Thursday, January 18, 2018

SLU FLC 9 - A Powerful Reflection from Akkaraipattu

The 9th Future Leaders Conference of Sri Lanka Unites was held in December 2017.   Youth Engagement in Governance, Breaking the cycle of violence, Transitional Justice and Reconciliation were the themes of this conference. 
Over the last 10 years of SLU, the greatest motivation for staff and volunteers of the organization to keep committing our efforts for the cause has been the powerful post-conference feedback. We would like to share an excerpt of a note sent to us from a participant, after the conference.

The following is a reflection from Fawaz Ameer from Akkaraipattu

Before this conference I have heard about SLU but not what they are about. So I had no idea what is going to happen at the Future Leaders’ Conference before I got there. I decided to join SLU after the workshop done by the Kalmunai Reconcilation Center of SLU.

I was very nervous when I got registered at the conference and entered my assigned room. Im bit shy to move around with new people, but I always wanted to be a good friend to everyone and wanted to meet new people.When I entered my room a Sinhala friend welcomed me and gave me some sweet snacks. I was little afraid to receive it because I had a mindset that Sinhala people look at us as enemies. He again told me to take it. So I took some.

After that I went to opening ceremony with my friends,we were divided into teams and I met my new team members.I stood alone behind the team members because I was very shy at that moment. Our team mentors were introduced to us and they taught us a simple cheer- we started to cheer for our new formed team. Still I was little shy to shout in front of strangers, so I kept quiet. After that we played the train game and the rope game so we all got introduced to each other. Only few of them remembered the names of all team mates. Me and some other guys couldn’t remember all the names.  

After that we went to have dinner and went to bed. 

The next day we had our breakfast and went for the morning session. Most of the participants didnt talk to each other but this change when we started playing games.We started to talk with each other. Cheered for them by shouting their names. We wished everyone even when they failed at a game. The best thing of that evening game session was, everyone tried beyond their abilities to get points for the team by winning our matches. I thought to myself “each and every team mate is supporting and believing in me, so I should get them some points. I should not disappoint them". When the mentors asked for our thoughts after the games everyone replied the same. 

We had a team challenge for *SLU TV* where we had to prepare a drama at the end of each day about what we learnt that day. It was like adrenaline to us for those 3 days. It brought the best out of us in a critical situation because we had only a small amount of time after our games to perform about what we learned throughout the day. This was a special experience for me. When we discussed about SLU TV on the first day, I was amazed seeing that people coming with different and amazing ideas. For the first time, we all discussed with each other about what we are going to perform. It made us more closer and that was the day I shared my thoughts and ideas with others. The unbelievable thing is, they appreciated my idea. For the first time in my life, my idea was appreciated by the people who I have never met before. Because sometimes if I get a new idea and tell it to my friends or parents, only few of them will support me and others will make fun of me.

No one ever tried to make my ideas and thoughts better by helping me and no one ever helped me to execute my ideas. But in *FLC* my team mates made my ideas better with the help of all the team members. They came front to execute each and everyone’s ideas and thought. That moment touched my heart. I decided at that moment, hereafter I should appreciate others thoughts in my life and support them. I should come up speak about my thought in the society and friends circle because someone will be there to join with me and give ideas to make my thoughts useful and successful.

Thanks to SLU for giving me a family beyond religion and language. We are not a team now but we are a family. *Pirate Family*

After the conference, I had a chat with my close family about Sri Lankan communities. He argued against other ethnic groups, about the *Re-emergence function* in the north, and the *Sinhala - Muslim clash* , *1983 clash* and much more. He had wrong opinion about these clashes. As a person who participated in the *FLC* I applied what I was taught in there. The thing I applied is *breaking the cycle of hate*. You know what?, it really worked. And I was so happy even I can build some peace and understanding in my family. If a single person can do this, what if we all get together?. So I have decided to work till the end with *SLU* to change my country.

I always wanted to say *IM a SRILANKAN * .

But I was little afraid to say these days because some people say Muslims are outsiders. They don’t belong here.  But I realized not everyone is like that. The family I got in this conference had Sinhala and Hindu friends. But not even one person hated because of our religion or our language. They just looked and took care of us like their own brothers and sisters. And we realized that youth is the only way to change our country. We had a discussion about these things in our rooms in conference days. A big thanks to *SLU*  for giving us this opportunity to move around with the people beyond religion and language and gave us a mindset that *Change is on its way*

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Journey with Sri Lanka Unites…

I’m Jeyaseelan Jenogitha from Mulliyawalai, Mullaitivu. I’m in the final year of my studies at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce. Upon completion, I had planned to get some experience and knowledge somewhere. But suddenly I got to know about the Sri Lanka Unites Reconciliation Center Mulliyawalai, Mullaitivu through my friends, so I thought joining this center would enhance my skills and experiences.

