Ravi Gooneratne - Culture and community
Dr Ravi Gooneratne travels far and wide as a University professor, meeting new friends and getting involved in communities.
It’s a warm late summer evening. International students from Lincoln University’s Master of Science Food Innovation programme gather at a house near the Lincoln Liffey.
The house belongs to Ravi Gooneratne, programme coordinator, Lincoln University toxicology professor and host of the evening. He interrupts the chattering to give a speech, thanking everyone for coming. He is brimming from ear to ear, a large friendly smile.
Ravi says it is a privilege to work with young people from different countries and cultures. Originally from Sri Lanka, he says he can relate to these students and this is why he invites them to his Lincoln home.
“I treat them as my sons and daughters to a large extent. I invite them to my place about twice a year and we have an evening where they bring their cultural dishes so we get a chance to taste all the different dishes from different countries.”
Ravi was once in their shoes. After completing his veterinary graduate degree at University Ceylon (in Sri Lanka), he went to study a four year PhD doctorate abroad at Murdoch University veterinary school in Perth, Australia. Six years later, he travelled again to teach and continue his research at University of Saskatchewan in the colder climate of Canada, where winters reach minus 40 degrees Celsius.
Another six years went by and Ravi applied for several lecturing jobs around the world, landing an offer in America. The job was due to start that September, but his application for Lincoln University was accepted and he took up this offer instead.
“Having been in Australia I thought we need to get back to that beautiful part of the world.”
Ravi, his wife and their two young children travelled across hemispheres to New Zealand in 1988 and built a house on a small section of land near the Liffey. The neighbours were very friendly and Ravi soon found himself becoming more involved with the Lincoln community.
In 1994, he met many locals by joining the Lincoln Rotary club, and by 2005 was made club president, a Paul Harris Fellow and awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship for significant contribution to the community, international services and Rotary principles.
“We have really enjoyed our stay in New Zealand and we have made a lot of friends. The Lincoln community is fantastic.”
Ravi has even kept the same hairdresser from when he first arrived.
“I’ve been paying the 1988 rates, even now she hasn’t increased the amount she charges for my hair,” he laughs.
Every so often, he visits the local Buddhist temple, gathering with friends from the Sri Lankan community.
Living in Lincoln has not held Ravi back from travelling and teaching around the world. He is a professor at two Universities in China, Guangdong Ocean University and Jinan University. In 2018, he was made an honorary citizen of Zhanjiang (in China), awarded with a key to the city for his outstanding contribution to its economic, cultural, social, educational and international relations.
He visits family in Sri Lanka every December and noticed the biggest change has been the introduction of KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds.
“They are thriving and I don’t know why because Sri Lankan food is very tasty and nutritious.”
He counts himself lucky to have lived in beautiful countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Sri Lanka.