through Mayla: “There is hope, there is the potential for more. There is the ability to learn from people already working in this space. There is enough creativity amongst the people engaged in this field – and those who could be – to change things. We just need more people to pay attention.”
For Mayla to inspire hope around the world, Naamal will need to build on the momentum she has generated so far: “I’ve gotten a lot of people excited about this idea. I’ve been talking to a lot of people, and most of them feel refreshed, and I think that has value.”
Don’t Focus on Weekly Successes or Failures
For Naamal, SEED SPOT has provided a vast network of connections with expertise in a variety of fields: “SEED SPOT has exposed me to a lot of information that I need to ensure that I create a successful and sustainable organization.” (SEED SPOT excels in organizational sustainability, with a remarkable 82% success rate for our ventures!)
As for aspiring entrepreneurs, Naamal cannot stress enough the importance of finding a diverse network: “Persistence and connecting to a lot of other people both way ahead of you and at the same stage as you will allow you to develop a sense of comfort and confidence. This is a long game – you have to plan for that rather than focusing on the weekly successes and failures.”
Listen to Naamal pitch alongside the other members of her full-time cohort at D.C.’s DEMO DAY on July 13th!