We were the first batch of students from the Reconciliation Center Mulliyawalai. My first involvement with SLU started in 2013 and it was a life changing experience for me. I’m very much thankful to HSBC for providing me the sponsorship to get a free education through SLU. I had already completed my Diploma in Professional English Programme-2013 and Diploma in Information Technology with E-Commerce by Esoft Metro Campus. At that stage these courses were very much helpful to improve my English Knowledge and IT skills. We have a lack of resources to get this knowledge in our region so I hope this knowledge will improve my career and my University studies as well.

During that time, some of us got the opportunity to participate in the Sri Lanka Unites’ Future Leaders Conference-5 that took place in Galle. This was the best opportunity of my life because it was the first opportunity that I had to work with people from different backgrounds in Sri Lanka. This helped me to have a better understanding of how people are in the real world apart from my imagination. My previous thoughts changed as a result of my experience at the FLC.
 I learned about reconciliation, leadership, and how to respect and to accept the values and traditions of different people in Sri Lanka which is important for a person from a diverse country. The leadership qualities that I learned from SLU are helping me in my day to day activities. I’m so thankful to SLU for providing me this opportunity. In addition to that, some of us got another chance to follow the Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy- Certificate level program in Colombo. This was a different experience to improve our Personality skills.

In the more than one and a half years of my journey with SLU, I have met so many different people with different characteristics, who are still role models in my life. Through them I have obtained a wealth of good advice, technical skills, communication skills, languages skills and so much more. These benefits have led me to make better decisions in my life and career and I believe that will continue. I even had the opportunity to work for SLU for 6 months as a kid’s program trainer. This was a very nice experience to have with them.

SLU gave me a platform to start my University Studies in Colombo, and now I feel very thankful to SLU because if I had not joined the Reconciliation Center, I would have lost many amazing opportunities and experiences. I hope in the future to contribute in various ways to the success of this Reconciliation Center in Mulliyawalai.

I want to thank the management of the SLU for establishing this Reconciliation Center in our region, because they provide opportunities for youth in our community to improve their English, IT and entrepreneurship skills.

I wanted to express my gratitude to the management of SLU and to all who have engaged with SLU. I’m proudly saying that you are the people who have helped us achieve our goals and have helped us to stay in a good position in society.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Public Campaign Against Racism and Social Experiment

"Eka men samadena' a public campaign against racism was held in the central province on the 27th of March in 2016. The campaign was organized by Sri Lanka Unites school chapters of Republican International School Nuwara-Eliya and Zahira College Matale. The project was supported and directed by the 'Champions of Change' department of the organization.

The students used the campaign as an opportunity to engage with the general public and have conversations with them on their views of racism in Sri Lanka. 

It was encouraging to see young and old, Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim Sri Lankans support the cause.A signature board for pledges by the public to stand against racism in Sri Lanka filled up within just an hour. 

The campaign, however, was not meant to be just an event but a social experiment to understand the impact of such campaigns in countering racism. 

Watch the Video Here!
Click Here to Read the full Article!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Heroes to Remember

Here is a picture of a student leader who resides in Mulaithivu, who has been a part of Sri Lanka Unites for over 2 years as a volunteer and now as a staff member. He comes from an ordinary family with enough resources to survive. His life was directly affected by the brutality of war having to live in refugee camps half of his life, with minimum facilities. Family means everything to him, having to be his mom’s favourite son is a privilege according to him. Even though life has settled down with minimum chaos comparing to what it was back then during the war, bitter memories still haunt him every now and then. Beneath this handsome smile in his face there is a glimpse of hurt that cannot be settled overnight. Family that he lost during the war cannot be brought back to life. However, given these challenging circumstances, he strongly believes in his vision of being an agent for change has helped him to realize how important peace is for the country.

Nitharshan has been a key member of the Dream team 5, having the background of personal experience to share about war has been an important learning journey for everyone in the team. His energy and his outgoing personality was an important inclusion for the team to reach out to many communities. As the team went across the island found many leaders like Nitharshan, who were directly affected by war, now having the ability to live a normal-peaceful life.

