Cheryl Perera is an accomplished children's rights activist, a captivating speaker and the Founder and President of OneChild, the premiere organization empowering a movement of children and youth taking action against child sex slavery. Her extraordinary contributions to protect children, and her high innovation, achievement, and leadership have earned her honors such as the World of Children Founder's Award, the BRICK Award in the Global Impact category and distinguished her as one of Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100, and Canada's Top 20 Under 20.
Cheryl became socially involved at age 16, after reading about the exploitation of children, for a high school project. What she read filled her with anger, determination and resolve. Eager to take action, she traveled to her native country Sri Lanka in 2002, to investigate the exploitation of children. Wanting to get an insider's look into the child sex industry, she participated in a treacherous STING operation, as the" decoy" the main role of a 15 year-old child prostitute, that led to the successful apprehension of a 40 year-old child sex offender. There was extreme physical danger in this risky mission, and it required a very high degree of heroism, and self- sacrifice. Her breadth of knowledge and bravery attracted the attention of dignitaries, and she was recognized by the Sri Lankan Government, having been offered a placement of one year at the Presidential Secretariat to serve as the President's Nominee on Child Protection, at the age of 17.
These experiences led her to begin a unique education-driven initiative to mobilize the Canadian Travel and Tourism Industry to take a stand against child sex tourism. What began as a one-child initiative grew to involve hundreds of Canadian youth. At age 19, she established OneChild and under her leadership, the youth succeeded in their negotiations with Air Canada, to screen their youth-created in-flight video warning against child sex tourism. The project was launched in 2005 on all domestic and international flights, as the first and only one of its kind in Canada and the second in North America, with a viewership of 22 million passengers to date, and has been lauded as a best practice by the World Tourism Organization.
Cheryl has overseen major partnerships with international organizations such as the PREDA Foundation in the Philippines, and led fundraising campaigns that have garnered over $187,000 to construct 2 homes, and offer support services such as shelter, therapy, education, legal assistance, medical care, vocational skills training, and leadership training, for 35-40 girls rescued from the sex trade, or just before being trafficked out.
She has also entered into professional affiliations with Air Canada, and non-governmental organizations and presented at forums, press conferences, and the first-ever nationwide Canadian campaign to raise awareness about the principal manifestations and the scope of Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism, including its legal implications and consequences.
Volunteering from age 8 in a wide spectrum of humanitarian activities, and committed to children's rights and social justice from age 16, Cheryl has acted selflessly and fearlessly and undertaken extremely dangerous fact finding missions, and conducted interviews under the suspicious watch of the perpetrators, involving a high degree of personal risk. She has traveled to many countries such as the United States, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Macedonia, Ecuador, Philippines, Kenya, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Brazil, Egypt, the UK and Switzerland ,interviewing child laborers, rehabilitated child soldiers and children in prostitution; senior state counselors, police officers, child advocates, and convicted child sex offenders. She has also visited dolomite factories, slums, and residences employing child labor, helped raise funds to build and renovate schools in impoverished communities and post conflict areas, and undertaken international volunteer missions to acquire characteristics of global citizenship.
A sought-after dynamic orator, she actively addresses UN organizations, government bodies, business groups, rotary clubs, educators, students, and the media on the importance of children's rights, poverty, education, children in armed conflict, child participation, social responsibility and volunteerism. She has spoken to over 36,000 young people and adults, and undertaken keynote speeches, and served as a panelist at various international and national conferences and events including CNN Intl. "Freedom project on Human Trafficking ", addressing a global audience, IFCW ( International Forum of Child Welfare ) World Forum 2010 New York, USA., The Luxor International Forum, entitled " End Human Trafficking Now, Enforcing The UN Protocol" in Luxor Egypt ,The GYLC (Congressional Youth Leadership Council ) Global Young Leaders International Conference -Arlington, Virginia USA , The United Nations World Tourism Organization 21st Meeting of The Task Force To Protect Children From Sexual Exploitation In Tourism- London U.K, University of Ottawa, International Conference on Child Rights , annual meeting of the Senate Committee against the Sexual Exploitation of Children Youth , Ottawa , "Canada's Top 20 Under 20" Awards Celebration Event.- Youth in Motion Education Foundation (YIM), among several others, inspiring them to make a positive difference in the lives of their peers around the world.
She has also appeared on US and Canadian TV and radio as a commentator on child rights issues, and generated awareness on child servitude at the 5th World Youth Conference, Istanbul, Turkey. Through her recent province wide premiere motivational speaking tour "Break the Chains" which includes gripping statistics of the devastating impact of child sex slavery, the stories of resilience and strength of these children, and her inspirational and remarkable personal story of self-sacrifice and heroism of an average Ontario teenager turned child rights crusader and call to action, she evokes a very powerful and important message of change and solidarity to entire school bodies, and is promoting greater awareness in Canada concerning the rights of children around the globe.
Cheryl was appointed as a member of the Senate committee against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth, Chaired by LGen. Romeo Dallaire, and has also served on the International Advisory Council and Judging Panels of World of Children Org., California, USA, The "BRICK "Academy Do Something Org, New York USA and FLARE Magazine Toronto Canada for several years, and participated in the Women's Executive Network expanded WXNWisdom program and mentored one of the next generation of women leaders.
Her work has been profiled on CNN, CBC, Global TV, The Montel Williams Show and featured in the book - The Humanitarian Leader in Each of Us: 7 Choices That Shape a Socially Responsible Life. She was also featured in various newspapers and magazines such as the National Post, The Financial Times of London, The Toronto Star, Flare Magazine, Herizons, University of Toronto Magazine, and the Sri Lanka Foundation Los Angeles, CA publication.
Cheryl holds an Honours BA in Ethics, Society, and Law, and Political Science from the University of Toronto, and is currently pursuing an MAS in Switzerland, in Advanced Studies in Children's Rights. A recipient of many prestigious national and international awards, Cheryl has broken tremendous ground to turn the tables on the child exploitation industry where few would dare to tread.