Friday, November 18, 2011

Our Final Stop: Puttalam

By Ayesh Perera

The fact that Puttalam was the final district on our road tour filled us with a great sense of passion to bring the tour to a flourishing finish. 
The grand welcome recieved by us at Zahira College, Puttalam was self-evidently far beyond our expectations. Furthermore, we could feel the sense of anticipation present amidst the students of Zahira College, right through out the assembly. Following the assembly was our final workshop which was also at Zahira College and was attended by a large number of students from the area. Almost all of them made a decision towards the cause of reconciliation and rebuilding Sri Lanka through their individual ambitions, making it crystal clear that that which binds us together is far stronger than that which drives us apart.
Whilst the smooth flowing of all the scheduled work was indeed a great success the fun behind the scenes should not be passed by.The songs composed both on reconciliation and other themes were simply fascinating. The 17th of November the final day of the road trip was both a day of reflection and celebrations, as it was also the birthday of our beloved leader.

At the Island Paradise of Mannar

By Ayesh Perera

Arriving in Mannar, a place of exquisite beauty inspite of its heat, in the crack of the dawn on Tuesday the 15th of November after travelling overnight, we had before us the task of visiting several schools, namely St.Xavier's Boys' College, Nanattan Madya Maha Vidyalaya, St. Anne's MMV, Sithinnayagar Hindu College and Adampan MV. In all of these schools we found ourselves and  the concept of Sri Lanka Unites in a warm and receptive environment, and it was a message of hope to many. Moreover, it was also quite suprising to sense the knowledge about Sri Lanka Unites which was there in the atmosphere, which was undoubtedly due to the tireless efforts of the students of St. Xavier's Boys College.

After the assemblies, at our residence we were treated to an amazing lunch, with a variety of sea food dishes - a welcome change from our usual diet.
Following that was our workshop in Mannar which we were able to conduct at St. Xavier's Boys College, with the permission of their Principal.The extremely positive response we got here from the students from Mannar conveyed the deep unspoken desire they had to see one day a united nation.
After the workshop we had an extensive discussion on intra ethnic conflicts which also included the discussing of solutions, after which we turned ourselves in for the night, before heading out to  Puttalam the next day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

At The Jaffna Peninsula

by Ayesh Perera

It was daybreak on Friday the12th of November when the Sri Lanka Unites Dream Team arrived in Jaffna, the glorious city of palm trees in the northern end of the pearl of the Indian ocean,destined to be a monumental part of our tour.It needs to be mentioned that the team's visit to Point Pedro on Friday,where each of us once more pledged our allegiance to the cause of Sri Lanka Unites by signing on our mission statement which was bottled and dropped into the blue waters was a milestone.
  Apart from this,was our visits to schools in Jaffna amongst which were both Christian and Hindu institutions.Nonetheless, in each one of these our message of hope and reconciliation found itself in a receptive environment which was testified to by the level of interest showed by the students.
Furthermore,the workshop which was attended by a significant number of students from the Jaffna district in whose hearts new seeds of hope and passion were planted was indeed a success.
Last but not least,chilling out in the Cashurina beach savouring the sight of the golden Jaffna skies with the sun sinking down to rest which added much glamour to all our work in Jaffna after which we headed to mannar should never be forgotten.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rich Red Soil of Kilinochchi

The soil that covered the roads in Kilinochchi is definitely one captivating aspect of the district - a deep red soil, which is said to be due to the large amounts of aluminium in it. Our team had to split up, and while most of the team were in Mullaitivu, a small team of three, including myself visited Kilinochchi.

Kilinochchi Central College was the only school that had attended Future Leaders' Conference from the Kilinochchi district. So we first went to this school and conducted a small assembly with a few of the activities that we normally do at a workshop. We did not get much time, as they were also organizing their Christmas celebrations on that day.

Following that we also visited two other schools including Kilinochchi Hindu College, where we introduced Sri Lanka Unites with the help of the introductory packs. Hopefully, next Future Leaders' Conference will see more schools participating from this district.

At Christin's Place: Vavuniya

Following Anuradhapura, we arrived at Vavuniya where we spent three days, out of which two days were completely dedicated to resting and reviving ourselves and also completing the tasks each of us were assigned. For the first time in the whole tour, we stayed at our residence - the house of Christin Rajah, our Vice President, without any sightseeing. We enjoyed the time we spent there, playing cricket, watching movies and also learning more about Conflict Transformation. We were also able to listen to the views of Christin, which complemented what we were already learning.

And we also had an opportunity to cook our own dinner, which was truly a relief after some bad experiences we had eating outside.  We also had an opportunity to do more laundry and to prepare ourselves for the last stretch of our journey.

On the second day we went to Kanaganayagam Maha Vidyalam, in Vavuniya where we conducted an assembly. And later a few of us met with student leaders from schools in Vavuniya and spoke about Sri Lanka Unites with them.

Overall, the time we spent at Vavuniya was really effective in getting us prepared for the rest of the tour and also in expanding our roots in Vavuniya.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Murungahetikanda Maha Vidyalaya – Anuradhapura

On the 8th of November, we arrived at Kekirawa, belonging to the Anuradhapura district. Here we visited the Murungahetikanda Maha Vidyalaya, which was the only school that attended the conference from the district.  Here we spent time with the students conducting an assembly followed by a workshop. The response we received was good, and even the younger students in the school showed immense interest and participated actively in all the activities.

However, we were also able to witness the level of poverty they lived in. The uniforms with patches, tattered socks and broken shoes were a sight that touched many of our hearts, allowing us to realize the privileges that we have which we don’t always think about. As a school in a district that once hailed as the country’s first ever capital, I think they deserve at least a fraction of the resources that most of urban Sri Lanka enjoys. But what was really impressive is, even under those conditions, these students cheerfully utilized the little they have to do the best they could.

We all returned from Murungahetikanda Maha Vidyalaya, saddened by their poverty yet inspired by their talents and skills, and encouraged by their cheerfulness. There is definitely a lot we could learn from them.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Taking a Break to see the Sunrise - Trincomalee

Following Polonnaruwa we arrived at Trincomalee on the 4th of November. We resided at the Department of Industries Hostel for three days, during which time we took some time out to complete our individual tasks and also to restore our energy for the rest of the tour.

We visited Nilaweli Beach, Marble Beach and also witnessed the sunrise. We had fun sea bathing and playing cricket at the beach. It was truly a break that we all needed and deserved. We were also able to do some teambuilding activities, learning the deeper concepts of Conflict Transformation. We looked into how conflicts can arise even by ignoring subtle acts of bias, which in turn can lead to stereotypes, prejudices and finally end up in outright discrimination.

On the 7th of November, we visited Vennasampura Maha Vidyalaya in Kanthale, where we conducted an assembly followed by a workshop. Even though it was a government holiday, the school administration organized the assembly and workshop just for us, which showed a lot of commitment on their part. Rajagala Vidyalaya and Seevaly Vidyalaya were two other school that attended the workshop.
We also able to make our first Champions of Change connection for the road trip, between Vennasampura Maha Vidyalaya and Elizabeth Moir International School, Colombo. We hope that these two schools will work together, overcoming class barriers, regional biases and show to the world that Sri Lanka is ready to stand up united, moving away from a culture of divisiveness towards a reconciled nation.