As the brutalities and the devastation are easily remembered as results of the war, it’s important to recognize our heroes, the ordinary people who survived, having to compromise their livelihood and absorbing so much loss. Like Nitharshan there are many heroes who are true patriots living a meaningful and a peaceful life ensuring that there would be no more war in this country. As we go in this journey of reconciliation, we salute them, the heroes to remember.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Art for Change

‘Peace’ is absence of war, or is it?
Sri Lanka suffered a brutal war for over 3 decades that brought the country’s economy and development to a halt. Sri Lankans were scraping, crawling and fighting for survival but now we have no more war, people happily enjoy the newly born free country.  After six years of no war, yes, it is peaceful, bombs don’t go off in random directions, No more Military check points, no more restrictions to move about. But the real question is whether wounds of the hearts of the people about the past are healed?
At present as we know 'development' is a key objective in the country, people are more focused on earning money and making their children study hard. Thereby the whole country has not really undergone a process to attain true reconciliation. This is why social cohesion is a key subject to make certain that the wounds of the past wouldn’t be reopened.
Sri Lanka Unites’ initiative of visiting schools and conducting leadership workshops is a part of addressing this element of social cohesion through value based leadership.  These workshops consist of understanding war in different perspectives, Leadership development and effective communication. 20 dynamic young leaders representing different parts of the island were chosen to facilitate these workshops, who would share their experiences and their challenges, encouraging students to take action to various social issues.
One of key areas of envisioning their role in society was by painting on the canvass, expressing their views on War and Peace. Few key locations were chosen to present this opportunity to the students, where different interpretations can be compared to understand whether peace is really absence of war.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dream Team 5 School Relation Tour 2015 - Say No to Discrimination - Day #2

Second day First Phase

The Sri Lanka Unites Dream Team 5 headed to Kandy on the 15th of September immediately after their visit to Kegalle on the previous day. The hill city was a huge opportunity to spread the message of reconciliation with the inspiration of youth from our very strong chapter for Sri Lanka Unites, Trinity College. The support given to us by Trinity College over the years towards our cause has been very generous and encouraging. As every year the school produces young leaders to inspire through leadership, this year there are two exceptional individuals being part of the Dream Team 5. To recognize and honour the long standing relationship with the school the Principal, Mr. Colin Rathnayake was invited to be the chief guest at the Future Leaders’ Conference held this year in St.Thomas Guruthalawa in Badulla District. 

“Trinity is a school which emphasizes on religious and ethnic unity. We will always be one. Even if we die, we will be one.”

-Mr. Colin Rathnayake 

The workshop hosted six other schools in the region along with students of Trinity, which gave the team immense exposure to reach out to spread the message. The workshop was based on value based leadership which was brought about through group activities, talks and forum theatre. During the activities, the students had to take leadership in critical situations and work as a group towards a common motive to be successful at the end.

At first breaking the ice was a challenge as the students weren’t familiar with each-others’ present, as they naturally found it awkward to stand next to or hold hands with a student of another ethnicity or another school, but at the end of the workshop the results were remarkable as they were making easy conversation with each other.

The drama - forum theatre created an amazing response in the audience, as students kept running onto stage to change the outcome through interventions even before the conclusion of the first run through. The situation we showcased had a Muslim girl being oppressed in a university by a Sinhalese individuals surrounded by many onlookers. Mainly the insults were made for the way she looked and the overall muslim identity. The moment when the deal was sealed was when two Muslim girls (one girl wearing a niqaab) chose to defend the victim in a scene of the play. This gave everybody the signal that the message had come across, and that reconciliation will not be ignored by the youth in times of conflict.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dream Team 5 School Relation Tour 2015 - SL for Peace - Day #1

First Day First Phase

Sri Lanka Unites Dream team tour Begins with a fully pumped up and an enthusiastic Team looking into the opportunity of reaching out to the youth in Kegalle District. Like every year, this years' Dream team 5 also consists of young talented and exceptional leaders representing the districts of Colombo, Matara, Jaffna, Mulaithivu, Kandy, Ampara, Badulla and Puttalam.

Schools in Kegalle have always been strong supporters of Peace, championing the message of reconciliation since the first Future Leaders' conference in 2009.Thereby it presented an opportunity for SLU to begin the tour with a good 'kick' start.

The day started early, with a school Assembly at Royal International School Kegalle, addressing the senior school. The agile and receptive crowd received an introduction to SLU and its departments with the motivation it requires to initiate the Champions of Change project proceedings this year.
The director of the school Dr. Newton Peiris commended the efforts of the team and congratulated them on Job well done giving the team the energy required to continue the day  with some extra boost.

Second session started soon after with Kegalle Vidyalaya, where the school hosted 6 more schools on a workshop for Peace and social cohesion where the Dream Team 5 did a solid job to convey the message. For the purpose of drafting a successful workshop the team used various methodologies to keep the sessions more interactive and engaging. Some of the effective methods were experiential learning activities and Forum theatre. The Forum theater, with no surprises, was considered to be the most effective and popular session encouraging youth to take action on social injustices concerning racism and discrimination.

With positive feedback and upbeat motivation the team now travels to Kandy to inspire the youth in Kandy to promote sustainable Peace for Sri Lanka, which will only be a dream without our youth of the country.
Day 1 - Workshop at Kegalle Vidyalaya